A Historian Goes to the Movies: Ancient Rome

Narrated by: Gregory S. Aldrete
Length: 6 hrs and 27 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (7 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

How have films like Ben-Hur, Spartacus, Gladiator, or even a satire like Monty Python’s Life of Brian created our popular perceptions of ancient Roman history? In what ways have they led us astray? And why, despite the occasional box-office flop, do movies set in ancient Rome still have the power to captivate us, and to turn each of us into theater-going history buffs? 

In these 12 lectures, an award-winning historian gives you a front-row look at the great movies that have shaped ancient Rome’s role in popular culture and memory. Packed with insights into both history and filmmaking, this series immerses you in the glory and grandeur (and, sometimes, the folly) of classic and contemporary films featuring over 50 years of cinematic talent, including directors like Stanley Kubrick and Ridley Scott and actors such as Elizabeth Taylor and Russell Crowe. 

You’ll investigate portrayals of ancient Roman life on the big screen and small screen; learn how to tease out fact from fiction in some of Hollywood’s most stunning spectacles; and deepen your appreciation for films that, when made right, can be thrilling time machines into the past. Some films you may already be a fan of; other films you might have only heard of in passing. But all of them are essential to a well-rounded understanding of the intricate relationship between the world of ancient Rome and the world of the movies. 

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio. 

©2020 The Great Courses (P)2020 The Teaching Company, LLC

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A Great Audio Course

Listeners may worry that by choosing the audio format of this course they'll be missing out on some spectacular visuals. After viewing a free sample lecture from this series, I can assure you that audio is all you need. Licensing fees probably made it prohibitively expensive for The Great Courses to include clips (or even stills) in their video, so a professor speaking to the camera is pretty much all you will see.

Whichever version you choose, this is an exceptional course - a tiny, perfect epic. Professor Aldrete clearly loves these movies and makes a conscious effort to offer more than what he calls "a pedantic rehearsal of what filmmakers got right or wrong." What I enjoyed most were his analyses of how contemporary politics and social concerns have influenced cinematic depictions of Ancient Rome. He also does a fine job tracing the rise, fall and renaissance of the sword-and-sandals genre from its inception to the present. When I watch these movies again, it will be with a much deeper appreciation and understanding.

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