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Screening the Golden Ages of the Classical Tradition$
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Meredith Safran

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781474440844

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474440844.001.0001

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The Golden Aspects of Roman Imperialism in Film, 1914–2015

The Golden Aspects of Roman Imperialism in Film, 1914–2015

(p.225) 12 The Golden Aspects of Roman Imperialism in Film, 1914–2015
Screening the Golden Ages of the Classical Tradition

Anise K. Strong

Edinburgh University Press

The first of three chapters that address Rome’s complicated legacy as an imperial state is Strong’s survey of films that present imperialism as beneficial for Rome’s provincial subjects and other “barbarians,” spanning a century of filmmaking from 1914 to 2015. The films in question were produced by and for members of three imperial states during particular historical periods: Italy between World Wars I and II, the United Kingdom after World War II, and the United States after 9/11. Strong’s analysis treats three major arguments variously offered by these films to justify imperialism as producing golden-age conditions for subjects: the technology and order provided by “civilization,” the enlightened embrace of diverse peoples within one expansive community, and the masculine valor of its soldiers. These portrayals, as products of societies engaged in imperialistic behavior, tend to ignore the moral problems of slavery, repression of Christianity, and the status of women in Roman society. Films treated include Cabiria (1914), Scipio l’Africano (1937), The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964), Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979), Centurion (2010), The Eagle (2011), and The Last Legion (2007).

Keywords:   Roman Empire, imperialism, golden-age conditions, technology, “civilization”, diversity, masculine valor, slavery, Christianity, status of women

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