University of Malta

Study-Unit Description
UOM Main Page
Campus Map button


TITLE Classics and the Cinema

LEVEL H - Higher Level


DEPARTMENT Centre for the Liberal Arts and Sciences

DESCRIPTION As “the largest window for the general public on the world of ancient Greece and Rome” (Karl Galinsky), film has become an important source of analysis and discovery for the student of classics. Cinema’s recreation of the ancient world can tell us something about ways by which modern culture perceives the Greek and Roman past. On the other hand, films can tell us a lot about the present and contemporary milieu of reception of the classics. What film-makers choose to have us glimpse of the past reveals a lot about what we want to watch onscreen, reflecting modern-day cultures, ideologies, and social concerns.

This Unit will investigate cinematic attitudes and representations of the classical world in the light of authenticity, metaphor and other agendas, discussing a range of films starting from the silent epic Intolerance (1916), to Hollywood’s pseudo-religious exploitations and adaptations of literary works such as Quo Vadis (1954) and Ben Hur (1959). There will be an appraisal of the sixties’ obsession with the commercially-lucrative peplum films initiated by Le fatiche di Ercole (1957), in contrast to the decade's notoriously idiosyncratic efforts as Fellini Satyricon (1969) and Pasolini’s Medea (1969). The Unit will finally examine the recent surge of films depicting antiquity such as Gladiator (2000), Alexander (2004), Troy (2004) and the adaptation to the screen of the graphic novel 300 (2007). The award-winning TV series such as HBO’s Rome (2005, 2007) and other ventures on the small screen will also be given their due. Film screenings, or sequences thereof, will encourage a lively debate during class.

Unit Aims:

- To help students form a general idea of the important chapters of film-history and how each contributed diversely to the representation of the ancient past;
- To guide participants identify particular cinematic approaches in the depiction of antiquity as a reflection of contemporaneous cultural or political attitudes;
- To encourage students distinguish the different mythological and historical sources behind important film adaptations or narratives, especially in the light of authenticity of such adaptations;
- To help students appreciate the power of films as influences on our perception of Greece and Rome.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding:

By the end of the Unit the student will be able to:
- Recognize the importance of film in the history of the classical tradition;
- Provide an appreciation of some of the most important films that have represented ancient Greece and Rome;
- Recognise different approaches and aims in cinematic recreations of antiquity;
- Appraise the potentiality of film in terms of Reception as a two-way process by which film is not only effected by the past but can also influence our perception of the past.

2. Skills:

By the end of the Unit the student will be able to:
- Contribute to the general discussion in class;
- Participate in the analysis of screened film-sequences;
- Work individually or collectively to produce short digital representations on a set-theme;
- Work individually in the production of an electronic essay which includes hyper-links to film-scenes available online.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

- Solomon, J. (2001) The Ancient World in Cinema. Yale University Press, New Haven. ISBN-10: 0300083378, ISBN-13: 978-0300083378.
- Winkler, M. (2001) Classical Myth and Culture in the Cinema. Oxford University Press, New York. ISBN-10: 0195130049, ISBN-13: 978-0195130041.
- Wyke, M. (1997) Projecting the Past: Ancient Rome, Cinema, and History. Routledge, London & New York. ISBN-10: 0415906148, ISBN-13: 978-0415906142.


Assessment Component/s Resit Availability Weighting
Classwork Yes 30%
Essay Yes 70%

LECTURER/S Carmel Serracino

The University makes every effort to ensure that the published Courses Plans, Programmes of Study and Study-Unit information are complete and up-to-date at the time of publication. The University reserves the right to make changes in case errors are detected after publication.
The availability of optional units may be subject to timetabling constraints.
Units not attracting a sufficient number of registrations may be withdrawn without notice.
It should be noted that all the information in the study-unit description above applies to the academic year 2017/8, if study-unit is available during this academic year, and may be subject to change in subsequent years.
PLAS Applications are now being received
Click here to apply for PLAS Units commencing in February 2018
PLAS Testimonial Videos

Click here to view PLAS Testimonial Videos.

Apply now for PLAS Units on offer. 

PLAS Gift Voucher Facility
A mindful gift - short courses for relatives, friends & colleagues.
Parking Permit for PLAS Students
PLAS students can apply for a parking permit through the KSU website. Click here for more info.
Statute, Regulations Guidelines
Click here for Centre's Statute, Programme's Regulations, and Liberal Studies Awards Guidelines
PLAS Nature Photography Exhibition
Click here for more information on the PLAS Nature Photography Exhibition
LAS2100 Research Project
For more information click here
PLAS Introductory Meeting Presentations

Click here to access the presentations delivered during the PLAS Introductory Meeting.

The Programme in the Liberal Arts and Sciences
The University of Malta’s new flagship Programme in the Liberal Arts and Sciences ...

Log In back to UoM Homepage