Those of us who are interested in ancient history understand that the Roman Empire and Ancient Rome are amazing subjects for movies and television series. The Roman Empire lasted for hundreds of years therefore there is a wealth of material available whereby spectacular movies and series can be made for our entertainment and in some cases education. Here we take a look at some of the best in this genre that are not only entertaining but also informative and historically accurate.
This award winning mini-series is not to be missed as it depicts Roman life accurately in terms of how ordinary Romans lived plus the lives of more important Roman figures that held high office. This series, with innumerable famous acting names to its credit, stands out from previous similar offerings in that architecturally and in the costume department it cannot not be faulted making the series sumptuous and grand therefore supremely enjoyable to watch.
Titus and Lucius
Made by the BBC in partnership with HBO Rome tells the story of how the republic emerged as the Roman Empire with Julius Caesar and Octavian his successor being the main elite Romans involved in the epic. Two ordinary Roman families also feature heavily which are the families of Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo two Roman Soldiers. Titus played by Ray Stevenson and Lucius played by Kevin McKidd are loyal friends and the depiction of Rome is set amongst their family life along with their soldiering escapades, battles and relationships. We recommend this epic TV series highly, while the box set is available to purchase from Amazon.
I Claudius (1976)
I Claudius was a television series that was made in the 1980's but certainly stands the test of time. Starring Sir Derek Jacobi I Claudius tells the story of the grandson of Augustus who escapes the murderous plotting of the ancient royal family due to the fact that he was treated like an idiot because he had a limp and suffered from a stammer. Claudius was in fact a very intelligent young man who went on to become a great ruler who presided over a relatively calm period in Roman history.
Claudius and Caligula
The story of how Claudius eventually became emperor is told through a series of flashbacks. The elderly Claudius is writing his memoirs and we watch as he describes the amazing events that led to his ascension to the highest office in Rome. He describes in great detail how his own father was murdered, the reign of Caligula and the subsequent murder of him that led to Claudius being named emperor by the Praetorian Guard. Further notable acting credits are Brian Blessed as Augustus Claudius's grandfather and Sian Phillips as his Grandmother Livia Augustus's "poisonous" wife. Superb acting and storytelling make this series compelling viewing.
Spartacus is a mini-series that tells the story of Rome's most famous gladiator and is available to buy from Amazon. Passionate and violent this series is not for the faint hearted but it's certainly epic in both production and acting quality. Spartacus is Rome's finest gladiator and has been condemned to fight for his life in Rome's infamous arena, while his wife Sura is taken into slavery. Spartacus eventually leads a revolt and escapes captivity to fight against his captors in open rebellion. The basic story follows the same timeline as the famous movie starring Kirk Douglas but depicts far more violence and over the top excitement than the original film ever could.
Spartacus and Gladiators
This award winning drama epic stars Liam McIntyre (season 2) and the late great Andy Whitfield (season 1) as Spartacus and Erin Cummings as Sura his wife. The story basically sticks to the story of Spartacus with a little artistic license to ensure its viewers remain steadfast to the end. Andy Whitfield played a superb Spartacus and his untimely death at the age of thirty nine was very sad indeed! Historically accurate this gladiatorial epic would make a great gift for anyone interested in Rome and its gladiators.
Gladiator is a five Oscar winning epic that was made in 2000 and stars Russell Crowe as Maximus the Roman General who ends up fighting as a gladiator in the arena in Rome. His wife and son are brutally murdered and Maximus who by now has become the most admired and successful gladiator to fight at the colosseum seeks revenge against the Emperor Commodus played by Joachin Phoenix. Russell Crowe is magnificent as Maximus and won the best actor accolade at the Academy Awards, while Ridley Scott was awarded best picture.
Russell Crowe as Maximus
The final fighting scene in Gladiator is the epic brawl we have been waiting for throughout the film and we all want to see the baddie get his comeuppance don't we? It's also very emotional to watch the last scene of the movie (Spoiler alert!!) where Maximus is once again reunited with his beautiful wife and child. Gladiator is a truly magnificent film with notable performances from Richard Harris as Marcus Aurelius and Oliver Reed, who passed away during the making of the movie, as Proximo. Buy Gladiator now here!
Ben Hur (1959)
I know Ben Hur has been remade for 2016 and I am sure the new version will be great but for me it will never, no matter how great it turns out to be, upstage the 1959 movie that won the most Oscars of any film ever! Charlton Heston as Juda Ben Hur was simply awesome! Stephen Boyd as Masala the thorn in Juda's side was superb, while Jack Hawkins played a great Arius the Roman general who saved Juda from the galleys and adopted him as his son.
Ben Hur follows the story of a Jewish prince who is betrayed by his lifelong friend who just happens to be Roman. Juda ends up in the galleys, while his mother and sister are thrown in prison where they eventually become lepers. When Juda returns from the galleys to seek his revenge on Masala he channels his hatred into the epic chariot race where he and Masala battle it out in the great Roman Circus. The story of Ben Hur is one of love and betrayal along with Roman history regarding the subjugation of the Jewish people by Rome.
Ben Hur Chariot Race
Ben Hur, available to buy from Amazon, was a film that was way before its time in terms of storytelling and special effects, while incorporating the life of Jesus Christ into the story was inspired. The Movie is based on the book A Tale of the Christ written by Lew Wallace. If you have yet to see the movie you will not be disappointed!
Quo Vadis (1951)
Quo Vadis is another classic epic made in 1951 but never the less a superb depiction of life in Rome for Christians who at the time were the enemy of the state. This superb movie is available to purchase from Amazon in a special 2 disc box set and remains one of the most popular Roman epics of all time. The movie certainly oozes the glamorous age of Hollywood but this does not detract from the films authenticity at all.
Robert Taylor and Deborah Kerr
Starring Robert Taylor as Marcus Vinicius and Deborah Kerr as Lygia, his love interest, Quo Vadis is the story of a Roman general, Taylor, who falls in love with a Christian girl, Kerr. Peter Ustinov who plays a superb hyper active Emperor Nero steals the show when he is on screen, while the whole movie is a grandiose spectacle that is not to be missed. Many of the scenes that involve the Christians being led into the arena to face the lions are very moving and really well done to say we are talking 1951. It may not have won a string of Oscars but Quo Vadis is a superb epic well worth seeing!