The Roman Empire holds a unique place in the annals of Hollywood box office dominance. No other ancient era gets as many movies exploring the politics of power. The world seems to want to know if this saga, played against the backdrop of the rise and fall of empire, and the failure of self rule, is a cautionary tale for our time. My movie archive for Rome, including the corresponding rise of Christianity, is a catalog of parables and case studies on the mental health of the planet.
This chapter on Rome is the final segment of my movie montage on the history of the world. It gives me a moment to look over my shoulder and reflect on the deep past as it is presented on the big screen. Half of what I know of the foundations of Civilization* I have learned from the movies, which makes my knowledge subjective and biased toward action rather than reflection.
That being said, there is one observation that has played in my mind as I watched the hundreds of movies covered in Ancient Destinations. It seems to me that history is the story of the human race learning the ways of governing itself, both personally and collectively. This operation can be seen in microcosm in all the contemporary movies where individual humans struggle for impulse control and try to take responsibility for the consequences of their actions. And the macro can be seen in today’s epic movies. Think of how many of these films end with massive armies falling on their perceived enemies in orgies of slaughter. Going to the movies today seems to me not essentially different from an afternoon’s entertainment at the Colosseum almost 2000 years ago. It’s all very Roman.
*Go to FAQ for use of the term post-paradigm and capitalization of Civilization.
For a full list of movies viewed for this website, go to Movie Archive, above.