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
- Eurozone backs Greek reform plan and four-month extension
- Marble replicas coming soon
- Multicultural supremo under fire
- Never too early: babies and bilingualism
- Greek identity in many leading clubs in Europe
- AFL boss hopeful of Essendon saga end
- Artisan jewellery fit for the ancients
- Keeping Greece in the eurozone is worth the pain
- Cyprus signs military deal with Russia
- Workshops available for practitioners working with Greek Australians
- Five-year-old thrown out of church by priest
- Pan-Lemnian Organisations gather in Melbourne
- The 'Aussie' who may save Greece
- Vic police need your help to find missing man
- Food and healing in ancient Greece
- Never on Sunday - always on Saturday
- Tsipras has sights set on Australia
- Grandfather puts up unexpected fight
- Bobolas hoarding house up for land value sale in Bondi
- Greece assesses the damage
The alternative opera is written and directed by Konstantin Koukias.
There has been a drop in the difference in prices between well-known brands and private-label products.
Ferries halted and roads delayed as cold snap causes chaos.
A recent study into the teaching of Modern Greek in Australia reveals a need for future planning and the implementation of new strategies
George Dialegmenou's play focuses on the sometimes strange dynamic between mother and child.
PAOK is hoping to use some kinder fixtures to launch a comeback and return to the top of the ladder.
Angelo Rodafinos will start the year off with a lecture on ancient Greek philosophy and psychology lessons: theory to praxis.
Greece striker Georgios Samaras has reportedly signed a 14 million euro deal with Saudi Arabian club Al Hilal.
Samaras says coalition stuck with same measures his administration was due to adopt.
Apokries recipes to eat while fasting.
As part of the Greek and Gay's 20th anniversary, the support network is hosting a night cruise.
60 per cent of school children suffer from food insecurity.
Greece will present a proposal for a new reform deal at an extraordinary meeting of eurozone foreign ministers in Brussels tomorrow.
Greek Australians have banded around singer Maria Mercedes, pushing to get the star on the list of potential Australian Eurovision acts.
CEO Julie Elliott talks to Neos Kosmos about what makes the Bank of Sydney tick.
Australian historian Alan Atkinson receives $100,000 for book detailing the European presence in Australia from the 1870s to the aftermath of World War I.
Margarite Poulos speaks about her former husband, Greece's new finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis.
It was a breathtaking encounter reminiscent of the rivalry between the two Thessaloniki giants in the 1980s and 1990s that determined the fate of the championship.