The assignment:  Write a 3- to 4-page essay using depictions of religion the ancient world to take a position on the representations of ancient cultural ideas and beliefs.
The ancient world on film
Every depiction of an historical event, whether in prose, poetry, painting, theater, or film, involves an artist using history to convey his or her own beliefs. What do the creators of the film and the authors of the source material it was based on want you to believe?
For this option, you need to choose a film that is set in the ancient world that relates to religion and that is based on an ancient primary source. In your essay, compare the agenda of the filmmakers with the agenda of the authors of the primary source. Describe and discuss the similarities and differences in how these creators reshaped this event for their own purposes. Use these similarities and differences to make an argument about the ways in which this particular event is leveraged to impose ideas on audiences and about what this event means to the people who create art about it. Choose a movie that takes place in the ancient world, has something to do with religion, and is based on an ancient primary source. Compare the goals of the filmmakers with the goals of the people who wrote the primary source in your essay. Describe and talk about the ways these people changed the event for their own purposes and how they were similar and different. Use these similarities and differences to make an argument about how this event is used to push ideas on audiences and what it means to the artists who make art about it.
Choosing your subjects
● First, choose and watch any feature-length film set in the ancient era (3500 BCE to 500 CE). You can also choose two episodes of a television series set in the ancient world.
● Then find the ancient primary source material it was based on and read it. For example, if you chose the movie 300, which is about Spartans fighting Persian invaders at the Battle of Thermopylae, the primary source you’d need would be the main ancient account of that battle, which is in Book 7 of The Histories by the famous historian Herodotos. Your primary source(s) must come from the ancient world (before 500 CE).
● Some suggestions for possible films or series and their corresponding sources are below. The list is not exhaustive, and you are not limited to this list as long as the film you choose is set in the ancient world and is based on ancient primary sources.
Writing your paper
● Choose three moments or depictions from the film and find the corresponding events or depictions in the primary source.
o For each moment or depiction, describe and discuss how it appears in the film and how it is presented similarly or differently in the primary source material.
● Use these similarities or differences to make an argument about (a) the agenda of the primary source author and how it compares to the agenda of the filmmakers, and (b) the ways this historical event is used by others to present their own ideas, and what this tells us about the shape and meaning of this event’s impact and legacy on history.
o Please take note:This essay is about the agenda of the primary source author as much as the filmmakers’. Do not use the source to “fact check” the film and list what it got “wrong”. You must consider the primary source to be at least as skewed, manipulative, and agenda-driven as the film.
● On a separate “Works Discussed” page after your essay, list the title of film, year, director, stars and studio. Then list the book or books you drew your written evidence from, using standard citation style. The references to the primary source must also be properly cited in the text as usual.
IMPORTANT
● Watch the video.The overview video explains what I want you to cover in the essay and what I’m expecting in terms of arguments, evidence, and structure.
● Before you upload,make sure your essay meets the Requirements for All Papers, including formatting, structure, and citations. You will be marked down drastically if your paper is not properly cited. For how to do citations and bibliographies, see the Research and Citation Center.
Some possibilities for the film and sources option include, but are not limited to, the following. Note that is a general list of films depicting the ancient world and some may not have much bearing on religion. Links to most of these primary sources can be found on the ancient texts page on my website.
Greece and Greek Mythology
Film Subject / Possible primary sources to compare
300 (2007) or The 300 Spartans (1962) Battle of Thermopylae
Herodotus, The Histories book 7
300: Rise of an Empire (2014) Battle of Salamis
Herodotus, The Histories book 8
Agora (2009) Hypatia
Socrates Scholasticus, Ecclesiastical History, 7.15; John of Nikiu, Chronicle 84.87-103; The Suda, Life of Hypatia
Alexander the Great (1956) or Alexander (2004) Alexander
Plutarch, Alexander; or Arrian, Anabasis
Atlantis (2011) Atlantis myth
Plato, Timaeus and Critias
Barefoot in Athens (1966) Socrates
Plato, Phaedo, Apology
Clash of the Titans (1981, 2010) Theseus
Plutarch, Theseus; Ps.-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca; Ovid, Metamorphoses
Damon and Pythias (1962) Damon and Pythias, Syracuse
Cicero, On Duties 3.45; Diodorus Siculus 10.4
Electra (1963) Elektra
Euripides, Elektra; Sophocles, Elektra
The Fury of Achilles (1962) Achilles, Trojan War
Homer, Iliad Books 1, 9, 16-19
Helen of Troy (1956) Helen, Trojan War
Homer, Iliad 3, Odyssey 4, 23; Euripides, Helen; Ovid, Heroides 16; Isocrates, Helen
Hercules (1997), Hercules (2014), or The Legend of Hercules (2014) Hercules
Ovid, Metamorphoses 9, 12; Apollodorus, The Library; Euripides, Herakles; Apollonios Rhodios, Argonautika 1.1175–1280
Iphigenia (1977) Iphigenia
Euripides, Iphigenia at Aulis
The Odyssey (1997) or Ulysses (1955) Odysseus
Homer, Odyssey [focus on key events of the film]
The Trojan Horse (1961) Trojan War, Aeneas
Virgil, Aeneid Book 2
The Trojan Women (1971) Greek subjugation of Troy
Euripides, The Trojan Women
Troy (2004) Achilles, Trojan War
Homer, Iliad [focus on key events of the film]
Rome and the Roman Empire
Film Subject / Possible primary sources to compare
Agora (2009) Hypatia
Socrates Scholasticus, Ecclesiastical History, 7.15; John of Nikiu, Chronicle 84.87-103; The Suda, Life of Hypatia
Attila (2001) Attila
Jordanes, Origin and Deeds of the Goths 36-53; Procopius, History of the Wars 3.4
Boudica (2003) Boudica
Tacitus, Annals 14.29–39, Agricola; Cassius Dio, Roman History 62
Caligula (1980) [warning: explicit sex] Caligula
Suetonius, Caligula; Cassius Dio, Roman History 59
The Centurion (1961) Battle of Corinth
Polybius, The Histories book 38
Centurion (2010) Roman Britain
Tacitus, Agricola
Cleopatra (1963, 1999) Cleopatra, Caesar, Antony
Plutarch, Caesar and Antony
Coriolanus (1963) Coriolanus
Plutarch, Coriolanus; Livy 2.33–2.40
Decline of an Empire (2014) St. Katherine of Alexandria
Saints lives of Saint Katharine of Alexandria
Druids (2001) Vercingetorix, Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar, Gallic Wars book 7; Cassius Dio 40:33–41, 43:19; Plutarch, Caesar 25–27
Duel of Champions (1961) Horatius
Livy 1.24-26
The Eagle (2011) Roman Britain
Tacitus, Agricola
Empire (2005 Mini-Series) Augustus
Suetonius, Augustus; Nicolas of Damascus, Life of Augustus; Cassius Dio, 45–56
The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964) Rome under Commodus
Cassius Dio 73; Herodian 1.15; Historia Augusta, “Commodus”
The First King: Birth of an Empire (2019) Romulus and Remus
Livy 1.4-6; Dionysius 1.71-87; Plutarch, Romulus; Ovid, Fasti; Appian, Roman History book 1
Gladiator (2000) Rome under M. Aurelius, Commodus
Cassius Dio 73; Herodian 1.15; Historia Augusta, “Commodus”
Hannibal (1959) or Hannibal (2006) Hannibal Barca, 2d Punic War
Cornelius Nepos, Hannibal; Livy 21-30; Plutarch, Fabius
Hero of Rome (1964) Scaevola, Lars Porsena, formation of Roman Republic
Livy 2.1-21
I, Claudius (1976) [1-2 episodes] Claudius
Tacitus, Annals 11–12; Suetonius, Claudius
Julius Caesar (1953, 1970, 2002) Julius Caesar
Plutarch, Caesar; Suetonius, Divine Julius
Messalina (1960) Messalina. Claudius
Suetonius, Claudius 26-29, 37; Tacitus Annals 11-12; Cassius Dio 60-61
Pompeii: The Last Day (2003) or Pompeii (2014) Eruption of Vesuvius, Roman Italy
Pliny the Younger’s letters to Tacitus, #65 and #66
Quo Vadis? (1951, 2001) Persecution of Christians under Nero
Tacitus, Annals 13–16; Suetonius, Nero; Cassius Dio 61–63
Rome (2005–2007) [use 1-2 episodes] Collapse of the Roman Republic
Various (see me)
Fellini Satyricon (1969) Imperial Rome, homosexuality
Petronius, Satyricon
Scipio Africanus: The Defeat of Hannibal (1937) Scipio Africanus, 2d Punic War
Polybius 10; Cornelius Nepos, Hannibal; Livy 26-29; Valerius Maximus 3.7; Plutarch, Marcellus and Fabius
Siege of Syracuse (1960) Archimedes, Siege of Syracuse
Plutarch, Marcellus; Livy 21-23
The Sign of the Cross (1932) Persecution of Christians under Nero
Tacitus, Annals 13–16; Suetonius, Nero; Cassius Dio 61–63
Spartacus (1960) or Spartacus: Blood and Sand (2010) Spartacus, Roman galdiators/slavery
Appian, Roman History 116–120; Plutarch, Crassus 8–11
Egypt
Film Subject / Possible primary sources to compare
Cleopatra (1963, 1999) Cleopatra, Caesar, Antony
Plutarch, Caesar and Antony
Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014) Moses, Hebrew exodus
Old Testament, Exodus
The Prince of Egypt (1998) Moses
Old Testament, Exodus
A Queen for Caesar (1962) Cleopatra
Plutarch, Caesar and Antony
The Ten Commandments (1956) Moses, Hebrew exodus
Old Testament, Exodus
Israel, Canaan, Biblical Stories
Film Subject / Possible primary sources to compare
Abraham (1993 miniseries, 1994 film) Abraham
Old Testament, Genesis books 11–25
David and Goliath (1960), David and Bathsheba (1951) David, kingdom of Israel
Old Testament, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel
Esther and the King (1960) Esther
Old Testament, Esther
Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014) Moses, Hebrew exodus from Egypt
Old Testament, Exodus
Jacob (1994) Jacob and Esau
Old Testament, Genesis 25–50
Jason and the Argonauts (1963) Jason
Ovid, Metamorphoses; Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica
Jesus of Nazareth (1977) Jesus
New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John
Joseph (1995) or Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (1999) Joseph
Old Testament, Genesis 37–50
King David (1985) David, kingdom of Israel
Old Testament, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel
Last Days of Sodom and Gomorrah (1962) Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham, Lot
Old Testament, Genesis 14-19
The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) Jesus
New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John
Masada (1981 Mini-Series) Siege of Masada
Josephus, The Jewish War book 1
The Nativity Story (2006) Birth of Jesus
New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John
Noah (2014) Noah, Great Flood
Old Testament, Genesis 6-9
One Night with the King (2006) Esther
Old Testament, Esther
The Passion of the Christ (2004) Jesus, the Crucifixion
New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John
The Prince of Egypt (1998) Moses
Old Testament, Exodus
The Red Tent (2014 miniseries) Dinah (daught. of Jacob)
Old Testament, Genesis 30, 34
Risen (2016) Aftermath of the Crucifixion, Roman Judea
New Testament, Acts of the Apostles
Samson and Delilah (1949) Samson and Delilah
Old Testament, Judges 13-16
Sins of Jezebel (1951) Israel under Ahab
Old Testament, 1 Kings 16-22
Slave of Dreams (1995) Joseph
Old Testament, Genesis 37–50
Solomon and Sheba (1959) Solomon and Sheba
Old Testament, Kings or Chronicles; Josephus, Antiquities book 8
A Story of David (1960) David, kingdom of Israel
Old Testament, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel
The Ten Commandments (1956) Moses, Hebrew exodus from Egypt
Old Testament, Exodus
Mesopotamia, Persia, Asia
Film Subject / Possible primary sources to compare
Esther and the King (1960) Esther
Old Testament, Esther
Gautama Buddha (2007) Siddhārtha Gautama
The Buddhacarita,Lalitavistara Sūtra, and other Buddhist biographies
Intolerance (1916) [Part 1 only] Iron Age Babylon
Herodotus 1.70–144; Josephus, Antiquities 10–11
One Night with the King (2006) Esther
Old Testament, Esther
Queen of Babylon (1954) Semiramis, Babylon
Diodorus Siculus, 2.4-20

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