I'm once again buried under an enormous pile of exam marking, so forgive me if things are a little quiet around here this week! Once I emerge, I can promise posts on Priam playing Augustus, some more Classical Places, more maenads and vampires, more Rome and more Xena.
In the meantime, I've been giving serious consideration to the Top Five Roman-style Gladiatorial combats in popular culture (that I've seen). Spoilers follow.
5. Spock and McCoy vs Flavius and Achilles in Star Trek, 'Bread and Circuses'
Why? Becuase any gladiatoral combat that ends in a double Vulcan Nerve Grip is a great gladiatorial combat.
How Roman is it? I'm not aware that the Vulcan Nerve Grip was known in ancient Rome. The replacement of the audience in the arena with a television audience works brilliantly, and the network's need to provide an entertaining combat is surely representative of something that must have been an issue for Roman lanistas.
4. The Face-Dude vs Spartacus in Spartacus: Blood and Sand, 'The Thing in the Pit'
Why? Of all the many, many fights we've seen on Spartacus: Blood and Sand and the prequel series Spartacus: Gods of the Arena, this is by far the most memorable. It's a face! It's a face!
How Roman is it? There's no evidence of a Fight Club-style set-up like this in ancient Rome and with gladiatorial combats available regularly, why would you need one? It gives the show a nice change of pace for an episode though.
3. Spartacus vs Draba in Spartacus (1960)
How Roman is it? I can't see why Crassus would randomly demand to see two gladiators killed purely for the amusement of himself and two friends, when they could be killed for the amusement of hundreds. On the other hand, there's be nothing to stop him and he wasn't exactly the tender type.
2. Katniss and Peeta vs Cato and the muttations/ Katniss vs Peeta in The Hunger Games
Why? Just when you think The Hunger Games can't get worse or more horrible... it gets worse and more horrible. Cato meets such a nasty end you actually feel sorry for him, and then we finally get to the resolution we all knew was coming since about page 15. And very satisfying it is too.
How Roman is it? Like Star Trek, these gladiatorial games have replaced live audiences with television, which I suspect is what would have happened if the Romans had invented television. With much more space to explore the concept, Collins really gets into how that removal of the audience from the horror of what's happening might affect such a series of games, which is really interesting. Beyond that, well, there's a character called Cato. That's about it. Again, if the Romans had known how to genetically mutate animals, they probably would have done so - but they didn't.
1. Maximus and his men vs 'Scipio Africanus' (actually several female gladiators) in Gladiator
Why? Undoubtedly the highlight of a great film, this fight is the lead-in to the famous 'My name is Maximus Decimus Meridus...' scene, and it does a fantastic job of showering Maximus in glory right before his big moment. The way he uses his military training to beat the odds, the re-writing of the history of the Battle of Carthage (much to the announcer's embarrassment), the excitement of the fight itself and the way the gladiators band together to face the emperor when it's over, all go together to make the best scene of gladiatorial combat in the movies, topped off with Hans Zimmer's majestic score.
Honorable mention goes to the lovely little British arena in The Eagle, and the beginning of a beautiful friendship. There aren't many gladiatorial combats that can claim that!