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The Ancient World in the Cinema [Paperback]

Jon Solomon

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Book Description

20 Mar 2001
This entertaining and useful book provides a comprehensive survey of films about the ancient world, from The Last Days of Pompeii to Gladiator. Jon Solomon catalogues, describes, and evaluates films set in ancient Greece and Rome, films about Greek and Roman history and mythology, films of the Old and New Testaments, films set in ancient Egypt, Babylon, and Persia, films of ancient tragedies, comic films set in the ancient world, and more. The book has been updated to include feature films and made-for-television movies produced in the past two decades. More than two hundred photographs illustrate both the films themselves and the ancient sources from which their imagery derives. Listed in The Signet Book of Movie Lists by Jeff Rovin as one of the best books about film ever written

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Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; 2nd Revised edition edition (20 Mar 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300083378
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300083378
  • Product Dimensions: 25.4 x 17.8 x 2.5 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 672,185 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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From the Publisher

Review
'for the first time Jon Solomon has taken the ancient world and in this excellent book has examined its influence upon blockbuster movies...There is no academic distancing in this highly readable text. Solomon writes in a way which combines research and humour and his field of reference is huge, ranging from filmic art...to religion and its perception, battle strategy and special effects.' - Richard Edmonds, The Birmingham Post

About the Author

Jon Solomon is professor of classics at the University of Arizona.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Since the popularization of theatrical film in the first decade of the twentieth century, the wide-reaching world of the cinema has incorporated many different artistic genres, geographical localities, and historical eras, none of which have been any more recurrent, significant, or innovative than the genre of films set in the ancient Greco-Roman and biblical worlds. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fun and Intelligent Introduction to a Wondeful Genre 19 Sep 2001
By Steven Jones - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
What a cool book.
The title says it all, and this new revised and expanded edition of Jon Solomon's THE ANCIENT WORLD IN THE CINEMA, first published in 1976, is even more fun and pleasant to read. So much so that, after you finish it, you might just be tempted to read more about antiquity. Now that's really cool!
Solomon, a professor of classics at the University of Arizona, is not one those classicists or historians who turn their noses up at films set in antiquity. As he writes in the preface to the 1976 edition, which is reprinted in the revised and expanded edition:
"My intentions in this book are by no means strictly academic. I examine all these films first as pure cinematic entertainment; then I examine them as cinematic renderings of history; and I also examine them as cinematic adaptations of ancient, biblical, or modern literature."
Solomon is not only unbiased but also flexible. How many professors do you know who would praise two such disparate films like Pier Paolo Pasolini's MEDEA (1970) and Ray Harryhausen's JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS (1963) in the same lifetime much less the same book? MEDEA, if you have never seen Pasolini's film, is one of the most serious and harrowing films ever produced set in antiquity (In a caption for a still from the film Solomon writes: "Here [Medea] bathes one of her two sons, knowing full well that she will cut their throats in a few minutes."), while JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS is a classic of wholesome entertainment (Solomon compliments the two green DynoRama harpies who attack blind Phineas as "the most vivid impression of any Greek mythological monsters seen on film.").
Solomon breaks THE ANCIENT WORLD IN CINEMA into subjects and title his chapters accordingly: "A Survey of the Genre," "Greek and Roman History," "Greek and Roman Mythology," "The Old Testament," "The New Testament and Tales of the Christ," "Babylon, Egypt, Persia, and the Ancient Orient," "Ancient Tragedy and THE SATYRICON," "Ancient Comedy and Satirized Ancients," and "The Muscleman Epics." And if you like movies at all, this last chapter cannot be missed.
They just do not make mindless entertainment for its own sake the way they did back in 1957, the year Steve Reeves took the world by storm as the titular HERCULES. Solomon revisits many of these wonderful films about a "chesty hero," "their less chesty companion," "their chesty but innocent girlfriend," "pointy-bearded despots," and "bowling pin" adversaries. Many of Solomon's insights here are as piquant as those made in his book's other chapters, but you will also find many less-dignified but delightful observations such as "Muscleman heroes are wont to throw things," and that the hero's chesty, innocent girlfriend is typically "adept at virtuously bathing the hero's wounds (generally only flesh wounds on the shoulder)." You get the idea, and the tone.
I could go on...and have gone on too long...but hopefully I have made my point. Jon Solomon's THE ANCIENT WORLD IN THE CINEMA is a cool book. A fun book. And an intelligent book. Best of all, this book, like most of the movies Solomon examines in it, is worth checking out. Judging by his writing, I only wish Solomon could have been my classics teacher in college!
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting book on movies 30 May 2006
By Dave F. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is an interesting, easy-to-read book on how the ancient world has been depicted in movies. The author primarily focuses on the Greco-Roman world pre-5th century C.E., with a fair bit of attention also given to the Mideast (primarily in terms of biblical epics). The book has more range than some similar works because it gives a fair bit of attention to foreign and non-English-language movies, especially Italian ones, and also discusses plenty of early silent movies, some quite obscure, rather than solely focusing on Hollywood productions and relatively recent big hits.

While I very much enjoyed Jon Solomon's light and humorous writing style -- he clearly enjoys movies, even a number of somewhat outright cheesy ones -- a key point I'd stress about this book is that it's much more about movies than it is about ancient history. Solomon doesn't devote a great deal of time or attention to using the movies he's discussing to explicate ancient history; he's really more interested in the movies themselves than in the history that their stories are based upon.

For the opposite tack (a book on cinematic depictions of historical events that's more focused on the actual history than on the movies themselves) I might suggest "Past Imperfect: History According to Hollywood," edited by Mark Carnes. "Past Imperfect" also covers a much, much broader range of history than Solomon's "ancient" time frame. I'd have to say, though, that "Past Imperfect," being a collection of essays, lacks the consistency and tone that makes "The Ancient World in the Cinema" a fairly fun read.

Finally, at the risk of nitpicking, Solomon's book has quite an appalling number of editing errors, ranging from simple misspellings to repeated or misplaced words. The errors tend to be concentrated in certain sections of the book, which makes me wonder if they were accidentally introduced when the book was being revised for this updated edition. Still, such errors can't help but slightly undermine your confidence in the book's factual statements.
5.0 out of 5 stars jon soloman the ancient world in the cinema 11 Jun 2009
By Chauna K. Carter - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Excellent product. Over 400 films are covered in this book with various genre. Using this book as a reference is easy and insightful!
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