Film, TV & Radio

HBO's Rome is widely-accepted as the benchmark in bringing ancient Rome to the screen, and we're not about to be controversial: it is bloody great. 

Gladiator, for its flaws, captures a flavour and feeling about Rome which resonates, and it looks pretty spectacular, too.

Although it looks a bit tatty these days, I, Claudius remains a stone-cold classic, which has coloured our perceptions of the Julio-Claudians for forty-odd years.

While it may seem flippant, there is plenty of well-written commentary on the nature of occupying forces and oppressed peoples in... the Life of Brian. There are stupid jokes, too, which can only be seen as a bonus.

And we can easily look the other way when we come across factual inaccuracies when films are presented with such charm as Ben Hur and Spartacus.

A final and special mention for the Netflix series Roman Empire, which is a decent docu-drama. In the same sort of territory is Michael Sheen as Nero in The Rise and Fall of an Empire.

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The films of Electra, Antigone and the Trojan Women, starring Irene Papas are - in our opinions - criminally underappreciated. 

 

If a film has Ray Harryhausen in the credits, it is sure to be worth seeing, and his Clash of the Titans/ Jason and the Argonauts work ignited the flame of enthusiasm in the hearts of many a young fledgling Classicist.

Wolfgang Peterson's lavish Troy is flawed, but at least has the right sense of scale and spectacle. And the best wooden horse.

We're still making our way through Domina, but so far it has been very enjoyable.

Plebs is a recent British sit-com, with a surprisingly detailed view of life for the lower orders in Rome. And some pretty-decent jokes in there, too.

Of course, this list cannot exist if it misses out Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra. An extraordinary production, which ranks very highly on the camp-scale.

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We took to Twitter to see what other enthusiasts would recommend, and look at what turned up...

 

Barbarians on Netflix was highly-regarded, not least for how it handled the German/Latin languages.

Chelmsford 123, a British sit-com from the late-80s is a treat for anyone who enjoys some bad puns mixed in with their history. Written by Rory McGrath and Jimmy Mulville (who is now a chairman of Classics for All).
 

The recent(ish) Spartacus series also had a number of supporters. We've not seen it yet, but it sounds blimming excellent!

We'd forgotten about Pasolini's Medea, but if you can get a good-quality copy it is a very interesting presentation of the period.

Alexander got a few Tweets. There is so much to say on this production (good and bad), that perhaps someone would like to write us a review?

 

For younger viewers, there are the Roman Mysteries, adapted from the children's books by Caroline Lawrence. Lovely half-hour bursts of Roman-ness.

Finally, let's not forget our beloved wireless:

 

BBC Radio 4 continue to produce Classical material, from documentaries to audiobooks. However, the two favourites were clearly Natalie Haynes Stands Up For The Classics, a sharp mix of stand-up (the clue is in the title) and scholarship.

And, lastly, In Our Time regularly dips into the ancient past. Worth searching their archive.

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