FT 07-D Ancient History and Modern Media: HBO's Rome
David Kubiak, Department of Classics
In the last ten years popular media have shown sustained interest in dramatizing the history and mythology of Greece and Rome. We have had a TV series about Hercules, movies about Troy and Alexander the Great, and even a film that grossed $500,000,000 with dialogue entirely in Aramaic and Latin. This tutorial will use the latest example, the HBO series Rome, as a vehicle for learning facts about Roman history and for investigating the ancient sources the screenwriters used as raw material for their story. The setting is the late Republic, when Julius Caesar began and won a civil war and achieved the personal control of the state that led to his assassination in 44 B.C. Caesar’s heir was his great-nephew Octavian, whose political genius created the defining cultural institution of western Europe, the Roman Empire. The series’ creator, Bruno Heller, was anxious to place these momentous historical events in the context of real people’s lives, and he makes two Roman soldiers and friends, Titus and Lucius, the central thread of his narrative. “Human nature never changes,” he says. “We see the same problems today – crime, unemployment, disease, and the struggle for social mobility and the pressure to preserve your place in a precarious society.” This television drama will prompt an examination of ancient sources and modern scholarship. We will also take advantage of a major exhibition of Roman antiquities that will be traveling from the Louvre to the Indianapolis Museum of Art in September. Through viewing, reading, writing, and discussion students will come to understand better how history is composed and interpreted and why the history of Rome continues to be so compelling today.