I have been fascinated by Ancient History since my childhood. As a result, I spent four years as an adult trying to learn Latin at the Centre for Adult Education (even as a fluent Italian speaker, Latin is extremely hard to learn!). I have three feet worth of shelf space dedicated to books on Ancient Carthage, the Punic Wars, and the greatest Carthaginian general, Hannibal (he who took all the elephants over the Alps to invade Italy), against the day I might write a novel about Hannibal (a cherished future project on my to do list since I was 16). And almost the first thing I did when I bought my iMac in December 2018 was to write my own Greek Tragedy Ghosts, emulating the themes espoused in Euripedes, Aesychelus, and Sophocles (and Sartre too – that he wrote Flies in the 1940s showed me that you don’t have to be in Ancient Athens to write like an Ancient Athenian).
Where it all comes from, really, is watching epic theatre on Channel 9 on Sunday afternoons in the mid to late 1970s. Right after World Championship Wrestling from Festival Hall, hosted by Ted Whitten, there would be some sword and sandal movie set in Ancient Rome (mostly) or Greece. Some were myth based, and some were rooted in history (assuming you can call Livy’s writings history). There were heaps of them, made in Italy in the 1960s and dubbed into English.
Given that I am very likely to be spending much time in the coming winter months at home alone streaming movies and TV shows on my iMac, I decided to do a search through the Apple TV app to see what movies of the sword and sandal (aka pepla) genre I might find. I typed in Roger Moore (he did a few before he was Bond), and no luck. Likewise for the main pepla leading man, Steven Reeves. Zero for an actual film (my favourite actually) Amazons of Rome.
This does not look promising. There are more recent examples of this genre I might watch, like Xena Warrior Princess, or Gladiator, or the remake of Clash of the Titans. But these, whilst quite enjoyable, are not a part of my childhood which I would like to take the opportunity to recapture. Over Easter, I think I will sign up to Amazon Prime and see what I can find there (if I can tear myself away from binge watching Hunters and The Boys of course).
Old fashioned sword and sandal might be rather corny, but it was always good fun and entertaining, and the links to the past, whether it is myth or history, are always going to make at least some kid curious about the past and the origins of our civilisation.
Without at least some people having an ongoing interest in the Classics and in our past, where will we go in the future?