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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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PRINTED FROM EDINBURGH SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.edinburgh.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Edinburgh University Press, 2020. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in ESO for personal use.date: 01 April 2020

Dreaming of Rome with Ridley Scott’s Gladiator (2000)

Dreaming of Rome with Ridley Scott’s Gladiator (2000)

Chapter:
(p.259) 14 Dreaming of Rome with Ridley Scott’s Gladiator (2000)
Source:
Screening the Golden Ages of the Classical Tradition
Author(s):

Matthew Taylor

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9781474440844.003.0015

The last of three chapters that address Rome’s complicated legacy as an imperial state tackles Gladiator, the film credited with the post-2000 resurgence of films set in classical antiquity. Taylor analyzes how the film’s imperial-era characters engage in a nostalgic figuration of the Roman Republic as a golden age, in the fight to define Rome once the tyrannical Commodus succeeds his father, the “good emperor” Marcus Aurelius. This fraught representation of Roman history accrues an unexpected complexity and ambivalence as the film attempts to “speak America through Rome,” including through the film’s interpretation of its protagonist Maximus as a Cincinnatus-figure in contrast with Commodus as a Nero-figure. Gladiator’s multifaceted engagement with the fetishized Roman past also seeks to seduce the audience through its hyperreal presentation of the imperial city through heavily advertised use of computer-generated imagery (CGI). Taylor regards with ambivalence the hopes, both in Hollywood and among Classicists, that the critical and commercial success of Gladiator would augur a new “golden age” for epics set in classical antiquity. This mise en abyme of nostalgic longing, both within and inspired by Gladiator,exemplifies the golden-age myth, wherein only fantasy can provide fulfilment.

Keywords:   Gladiator, Roman Republic, Roman Empire, nostalgia, Cincinnatus, Nero, Marcus Aurelius, computer-generated imagery (CGI), golden age, hyperreality

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