TV antiquity

Swords, sandals, blood and sand

By Sylvie Magerstädt

TV antiquity


  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-1-7849-9532-4
  • Pages: 240
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £85.00
  • Published Date: March 2019
  • BIC Category: Television Studies, Television drama, The arts / Television, HISTORY / Ancient / Rome, HISTORY / Ancient / Greece, PERFORMING ARTS / Television / History & Criticism, Ancient History: To C 500 CE, Ancient Rome, Ancient Greece
  • Series: The Television Series


TV antiquity explores representations of ancient Greece and Rome throughout television history. The first comprehensive overview of the 'swords and sandals' genre on the small screen, it argues that these shows offer a distinct perspective on the ancient world. The book traces the historic development of fictional representations of antiquity from the staged black-and-white shows of the 1950s and 1960s to the most recent digital spectacles. One of its key insights is that the structure of serial television is at times better suited to exploring the complex mythic and historic plots of antiquity. Featuring a range of case studies, from popular serials like I, Claudius (1976) and Rome (2005-8) to lesser known works like The Caesars (1968) and The Eagle of the Ninth (1976), the book illustrates how broader cultural, political and economic issues have over time influenced the representation of antiquity on television.


'TV Antiquity sits at the confluence between Media Studies and Classical Reception Studies and makes an important contribution to both fields. Thanks to Magerstadt's rich and stimulating book, the essential groundwork is prepared for future cross-disciplinary investigations.'
Critical Studies in Television


Part I: The ancient world as serial television drama
Part II: Pepla and politics: the emergence of a television genre (1960s)
Case study 1: The Caesars (1968)
Case study 2: L'Odissea/The Odyssey (1968)
Part III: Costumes and censorship: the BBC's Roman Empire (1970s)
Case study 3: I, Claudius (1976)
Case study 4: The Eagle of the Ninth (1977)
Part IV: Cult and kitsch: Greco-Roman myths on American television (1980-90s)
Case study 5: The Last Days of Pompeii (1984)
Case study 6: Hercules: The Legendary Journeys (1995-99)
Part V: Expanse and spectacle: the postmillennial revival of a genre
Case study 7: Rome (2005-07)
Case study 8: Spartacus (2010-13)
Conclusion: what is the future of TV-antiquity?


Sylvie Magerstädt is Principal Lecturer in Media Cultures at the University of Hertfordshire

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