Sunday, April 3, 2011

Halt in the name of Caesar!

I'm gonna call a halt to the blog for the time being. I do love posting on it, but it's just such a pressure for time. I have about 50 things above it in order of priority and I simply can't cram enough classics into my life to keep having stuff to post about.

I'll still be reading, researching and keeping up with things. I just want blabber on about then so much :-)

Thanks everyone!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Yet More Spartacus...

It's still juicy. Episode 5 was great, although the name was a tad misleading overall and the opening dream sequence made me feel cheated because it would have been very fitting. Nevermind.

What I do worry about though is the next series and how they'll manage to portray the landscapes required for the Servile War instigated by Spartacus. The set at the moment is incredibly small and there is a large amount of CGI involved. Move into the fields of Italy and following a roving army means it becomes significantly more difficult.

How shall the Roman armies be depicted? How will the battles and landscapes be done? How will the show handle being without a certain bloody fantastic John Hannah? What form will the character of Crassus take? (decadent miscreant, no doubt).

Another point it that the Ludus presents such an interesting setting for the series, and I can't help but wonder once it's been removed if the show will lack a certain anchor point which has served it well.

All that said, they have created a rather captivating show and I have no doubt they'll manage to script a second series filled with as much sex and violence as series one and the current mini series. I'm already excited about it and Gods of War hasn't even finished!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Spartacus: Gods of War.

So, Spartacus returned to our screens a couple weeks back (I've seen the two thirds of the mini series that have been broadcast already) in the form of a 6 episode mini series that serves as a prequel (prelude?) to the first series, Blood and Sand.

The mini series was initially meant to plug the gap opened up by Spartacus getting cancer (not the real Spartacus) and needing time to recover before season two (scheduled to get going in Autumn this year). As it turns out, his cancer has returned and Spartacus has been recast. That's all by-the-by, though, but I sincerely hope he gets better for good.

Anyway. Gods of War has been epic thus far. Most folks felt Blood and Sand took a while to find its feet, but I think GoW (from now on, to save my weary fingers) hit its stride right from the off. It's a frothing affair sticky from blood and sweaty from the sordid sex. John Hannah (SPOILER: brutally killed at the end of the first series) is a raving lunatic once again, and his role basically makes the show. He roves around the place ruthlessly scheming and plotting, and the show takes the interesting angle of having his father come back to take control of the Ludus, which has - so far- transpired to be an excellent story line.

As a kind of origin story for the Ludus seen in the first series, it's worked really well. As always with prequels, the force of what's going on comes from the fact that we know what comes next. The various characters are seen before their *current* form and it's interesting to see why they are the way they are (which in most cases is totally understandable given what's gone on so far).

Bugbears: every important Roman is depicted as the worst kind of pervert, and they cast the creepiest looking actors to portray important politicians, so much so that it's hard to watch them. One particular actor in episode three had such a vulgar way about him that I practically knew he'd be examining slave girl hymens before the episode was over. This is, of course, the nature of the show, and so it's hardly surprising.

Can't wait for the rest of the mini series and season two later this year.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Emperor Series.

I apologise for the lack of updates. I've simply been too busy. I have a professional life not quite related to the classics and it can get a bit heavy sometimes. Nevertheless, my classical reading has kept pace.

I recently finished the first book of Conn Iggulden's "Emperor" series (The Gates of Rome), which I enjoyed for the most part. It's worth saying it's a work of fiction and it's really only for geeks and historians to believe fictional works must adhere to the facts, but I have to say that the end really quite irritated me.

The setting is primarily Rome and the surrounding countryside. The story follows the young Julius Caesar and his friend Marcus as they begin to enter adulthood - through training with a veteran soldier, to eventually joining his Uncle Marius' staff in Caesar's case and subsequently witnessing his fabled Uncle being crushed by his enemy, Sulla. Marcus decides to bugger off with the navy to the East.

Now, the book reads very easily. The page and font size are very much conducive to speedy reading, and the various set pieces of action throughout are well written and convey something of the bloody mayhem of ancient warfare. The characters never quite come off the page (for my money, Sulla is most well written, but he's not around too much, although perhaps this comes down to the negative way he's presented, as opposed to the essentially good, if stern, main characters).

Anyway. To the frustrating part. Iggulden plays with the names of his characters, with Julius Caesar being called Gaius as a child and Marcus' full name not being revealed until the final page. The former seems rather pointless, as it's clear whose life the book is supposed to "chronicle" but the latter twist is awful. It's a lame literary trick and I felt cheated by it, although I must concede I didn't see it coming (incredibly). *SPOILERS AHEAD*

It turns out of course that Marcus is of course Marcus Junius Brutus - assassin of Caesar! It turns out they're best friends! How lame! I couldn't quite believe it. Established history puts them about 15 years apart in age (the boys are only that age for the duration of the book) and the famous rumour is that Brutus is in fact the son of the early-to-be-sexually-active Caesar. Naturally, that's not enough for historical fiction so they have to be friends, fighting off Sulla together, even before Brutus was actually born.

I have the second book (I purchased them from the Book Depository - as essential source for English books for those of us who live abroad and enjoy free delivery), but at the minute I loathe to read it as the dramatic set-up that ended the first book disappointed me so much. They're certainly easy to read, but I haven't had the empty period of time required to devour such a novel recently.

I recommend the novels to anyone who doesn't get annoyed as I do about such stuff.