Modern pic disasters? I don’t think so!
Cambridge Fellow Michael C Scott this week tackles Hollywood’s obsession with the ancient epics
We are in an era of sandals and swords epic movies. Gladiator, 300, Alexander, Troy, not to mention a spate of recent TV series (the HBO/BBC2 series Rome) and fictional spin offs (Percy Jackson and the Lightening Thief in cinemas now). More are in the pipeline (a rumored version of Xenophon’s Anabasis amongst others). The movie world, it seems, is in love with ancient Greece and Rome.
Many commentators though complain at the lack of historical accuracy in these films, moan about casting choices and ridicule the changing or simplifying of plot lines. These epics movies are epic disasters they claim.
But I don’t think so. Sure, all the above criticisms may be right. But I don’t think that qualifies them as epic disasters. In fact, they remind us about an important aspect of ancient myths and legends: that they changed.
Epics like the Iliad for example weren’t written down in the ancient world for an awfully long time; they existed initially as oral poetry and their story-line changed over the generations.
There was no one true script; it was constantly in flux. Equally, when the story of the Iliad was more or less ‘fixed’, then another genre of art – Greek tragedy – took up the reins to play with our reaction to the great epics by focusing on the ‘before and after’ e.g. what do we think of Agamemnon in the Iliad when we see that he will be killed by his wife on his return home, or the hero Odysseus when we see him having to trick a fellow Greek into coming to Troy after Odysseus had abandoned the same man on a deserted island some years before?
Alexander the Great offers a different example of how the ancient world is presented to us today. There are several ancient sources that survive for us about Alexander, each of which offers a slightly different take on Alexander’s character and his actions.
The point here is that there is not one obviously correct story, but competing interpretations and we each have to decide how to weigh the evidence – how we see Alexander.
If these Hollywood film adaptations can thus spawn debate and discussion about these key stories, places and peoples of our past, then, whatever their cinematic quality, they have done us a great service by continuing the great traditions of the ancient world.
A book has just been published which focuses on responses to the characterization of Alexander the Great in Oliver Stone’s movie Alexander. The movie, whether you liked it or not, seems to have got people thinking and that can’t be a bad thing.
Michael C Scott is the author of ‘From Democrats to Kings - The Brutal Dawn of a New World from the Downfall of Athens to the Rise of Alexander the Great’ www.michaelcscott.com
- Register Now
- Dawn chorus
- Greek style yoghurt conquers global markets
- Astor Theatre will not close
- The rising star of George Perris
- Child psychopaths: bad seeds or bad parents?
- Sidiropoulos gets pride of place in town hall
- As Greek as it Gets
- Flying the flag
- Legumes - food for complete nourishment
- Yeroulanos to visit Melbourne
- Calombaris’ businesses under financial pressure
- Love you to Death
- Convert or die
- Bvlgari returns to its Greek roots
- Car smashes through souvlaki shop
- Heartbreaking loss for Ada Nicodemou
- Reluctant to leave home
- Gazi through time
- Hatzigiannis to perform in Melbourne
- Hellenic Republic sold, business as usual
International pop crooner, George Perris is in Australia, touring with Tina Area to promote his new album.
Having been in Melbourne for just four months, Zafeirios Karagkounis has been named as a finalist for the Victorian international student of the year award.
A Greek Australian teacher has spearheaded a campaign to see Patra airport retain international flights.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Greece is not doing it's "duty".
A fourth straight premiership just wasn't on the cards for the Hawthorn Spartans, bested in the grand final by the Old Xaverians.
The My Kitchen Rules stars will run a masterclass at the Hellenic Club of Canberra.
Sadly Cyprus couldn't match the results, with Omonia and AEL falling.
Outdoor dining in Victoria set to become smoke free - Greek Australian retailers are worried.
Exhibitions and lectures will also be on offer to get the crowd informed and entertained on all this to do with Greek heritage.
Nine-year-old Christa Dracopoulos impressed Prime Minister Tony Abbott in her speech to prove that hearing loss is no barrier to education and social inclusion.
Archaeologists uncover ancient tomb in Greece dating to end of Alexander the Great's reign.
The recent theft of hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of jewellery and other votive items from the monastery of Panayia Kamariani shocked members of the Greek community.
HYPN and Swinburne University join forces to present a seminar and workshop in Melbourne with Peter Economides.
Stiffer penalties for individuals and political parties who engage in racism or incite racist violence will be discussed when Parliament resumes.
Owner Angelo Cosmas says he’s lucky to be alive after a car went careering through his shop window
Greek Australian comedy newcomer nominated for a major Fringe Festival award.
Minority groups are so susceptible to misunderstanding and prejudice in testing times. It's up to the government and the mainstream media to be more tolerant.
To make a bread with mastic from Chios, in the basic recipe add 1/2 teaspoon of very finely crushed mastic.