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Unit information: Film and the Ancient World in 2016/17

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Unit name Film and the Ancient World
Unit code CLAS22350
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Michelakis
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Classics & Ancient History
Faculty Faculty of Arts


As interest in modern receptions of antiquity has dramatically increased over the past decade or so, the study of cinematic responses to the ancient world has been one of the most exciting and fruitful developments. Through watching and analysing a range of films, we will explore the very different ways in which cinema has depicted, adapted, and imagined the ancient world. We will consider, for example, what it means to be 'faithful' to an original text and how the choices made by the adaptation shed light on its overall approach to antiquity. By comparing different films, we should begin to understand how cinema can engage with the ancient world in different ways. Is the cinema a magical time machine that allows us to access the past as no other medium can? Or is it proof that, in actual fact, the ancient past is inaccessible and alien to us?


To introduce students to a wide range of cinematic representations of antiquity, and to a selection of classical texts on which cinema has drawn. To increase student understanding of the theoretical and historical implications of representing antiquity on film. To develop student skills in critical approaches to both literary and visual representations of antiquity.

Intended learning outcomes

Students will have watched a range of films and learnt how to identify and analyse the different approaches to antiquity exemplified by the films. They will be familiar with some basic concepts relating to film and reception theory. In addition, they will be able to use the knowledge acquired in class and through their own wider reading and film viewing to construct coherent, relevant and persuasive arguments on the ways in which film deals with the ancient world, and will have had the opportunity to develop their communication skills in class discussion and the composition of written work. In addition, second year students will be expected to have developed more sophisticated analytical skills, as demonstrated in their formal assessments (including the extended length of their course-work essay) and in their participation in seminar discussions.

Teaching details

Lectures with some seminar discussion

Assessment Details

1 essay of 2,500 words (50%)

1 examination of 90 minutes(50%)

Reading and References

  • Alastair Blanshard and Kim Shahabudin, Classics in Screen: ancient Greece and Rome on Film (London 2011)
  • Andrew Elliott, The Return of the Epic Film: Genre, Aesthetics and History in the 21st Century (Edinburgh 2014)
  • Pantelis Michelakis, Greek Tragedy on Screen (Oxford 2013)
  • Martin Winkler, Cinema and Classical Texts: Apollo's New Light (Cambridge 2009)
  • Maria Wyke, Projecting the Past: Ancient Rome, Cinema and History (London 1997).
  • Martin M. Winkler (ed.), Gladiator: Film and History (Oxford 2004).
  • Jon Solomon, The Ancient World in the Cinema (New Haven & London 2001; revised edition).
  • Martin M. Winkler (ed.), Classical Myth and Culture in the Cinema (Oxford 2001).
  • Sandra R. Joshel, Margaret Malamud and Donald T. McGuire, Jr. (eds.), Imperial Projections: Ancient Rome in Modern Popular Culture (Baltimore and London 2001).