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Rome, the Eternal Story: From Ben Hur to The Eagle

Posted January 21, 2011 to photo album "Rome, the Eternal Story: From Ben Hur to The Eagle"

The Eagle explores a part of ancient Roman history rarely seen on stage. But the history of Rome changes throughout history as well.

Slide 1: Exploring New Territory
Slide 2: Rome - The Eternal, Ever-Changing City
Slide 3: Rome and the American Imagination
Slide 4: Ben Hur, the great American/Roman Novel
Slide 5: Ben Hur (1907) in Silent Film
Slide 6: Ben-Hur (1925) and the Epic Grandeur of Rome
Slide 7: Scipio Africanus: The Defeat of  Hannibal and the Fascist Italy
Slide 8: Quo Vadis - Nero’s Rome as a Totalitarian State
Slide 9: Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1959) and the Race to Freedom
Slide 10: Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1959) and Making Rome Gay
Slide 11: Spartacus (1960) and the Return of the Opressed
Slide 12: Cleopatra and American Excess
Slide 13: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum: Rome turned Jewish
Slide 14: Satryicon (1969), Ancient Rome through Fellini’s Eyes
Slide 15: Caligula (1979): Rome Goes All The Way
Slide 16: Monty Python’s The Life of Brian - Rome as Parody
Slide 16: Gladiator (2000), and the Return of Rome
Slide 1: Exploring New Territory

© Photo: Matt Nettheim

Slide 1: Exploring New Territory

Photo: Matt Nettheim

Kevin MacDonald’s epic The Eagle follows Marcus (Channing Tatum), a Roman solider, and Esca (Jamie Bell), a Celtic slave, beyond the known world of the Roman Empire into the terra incognita of ancient Britain in order to recover the lost Eagle of the ninth legion. In making this Roman epic, the filmmakers also explored new territory.  For one thing, MacDonald altered how the English are represented in Roman films. “There is a convention in Roman Empire films,” explains MacDonald, “that the Romans be played by Brits, and the Americans play the slaves or freedom fighters. In the 1940s and 1950s, Britain itself was more of an empire so that was likely a factor, but nowadays it made far more sense to have Americans playing the Romans because America is the empire of today.” The Eagle is, in MacDonald’s own words, an “Iraq or Afghanistan war film taking place in the second century.” Writing in TheOohTray.com, Chris McDonald observes, “The tale of the Ninth Legion—an elite cadre of Roman troops who set off north of Hadrian’s Wall to put down the Picts and never returned—seems to have a special relevance in these troubled times. [In The Eagle] the parallels between the modern day Coalition and Ancient Rome couldn’t be more striking—the world’s most powerful state ventures to the wild edge of the world to punish an enemy whom it fails to understand and badly underestimates.”