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Sunday: January 15, 2006

Spartacus

Filed under: — site admin @ 11:52 PM UTC

You might think that a Latin teacher would have gotten around to seeing Spartacus in his first ten or twelve years of full-time teaching, if he hadn’t seen it before. Not me: I’m not fond of blockbusters and costume dramas, and just got around to watching it earlier today. (My students have all seen it in previous Latin classes, which removes one incentive.) What pushed me to fill this embarrassing gap? I saw most of Quo Vadis Christmas Day, and was pleasantly surprised — either it’s a lot better than I had thought or my standards are slipping. My desultory and no doubt unoriginal thoughts on first viewing Spartacus:

  1. The gladiator-training equipment was very impressive, but I couldn’t tell whether it is authentically ancient or cleverly imagined or some combination of the two. (Maybe I should do some research? No, too much trouble.)
  2. Lots of good lines. When a distinguished guest arrives unexpectedly, the host orders “Second-best wine . . . no, best, but small goblets.”
  3. Were Lentulus the lanista (trainer of gladiators) in Spartacus and Nero in Quo Vadis played by the same man? (Pause to check IMDB.) Yes: Peter Ustinov. A famous name, so why don’t I know his face (and his googly eyes)? I really need to watch more movies.
  4. I try to avoid the usual classicist’s vice of counting up the historical inaccuracies, but I couldn’t help noticing one thing. What made the men look most modern and least Roman was their hairstyles. Also, in general, Rome and Italy and the actors were all far too clean.
  5. The cognomen of Marcus Publius Glabrus, the weenie who lost six cohorts by being too stupid to fortify his camp, includes a cruel joke. Glabrus is not a Latin word, but is obviously related to glaber, which is an adjective meaning “hairless” and a noun referring to a male slave whose body hair has been removed, no doubt at his master’s orders.
  6. Which reminds me: The wickedest Roman, Crassus, is (a) given some conventionally proto-fascist and palaeo-McCarthyite things to say, and (b) a predatory bisexual. The less wicked and less ‘right-wing’ Gracchus is promiscuous, but strictly heterosexual, and Spartacus himself is monogamously heterosexual. Hmmmm . . . .
  7. When Crassus forces Spartacus and Antoninus to fight to the death, with the winning prize crucifixion, why do they do go along? They could have run on each other’s swords simultaneously — some Romans committed suicide that way — or attacked the ring of soldiers surrounding them and taken a few with them as they died. After killing Antoninus, Spartacus has another chance to kill Crassus, who comes up close to taunt him before he has been disarmed. In short, why don’t they do as the Nubian gladiator had done earlier on, when he refused to kill Spartacus in the ring and instead tried twice to kill Crassus, first throwing his trident at him and then climbing the wall for a more personal attack?

Now I suppose I’d better find time to watch Gladiator. But not yet: I have Le Corbeau and The Revenger’s Tragedy out from U.N.C. library, and the combination of a 3-day loan period and a 55-mile round-trip to return them means that they come first.

(Point 7 added at 11:00 am the next day.)

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