Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Chelmsford 123: Bird Trouble


Perhaps it's because they got rid of Badvok's irritating girlfriend, perhaps the writing was just getting sharper with time, but Series 2 of Chelmsford 123 definitely has a higher hit-rate than Series 1, and this episode, in which Aulus' wife Marcella pays him a visit, is pretty good. It's funny - I laughed - and even better, it's actually based on aspects of the ancient world.

The episode is book-ended by gods. It opens with a very funny sequence set on Mount Olympus, in which Jupiter makes fun of Paul Daniels (whom I used to like a lot, but in my defense I was very young at the time) and we see that Venus, much like Eleanor of Tsort, has seen better days. The sequence pays off at the very end, in which the writers get Aulus and Badvok out of trouble using a deus ex machina, in the best known tradition of Greek theatre - Vulcan strikes Aulus' irritating wife down with a lightening bolt he wanted to throw. The deus ex machina plot device has a rather bad reputation in modern drama as a cop-out (much like the 'it was all a dream' ploy used in the previous episode) but by introducing the story from the gods' point of view at the beginning, in this episode the writers are able to both use the Greek dramatic tool and make it seem like it comes less out of the blue, making it more acceptable to modern audiences.

The script also takes in several other genuinely Roman issues. Grasientus and Marcella's father has been dismembered in the emperor's latest purge, and although Hadrian was not particularly known for purges - Tiberius was the purger extraordinaire - it's a genuinely Roman problem. Similarly, Aulus is trapped in what was presumably a political marriage to a woman he can't stand. Divorce was easy in Rome, but not if you still needed whatever political or financial gain you'd wanted from the marriage in the first place. The idea of the ring that gives the wearer power is perhaps less likely, as I don't think Romans would have been more likely than most of us to believe that, but it's not impossible in a Roman context, in which some people at least could be pretty superstitious.

This episode also remembers, for the first time since the opening episode, that Aulus is not, in fact, speaking in his own language, and he makes the odd mistake with English. This is mostly to facilitate a joke involving a duck but it's a nice reminder. Aulus pretends to be mad to try to drive his wife away, and although his madness is not quite as funny as Blackadder's in Blackadder Goes Forth, it's pretty good and culminates in first a nice ancient reference (he thinks he's Neptune, which is neatly reminiscent of the really-mad Caligula's war against that god) and then pure surreal genius, as Aulus reveals a remarkable talent for speaking backwards.

Unlike many episodes of Chelmsford 123, this story is actually about making fun of ancient ideas and customs, not modern British ones. There's even a postman in it who escapes without any jokes about getting bitten by dogs or the unreliability of second-class mail. As such, apart from the Paul Daniels joke at the beginning, it's aged pretty well and can still raise a good laugh. Even Blag is less annoying than usual!

All Chelmsford 123 reviews

If you're in the UK, you can watch Chelmsford 123 on 4oD

Monday, 29 August 2011

The Roman Mysteries: The Fugitive from Corinth (TV adaptation)


I was very fond of this story when I read the book, partly because it's set around Corinth, Delphi, Athens and the surrounding area, the places that first made me fall in love with the ancient world on a school holiday years ago. Unfortunately, presumably for reasons of budget and practicality, this adaptation takes place between Ostia and the shrine to Diana at Nemi (near Aricia) instead, so we don't get to see Greece.

Flavia claims that people believed that if you washed at Diana's shrine, you would be 'cleansed of your sins.' This isn't quite right - 'sin' is a Christian concept. There are rough equivalents in ancient religion, mainly involving crimes against the gods, but nothing with quite the same meaning. The shrine at Nemi had many functions, including the ritual that formed the basis of J. G. Frazer's famous doorstopper The Golden Bough, and votive offerings have been found there. However, it is a very suitable substitution for the book's Athens. In the book, Aristo was forced to run to Athens like Orestes running from the Furies; here, he chases Dion to the shrine of Diana at Nemi, supposedly founded by Orestes and a place associated with the cleansing of blood guilt, among other things.

Although some fairly substantial alterations have been made from the book, this is a good adaptation. Aristo is a lot blonder than I imagined him, and looks disconcertingly similar to Caudex, whom I love; loved him in the books, love him even more in his expanded role in the TV series! His fierce loyalty to his master is lovely - although he's a slave, his love for and loyalty to Flavia and her family is both plausible (Tiro showed a great deal of love and loyalty to Cicero) and satisfying to watch. The cross-dressing character from the book, on the other hand, has been omitted, probably because those stories are so difficult (though not impossible) to do well onscreen, and to keep the running time down.

I enjoyed Jonathan and Dr Mordecai's story, which was written for the television and which takes up Mordecai's need for a new 'nurse' to replace Miriam from the books and combines it with Jonathan doing some detecting on his own while Flavia pursues Aristo across the countryside. Everyone gets plenty to do here, with Lupus and Jonathan saving the day, while Flavia and Nubia have a beautiful, touching conversation while trapped and convinced they're about to die, which is also terribly sad, as Nubia is convinced they are going to different places.

This is probably one of my favourite of the television adaptations, as it has both well executed action sequences (particularly the runaway cart) and lovely character moments. Although the budget didn't stretch to some of the most spectucular ancient sites in Greece, it is very nicely shot and I totally want a Caudex of my own please (not as a slave, obviously - as a butler, maybe. Like Alfred in Batman, but with gladiatorial training).

Nineteenth century engraving of Lake Nemi

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Doctor Who: Let's Kill Hitler


First of all, I just have to say: I'm really not sure about the title of this episode. World War Two was a rather serious event - it's not that you can't set light-hearted things during that period, but such a flippant title just seems... wrong. Oh well.

Of course, the reason for the title is that this episode, among other things, acts as one of our occasional reminders of why the Doctor can't just stop all the nastier bits of history from happening. This has been done most effectively in another Classically-themed episode, 'The Fires of Pompeii', in which the tragedy of allowing - or causing - thousands of people to die is fully explored, while some way of alleviating the utter horror of the situation is also found. Here, it was just one thread among many and got a bit lost - though the Justice people did note that they don't actually interfere with anybody's timeline, they just torture criminals after they've done their worst. Charming.

We found out in this episode why River became an archaeologist - it seems she thought the study of the physical remains of earlier civilizations would help her to find the Doctor. Well, there's a certain logic to that! (I should perhaps point out, real archaeologists don't take it up in hopes of finding a good man. Although the gender split is fairly even, there are more and more women taking up history and archaeology - if you want men, you want engineering!) She obviously takes her training to heart later, as the older River's attitude and ideas are sometimes reflective of her chosen career, but here she has no idea about history or archaeology, other than having a decent of knowledge of major disasters the Doctor didn't stop. My favourite thing about this episode, as a person who thought the Romans were boring and Latin useless while in school, was the total lack of interest 'Mels' had in history at school, since her preoccupation was with the Doctor, not with history itself (also a really nice way of foreshadowing her identity and her antagonism towards him). Having said that, she did appear to have poisoned him with some kind of intergalactic hemlock, given the way his legs went first. I would ask how come something kept in her lipstick didn't poison her too, but I think that would go against the spirit of the show.

I totally, totally loved the Star Trek vibe that was all over the justice-ship-robot-thingy. Well, Star Trek via Red Dwarf (their raison de'etre is a bit like an especially creepy cross between the Justice zone and the Inquisitor) and Galaxy Quest (pointless corridors above empty spaces). They even look particularly like the brown-suited officers assigned to Temporal Investigations from Deep Space Nine and Voyager. I have to say, when the Justice people saw the TARDIS and said they'd found the greatest war criminal of all, I really thought they meant the Doctor, but apparently the mass genocide of two races is either totally fine by them, or something about the way in which the Doctor 'resolved' the Time War means they're unaware of it/it's not in their timeline. Or something.

I also enjoyed seeing Rory kick ass a little bit in this episode - lest we forget, he is a trained Roman soldier and has two thousand years of guarding a box behind him, so he has his uses in an emergency. I liked seeing the Doctor's old companions in the TARDIS as well, though I would have thought the best, and most guilt-free, choice for a shape and voice would surely be 'Sexy', the human form of the TARDIS herself.

I thought this episode was a little bit all over the place, but there was enough fun - and fabulous costumes - to keep it entertaining. Somehow, I had higher expectations of the Doctor and River's first meeting - a whole episode devoted to it, with the Doctor knowing a lot more about her and about their relationship and a very young River (possibly played by a different actress) without a clue - though something similar might still be possible I guess, using an earlier reincarnation of River and a later one of the Doctor. Anyway, this was good fun and I really hope we see the Justice people again just for the Star Trek joke possibilities - they'd make good bad guys too, given that what they're doing is pretty horrible even if you are doing it to Hitler. Meanwhile, we're back to the status quo for now, but I'm sure River will turn up again before the end of the current series...

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Red Dwarf: Rimmerworld

In this classic episode of Red Dwarf from series 6, Rimmer goes through one of those time-dilation wormhole thingies that seem to be surprisingly common in outer space.

I'll let Kryten explain the problem:

RIMMER: Isn't there some kind of a time dilation problem when you go through a wormhole?
KRYTEN: Well, yes there is. Since you're travelling through a compressed space, time will move more swiftly for the object passing though the wormhole. One minute on this side of the wormhole will represent many years on the other.
RIMMER: So, is that good?
KRYTEN: Balls on standby sir.
RIMMER: More than a year and a half?
KRYTEN: Er, yes sir, a little more.
RIMMER: How much more?
KRYTEN: Well, let's not beat around the bush, a lot more.
RIMMER: Kryten, that's still beating around the bush. Just tell me.
KRYTEN: Well, remember that medieval war sir, that lasted quite a long time.
RIMMER: The Thirty Years War?
KRYTEN: No, not that war sir, the other one.
RIMMER: The Hundred Years War?
KRYTEN: Now take that figure, and multiply it by six, and then you'll come up with your golden number sir.
RIMMER: Six hundred years!
CAT: Pinch me!

So Rimmer has to wait six hundred years for the others to come get him, during which time, using a machine that makes minimal sense even by Red Dwarf's standards given that he's a hologram, he creates an entire society based on his DNA (the aim was to create a woman, but it didn't quite work). So Rimmer spends six hundred years trapped on a planet inhabited by clones of himself.

The reason I'm blogging this is, the society that establishes itself on the planet of Rimmers models its costumes, at least, on ancient Rome. The male Rimmers wear Greco-Roman-ish armour (it looks Roman to me) while the females wear fairly typical generic sexy outfits with vaguely Roman-looking shoes (and with veils to hide their faces, which are identical to the males').

Something vaguely Greco-Roman looking was probably considered most appropriate for a society born from a man who believes himself to be the reincarnation of Alexander the Great's chief eunuch. Rimmer is obsessed with the military and with empire, so really, it had to be either the Romans or Napoleonic costumes, and the Romans look a bit more exotic (and require less expensive weapons).

I also have a suspicion that the fact that this particular society is also built, techinically speaking, on incest - as Rimmer draws attention to in a voiceover as he 'grows' the first clone - may have partially inspired the costume choice. The poor Romans were not any more open to incest than our own culture, but thanks to one mad emperor and one old one who married his niece, they've gained a reputation for partaking in incest second only to their reputation for orgies. So now, popular culture gives us emperors who, in real life, were much less inclinced to breaking sexual taboos having it away with their sisters, and a fantasy novel with a plot that revolves, to a great degree, around the consequences of an incestuous relationship reminds reviewers of the Caesars. (Egyptian pharoahs really did marry close relatives to each other, but only among the royal family). With this in mind, it's unsurprising that the costume designers turned to ancient Rome for the Rimmerworld costumes, though I doubt the Romans themselves would find the portrait very flattering!

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Xena Warrior Princess: The Black Wolf


Xena tries its hand at the old inescapable-dungeon storyline - this episode is a good yarn, though how much you like it will depend on how fond you are of improbable combat tricks.

Hints of Roman influence start to make themselves felt just a little in this episode. Xerxes' armour has a certain Roman-ish look to it, without actually being Roman - it's perhaps a bit more Roman than the usual pseudo-medieval stuff. The episode opens with a sort of pastiche of Kubrick's 'I'm Spartacus!' scene in which everyone in the Village of the Week claims to be the Black Wolf, which is a neat and quick way to tell the audience whose side we should be on.

'Xerxes' was the name of the Persian king who tried unsuccessfully to invade Greece, coming up against first the Three Hundred and later the Athenian fleet at Salamis. There's no real link with the tyrant here, but the idea of Xerxes as a tyrannical king and enemy seems roughly appropriate. There are a couple of mythological characters called Diomedes; one was the mythological owner of man-eating horses who was fed to them himself by Hercules, so there's no connection there, while the other was a friend of Odysseus' who famously has an entire Book of the Iliad devoted to his military glory (thanks to DemetriosX for reminding me about him). Whether there's any connection with him is unclear.

Xerxes' palace looks like Mont-St-Michel but without the water, which is no way Classical, obviously, but it's rather nice. I could live there.

There were some rather dodgy moments in this episode. Much as I enjoyed Xena and Koulos' fake fight, the bit where she spun him around looked seriously daft, though it was nothing compared to her flying leap directly upwards from out of a well... On the other hand, this show has a great sense of humour, so I think I'll start including a 'quotes' section in these write-ups - they're not terribly Classical necessarily but I want to start storing these for future reference!

Quotes:

Xena (re Xerxes' guards): Oh, don't bother the dears. They're sleeping.

Salmoneus: I got fifteen belts, four robes and three proposals...


The Wolf Pack. Not literally; for once, it's just a metaphor!


Saturday, 20 August 2011

Classical Places in Popular Culture: Brittany

Continuing the series otherwise known as What I Did on my Holidays, I thought I'd share some thoughts on Brittany, the part of France I know best, home of crepes and big rocks. Brittany has strong links with medieval culture and Arthurian legend, and one of my former housemates once referred to it as Cornwall but in French, but it was also once part of the Roman Empire and is, therefore, definitely Classical.

Like Wales, Cornwall and Ireland, Brittany is still predominantly Celtic and a substantial proportion of it is Celtic speaking. There are plenty of fascinating arcaheological sites in Brittany, including numerous prehistoric standing stones,


Menhir, one of a group at... actually I'm not sure, I think we'd stopped for a comfort break!


Many, many stones at Carnac

the Cairn of Barnanez, a dry stone tomb in the shape of a stepped pyramid, with two distinct phases of construction that was in use through to medieval times,



 and loads of medieval buildings, calverts and so on, including the amazing Dance of Death fresco, preserved in a medieval church


and some churches that are just really pretty.


The gorgeous and famous medieval town of Mont-St-Michel is just outside Brittany - but more to the point, I don't seem to have any digital photos of it. It is, however, an amazing place to visit.

The Romans conquered Brittany along with the rest of Gaul, but there isn't as much in the way of Roman remains... possibly because Brittany is the home of Asterix the Gaul!


It took me ages to work out that this is, indeed, supposed to represent Brittany, not Normandy...

It seems only right and proper that Asterix should come from a place still so strongly Celtic, and of course, Brittany's position, sticking out from the rest of France, makes it the perfect location for a lone holdout against invasion. This location is also, presumably, the inspiration for Obelix's job as a menhir delivery man.

Aside from Asterix, Brittany does not come up overly often in Classical pop culture, presumably because it isn't really on the way to anywhere. To be in Roman Brittany, you have to have aimed to go to Roman Brittany, and since it lacked major cities etc, fictional characters don't tend to do so. Dramas set in other periods do occasionally visit the region, my favourite of which is First World War story A Very Long Engagement (Une Long Dimanche de Fiancailles), which comes complete with sea, lighthouse and crepes, all familiar images to anyone who's shopped in Brittany's many cute tourist traps.


The lighthouse in the film - our family own a number of lighthouse themed placemats, purchased in the cutesy tourist shops of Brittany

However, there is at least one notable instance of Brittany's Classical past and its strong links with Arthurian legend being brought together, in Mary Stewart's The Crystal Cave, adapted for television by the BBC back in the early '90s.


I absolutely adored this series when I was little, but unfortunately it isn't currently available on DVD and I haven't seen it since. I was pleased to discover that I wasn't hallucinating - it really did star Robert Powell, otherwise known as Jesus, or that dude that wasn't Jasper Carrot on that old sitcom about detectives. I think it had Mr Weasley in it as well. In the series, Merlin goes to Brittany, where he discovers that his father is a Roman soldier called Ambrosius Aurelianus and some kind of Mithraic ritual is carried out among a group of standing stones. I remember that this was the first time I'd heard of Mithras, that the religion was correctly described as a particular favourite of soldiers, and visions of a bull were somehow involved, but not much else. I do have the original novel at home somewhere, so I'll have to re-read it.

The nice thing about the series' use of Brittany is that, as I said, the links with Arthurian legend are widely celebrated in Brittany (by the tourist board, at least). You can't move for an Arthurian-themed restaurants or supposedly haunted woods in Brittany. And the Arthurian legends are frequently linked with the Classical past in one way or another. So the blending of Brittany's Classical past with its Arthurian heritage is a really nice idea, and although I barely remember the series, I do remember the combination of the exotic Mithraic cult with the haunting stones of Brittany being very effective.

It's no wonder Brittany celebrates its medieval heritage so much, when you've got buildings like these...









and no wonder it's such a good place for fantasy and folklore lovers, with landscapes like this, known as the Roches du Diable (Devil's Rocks).




If only the BBC would release the series on DVD...!

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Rome: These Being the Words of Marcus Tullius Cicero


The Godfather is feeling guilty about losing the kids after Niobe's last words were to defend her son, so he comes downstairs to the bar/brothel/whatever it is that he and Dodgey are running to inflict his bad mood on everyone else. Another gang leader, covered in bling, asks his permission to kill someone who used a friend's nephew as a male prostitute, and the Godfather refuses. Dodgey disagrees and everyone has to be lectured about the importance of showing the Godfather respect (yes, he actually uses the word). Gaia tries to come on to him but he's not interested.

Octavia is hanging out with a friend of hers called Jocasta, smoking hemp. Atia joins them, though she objects to having the smoke all over the interior of the house. Jocasta tells Atia how 'ghastly' Macedonia is, so Atia is spectacularly rude to her (though really, would you want to make friends with someone named after Oedipus' mother? That's never going to be a good idea, surely).

Scenes of Unhappy People: the young male prostitute goes to work, Timon's brother is teaching his kids Hebrew while Timon sulks, Lyde and the Godfather's kids are kept with a group of other slaves.

Atia tries to persuade Antony not to go to Macedonia. He wants peace and quiet (and her, presumably, since he assures her there will be dressmakers there). Atia is unimpressed and insists peace and quiet is not an option. She's probably right, but she's definitely been influenced by Jocasta's tales of how hideous Macedonia is.

Bling Man has gelded a man who was using the prostitute and the Godfather blames Dodgey for questioning his authority and gives him an order. Dodgey insists he doesn't take orders any more and yelling ensues, during which Dodgey accidentally lets slip that he knew about Niobe's affair and killed her lover.

A-ha! Cicero! I was wondering where he'd got to. Cicero tries to point out to Antony that Octavian, having managed to raise a fairly decent army, is probably someone they shouldn't ignore. Antony has summoned Cicero to request Gaul instead of Macedonia as a province after the consulship is over. Antony observes that Cicero, at this point, basically controls the Senate and when he can't persuade Cicero to do what he wants, threatens him with molten gold down the throat. It's a great, tense scene, and Bamber and Purefoy sneer beautifully at each other throughout. Antony's line, 'you do not want to seem cowardly' is especially nice and Bamber's expression as he imagines Crassus dying horribly and ironically through aforementioned molten gold (he was known as the richest man in Rome) is a picture.

Dodgey goes to make peace with the Godfather and tries again to get him to prevent gang war, but it's too late - their third man is busy castrating Bling Man's second in a public toilet.

New character introduction alert! Agrippa arrives at Atia's house with a message from Octavian. I love this series' interpretation of Agrippa. Rome's Agrippa comes across rather like the most successful nerd ever. He's got Agrippa's main historical attributes, being a brilliant general (though, due to budge constraints, we don't actually get to see that) and unfailingly loyal to Augustus, but that's mixed in with a quiet, shy personality that borders on nerdiness in his tongue-tied attempts at courting women and a sense of morals, honour and duty outstripped only by the Godfather. I very much doubt it's remotely historically accurate, but I love it - the combination of one of Roman history's best generals with this extreme social awkwardness is just brilliant. And, to defend it historically, it does offer an explanation for how Agrippa, alone among all the men Octavian was close to, managed to stay in favour until he died of (probably) natural causes - this Agrippa, while skilled in war, clearly has no interest in grabbing power for himself and probably couldn't if he tried. (Augustus gave unprecedented powers and privileges to his sister and his wife, probably because only they were incapable of trying to take over the Empire, since the legions would not follow a woman).

Agrippa's introduction also immediately establishes an unhistorical romantic relationship between him and Octavia. It does this in the cheesiest possible way; as Agrippa, dusty and mucky from the road, enters the house, he sees Octavia through a doorway, dressed in an elegant white (or is it soft pink? no wait, it's blue) gown, in soft lighting, playing a lyre. Pur-lease. To be fair, she gets a note wrong and curses 'Piss and blood!' which brings us a little closer to reality, but still. The romance itself, while entirely fictitious, is rather nice and leads to all sorts of dramatic goings-on later, so all in all, I'm in favour of it. Plus, Agrippa is just so cute when he's pining.

The two of them discuss Octavian's pomposity and his ten thousand men, and the fact that Octavia is the only person in the world he really listens to. Atia interrupts, calls Agrippa a traitor and sends her slave running to tell tales to Antony, much to Octavia's horror. Meanwhile, the male prostitute is seeing one of Atia's slaves and nicking food from her kitchen, because he's also spying on her and planning to murder her for Servilia (delayed slightly by Servilia's wish to kill only Atia, not Octavia). He's a cocky little g*t who's astonishingly rude and forces Servilia to kiss him, which neatly puts me on Atia's side in this round, at least.

Meanwhile, in modern Turkey, a camel! Yay. Cassius is trying to get money out of a rich local so he can raise an army and put Antony's head on a spike but the local is more interested in seeing Roman women be raped by baboons (Cassius' bemused reaction to this is hilarious). Brutus, across the room, is boasting about how he killed Caesar because he had to, but even this far away, it's known that he stabbed him last and that Caesar probably would have died without Brutus' contribution. Cassius has to escort him, rambling drunkenly, from the tent, and then leaves him to stew and sulk to himself.

Antony arrives home just in time for bathtime, and tells Atia he knows Agrippa has come to get Cicero to act against him and for Octavian, and that he doesn't care because Cicero will refuse. He also swears not to harm Octavian.

Lyde manages to escape the slavers, while the Godfather has totally lost it, and accuses Dodgey of sleeping with Niobe and betraying him to Bling Man. Dodgey gets fed up and resorts to the time-honoured sarcastic 'confession', but he should know by now that the Godfather has no sense of humour whatsoever, and an all-out fist-fight ensues. Dodgey and Eirene leave and the Godfather ends up curled up on the floor in the foetal position, sobbing.

Brutus has apparently had enough sulking and decides to do an impression of John the Baptist (a good few decades too early). He's grown Jesus hair and wears a white robe, which he takes off with some solemnity to wander stark naked into some river and pray to Janus for a fresh start and to be 'born again'. Everything about the way this scene is shot, the light, the costuming, the dialogue - everything except the full frontal male nudity - suggests that the programme makers were feeling frustrated that they weren't going to get to do any Jesus scenes and thought they'd bung in something similar anyway. Sure, Janus is an appropriate god to pray to for a new beginning, but really. Second overly cheesy scene in one episode.

Antony arrives late to the Senate, expecting to be given the governorship of Gaul, only to discover that Cicero has b*ggered off and left a message with another Senator (which begins, 'These being the words of Marcus Tullius Cicero'). The other Senator realises as he reads that this is not going to end well (and boy, is he right). Idiotically, the man continues reading even while everyone else makes a quick getaway. Cicero calls Antony drink-sodden, bankrupt and Rome's Helen of Troy, which is bit much really but is a genuinely Ciceronian insult from his Philippics (2.22), the fourteen speeches he made against Mark Antony in real life (Cicero really, really didn't like Mark Antony. He also blamed Antony for the entire civil war and for giving Caesar the pretext for attacking in the first place). When the hapless reader gets to 'a woman's role has always suited you best', Antony beats him to death on the floor of the now-empty Senate. Silly Antony, he should have realised the carrot is generally more effective than the stick. Cicero writes to Octavian and tells him they'll need his army.

Three months later, Antony lays siege to Mutina (in northern Italy) and the Senate send an army, together with Octavian and his private legions, to stop him. Meanwhile, Dodgey has dragged Eirene all the way back to Rome to patch things up with the Godfather, only to discover that the Godfather has gone off to Mutina with Mark Antony, and their third is not doing too well without him. Dodgey is all ready to get the heck out of Dodge, when he runs into Lyde, who tells him the children are still alive.

Meanwhile the young prostitute tries to poison Atia, and we're left with a cliffhanger, which is pretty unusual for Rome. It's quite effective though.

Not a bad episode, and Brutus' 'rebirth' scene is pretty memorable if nothing else. There are some undoubted high points here, mainly involving Cicero and Antony needling each other and the introduction of Agrippa, but we are, perhaps, marking time a little until something more interesting happens. Then, of course, there's Antony's brutal murder of Cicero's messenger, which is one of those scenes frequently incorporated into modern TV programmes that are designed purely to shock the audience and don't entirely correspond to any sensible mode of behaviour in real life, and that would be unforgivable in a leading character if said character wasn't a gladiator/vampire/Senator and extremely good-looking to boot. This is the sort of thing Tiberius was accused of doing, but it seems excessive even for the drunken, wild Antony. Still, like seeing more than you ever wanted to of Brutus, it is definitely memorable, you've got to give it that!

All Rome recaps

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (dir. Rupert Wyatt, 2011)


Aside from The Simpsons' musical version starring Troy McClure and about ten minutes of Tim Burton's 'reimagining', I've never seen any of the Planet of the Apes movies. However, the Simpsons skit and the final scene are pretty much all I need to know, I figured, and the new film, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, was getting really good reviews, so I went to see it anyway. And it was indeed very good, tightly scripted, beautifully performed by Andy Serkis and a team of technical people (that's my official term for it!) and with some lovely echoes of lines from the original, snarled out with suitable glee by Tom Felton. Plus, James Franco is in it. Yum.

A quick inspection of the original's Wikipedia page reveals that a number of the apes in that film had Roman names, so the use of Latinate or Roman names for the apes (including, presumably, 'Cornelia' here) stems mainly from what the writers were doing in that film (which I'm sure I'll blog at some point if I ever see it). The specific name Caesar for Andy Serkis' lead character comes from Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, which seems to me - judging from the Wikipedia entries - to be the film this one owes the most to. The choice of Caesar for the ape protagonist's name, then, has more to do with the history of the Planet of the Apes movies than with ancient Rome.

However, this is not a direct sequel. Judging from the shot of a minor character actually watching an old Charlton Heston movie - which looked like Planet of the Apes to me - this movie is intended to start a whole new Apes story, which is sort of parallel to, but separate from, the original tale, which had got a bit convoluted by the end. So, since this Caesar is not the son of time travelling intelligent apes from the future, the name has been chosen for him for a reason, in addition to echoing the older films.

Mot obviously, of course, Caesar is the name of emperors, and this Caesar becomes the leader of his people. None of the real Caesars were freddom fighters - power hungry and often a bit bonkers would be closer to the mark - but it's a suitable enough name for the leader of his people, the first of a line of leaders who will change the way their society is run. However, there are other implications within the name as well.

Within the story, a reason has to be given for why Dr Rodman names his foster-offspring 'Caesar' (it doesn't spring to mind when you need a baby name, after all. I'd have gone for Fred). This explanation comes from his father (played by John Lithgow), who is suffering from Alzheimer's and whose mind, therefore, is wandering. He picks up the baby chimp and says something in the background of the scene which sounds like a quote from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. I can't identify a precise quote, because it sounded to me something like 'kneel before Caesar', which I can't find in the play. There is reference to kneeling, however, just before Caesar is killed, and the writers of the film are definitely thinking of Shakespeare, because Rodman later discovers a picture of himself and Caesar inside his father's old copy of the play.

So, Caesar's name comes from a play about the assassination of Caesar, and possibly from the specific scene in which he is assassinated. Shakespeare's Caesar is an impressive leader, but a doomed one. The end of the film sets up at least one possible conflict in our Caesar's future (man, Koba's mean-looking) and while I hope he's not doomed - in fact I'm reasonably confident that he isn't - it's interesting that this sort of connotation is introduced to the name. Julius Caesar is also a play about the conflict between feelings and duty, which is very appropriate to the film as a whole.


Yum

The film isn't perfect, my biggest problem with it being that if you were doing medical experiments on apes, you'd notice if one of them was pregnant, and you'd definitely notice her give birth and hide a baby in her cell. It's also rather keen on overly symbolic names in general - Icarus, I understand, is inherited from some wider part of the Apes mythos (when will space organisations learn to stop naming spaceships after someone who burned up getting too close to the sun?!) but I think the writers of this movie have to take responsibility for GenSys, the organisation that inadvertently gives birth to a new civilisation in an act of genesis (maybe it's just a nod to Star Trek II!). These are minor quibbles though - ably supported by Patrick Doyle's moving score, this is a great film, equal parts exciting and emotional, and I look forward to whatever they decide to call the next one.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

The Classical Tradition (eds A Grafton, G W Most, S Settis)


I'm making another of my occasional forays into non-fiction, because this enormous and beautifully illustrated book covers just about every area of culture influence by the classical world, including popular culture. This was a review copy from the distributor Inbooks, on behalf of the publisher Harvard University Press, organised for me by Hasan Niyazi over at Three Pipe Problem, who has reviewed it from an art historian's perspective here.

This is a quite spectacularly huge book, and its massive size and scope is both its greatest asset and its biggest flaw. On the positive side, the sheer volume of information here is staggering. The book is organised alphabetically, so you can think up just about any topic concerning the Classical Tradition and find out something interesting about it. The entries themselves also cover a wealth of topics, including some welcome material on the manuscript tradition of some ancient texts, which is always useful and not always included.

On the downside, a certain amount of detail is necessarily lost in the course of including so much. Non-specialists are not given all that much guidance on issues such as which centuries, specifically, are meant by 'the Roman period' or 'the period of imperial Rome', on the line between myth and history (the phrase 'Olympias, a descendant of Achilles through Neoptolemus' gives no indication that Olympias is historical and the other two are mythical) or on the specifics of certain subjects (the entires on 'Ajax' and 'Augustine' do not make it clear that there are two Ajaxes - the entry focuses on Telamonian Ajax - and two Augustines - here only Augustine of Hippo, the author of City of God is acknowledged, though perhaps the Augustine who was thought of as the founder of the English church is of less interest to non-Brits).

I also found myself slightly surprised at some of the topics included. 'The Classical Tradition' is here interpreted in the widest possible sense and goes far beyond the basic topics of the influence of Classical art, architecture and literature on later art, architecture and literature. Entries on things like 'aesthetics', 'grammar' and especially 'medicine' are, essentially, short introductions to entire areas of history and literature that would normally warrent books on their own, while other entries read like etymological essays on the Greek and Latin origins of English words or even punctuation (e.g. 'asterisk'). The good thing about this is that it acts as a forceful reminder of just how much Western culture owes to the Classical world. However, it does make the volume a little unfocussed, and I think if I wanted to learn about the influence of Classical medical theory on later physicians, I'd pick up a book on the history of medicine rather than the 'Classical tradition' (probably one written by the renowned scholar Vivian Nutton, who was on the editorial board for this book).

Among the more successful entries are those on specific characters, whether mythical or historical. Entries on mythical characters tend to pick out the most well known Classical text to feature them and then launch straight into their reception, though this includes their ancient reception as well as modern - so, for example, Achilles is known from the earliest text we have, the Iliad, so several of his later Classical appearances are included as 'reception' of the Homeric Achilles, whereas the entry on Oedipus starts with Sophocles and provides no information on any other Classical sources for Oedipus apart from Seneca. In such a large work with such a broad range this is understandable as the focus is, after all, reception and tradition, not the history of myth - though a little more detail, particularly on such a fascinating character as Oedipus, might have been nice. The entries on historical characters provide a great introduction to each, again focussing on their reception and including ancient reception - so, the entry on Julius Caesar starts with Augustan propaganda and Lucan's Civil War before going on to Napoleon and Marx. Some of these entries include popular culture, for example the entry on Odysseus mentions Ulysses (if that can be called popular culture!), Troy and O Brother, Where Art Thou?, but others do not. I was particularly surprised to find no popular culture references at all in the entry on Caesar and only very brief references to some of the major films on Cleopatra in her entry. Whether or not popular culture is included seems to depend on the individual author, rather than on an editorial decision.

Specific information on popular culture is gathered under the headings 'Cinema', 'Novel' and 'Television'. The entry on 'Cinema' is excellent, covering most of the important bases, though unavoidably hampered by the fact the book was published in 2010, so the relatively large number of Classical films from that year can't be included. (The suggestion that the original Star Wars trilogy 'dramatizes the end of antiquity' is an interesting one, and I may have further Thoughts on that later). The 'Television' entry, though short, is equally good, including a brief reference to Star Trek's 'Who Mourns for Adonais?', though the book seems to have been finished too early to be aware of Spartacus: Blood and Sand.

The section on the 'Novel' is more frustrating. The entry is divided more or less evenly between the history of the novel as a form with some limited roots in Apuleius, Petronius and Lucian and an alternative to epic poetry, and a discussion of novels with Classical subject matter. However, this second section is interested solely in the 'literary' novel. I, Claudius, The Ides of March and the works of Mary Renault are referred to but, we are told, the literary historical novel 'no longer flourishes in England' (sic. - Ulysses doesn't get a mention either, as it happens) or America. The article is so desperate to fill the gap, it starts talking about cinema and film again, namely Troy, Alexander and Rome. Not only does the article completely ignore the many, many historical novels it does not consider to be 'literary' that have been published since the 1950s and were not written by Mary Renault, which would be far too numerous to be named individually, it also ignores the entire genre of historical detective fiction or mysteries, which has given us Falco, Gordianus and The Roman Mysteries, among others. This is such a popular genre and has produced such wonderful books, to ignore its very existence seems bizarre.

This volume is beautifully presented and clearly laid out. There are some linguistic oddities; Alexander the Great 'found himself' king of the world - I would argue he made himself king of the world - and I, Claudius has been 'marketed widely on tape and disk' - i.e. it's been released internationally on video and DVD. I'm also not sure the List of Articles is really necessary in an alphabetically-arranged book. However, these are minor details, and, as a resource, this is reasonably easy to read and use.

Front cover of Vicky Alvear Shecter's 2006 book on Alexander

This book offers an extraordinarily wide-ranging reference book on all aspects of the Classical Tradition, and will be especially useful for anyone looking for an encylopedia-style source of information about any aspect of the subject. Like any encyclopedia, analysis is brief where it is included, and those interested in a particular area will need to follow this up with works more specific to what they're doing, but as an introduction and guide, you won't find a more ambitious project than this.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Digging for the Dirt (True Blood Post Mortem) and Dead Ringers

I'll be putting up a book review tomorrow, but I just discovered this and had to share it because it made me laugh so much I almost lost a mouthful of Scotch (which would have been a disaster).


This is a 'post mortem', a short clip attached to an episode of True Blood - some of them explain elements of the show, some, like this one, are comic skits based on the episode. This is from season 3, episode 5, in which we learn that Eric the Viking's parents and baby sister were murdered by werewolves under the control of vampire king Russell Edgington, way back before Eric was vamped (for those unfamiliar with the show, yes, it is always that mad-sounding).

The reason I love it is that this packs such a perfect satire of a particular type of archaeology show into its tiny 47-second running time. There's an attractive woman who wears a tight top but doesn't do anything and looks like Lara Croft, the presenter (who's British, for some reason - have we cornered the market in these kinds of archaeology shows?) uses terrible jokes ('there's something rotten in the state of Denmark') and over-familiar language to sound less scholarly and more 'approachable', there's a desperate attempt to dramatise a thousand-year-old event by shouting and waving the camera around over-enthusiastically and there are references to crazy legends and rumours (which, this being SFF, are in fact true).

While we're on this subject, I couldn't find my other favourite archaeology sketch, which I think was from Dead Ringers and involved finding a Coca-Cola can in a field and developing a theory that Roman forts were built from Coca-Cola cans, but I thought those who hadn't seen it might also appreciate this Dead Ringers sketch, in which Simon Schama and David Starkey go to war...


And finally, this clip, also from Dead Ringers, which perfectly encapsulates the ludicrousness of some history shows' attempts to use illustrative props


I'll probably regret posting all this when I make my popular prime-time history show, in which I wander around Rome, coincidentally at the height of the British non-summer, talking about things you can read in a library ;)

Monday, 8 August 2011

Star Wars (you know, the proper one) (dir. George Lucas, 1977)


Ah, Star Wars. Graveyard of Grange Hill teachers, home of pioneering special effects, hairdressers' nemesis, origin of quite possibly the Best Made-Up Weapon Ever.

As any of my old friends reading this will be aware, I have been known to express some... opinions... on Star Wars. Fortunately, we're all grown-ups now, and since my idea of making friends no longer involves slagging off Star Wars at length, I no longer feel the need loudly and repeatedly to criticise every aspect of it. The film definitely has merits (including a really satisfyingly happy ending). Some things, however, remain true: I prefer The Lord of the Rings and Star Trek, I still think Episodes IV and V are slightly over-long and dull while I and II are appallingly over-long and dull, and I still think Revenge of the Sith is by far the best of the Star Wars films. It doesn't help, of course, that I've loved LOTR and Star Trek since early childhood, but didn't see Star Wars until I was 16 (and by the way, to all those who saw it as children - weren't you freaked out by the horrific skeleton of Uncle Ben smoking gently in the sunlight?!).

George Lucas claims that the success of Star Wars - perhaps better to say the quality of Star Wars - is partly thanks to its following the mythical pattern of the hero's journey, as laid out by Joseph Campbell. I'm afraid this argument has always mildly irritated me! One reason is that it sounds like a cop-out excuse for how derivative Star Wars is. Obi-Wan is like Gandalf and Merlin because he's a Jungian archetype, apparently - reasoning which protects Lucas from accusations that he's like Gandalf and Merlin because he's based on Gandalf and Merlin. I find Jung's theories, on which Campbell's are based, very interesting, but I don't subscribe to them myself. I think the enduring popularity of myth is fascinating, but more complicated than such a theory allows (though clearly there are universal story elements about sex, parenthood, growing up and so on that have meaning across times and cultures due to our basic biological make-up). I also prefer to defend derivative stories, not because there's something inherently mythic and worthy about them, but because there's nothing wrong with re-telling an old story in your own way. That's what the Greek tragedians did, and it's what Shakespeare did, and the modern obsession with originality is what we should be criticising, not the authors or stories that build on those that have gone before.

While I'm on the subject of universal myths, I don't actually think Star Wars has much in common with ancient myths. Scholars like Jung, Campbell and Claude Levi-Strauss liked to break myths down into constituent parts so tiny, you could relate almost anything to almost anything else. But I'm a Classicist - I don't deal with broad plot outlines, but with individual texts/pictures/films/whatever. And similarities between Star Wars and Greek tragedy or ancient epic poetry are limited. The damsel-in-distress angle, though not unknown in Greek myth (Perseus and Andromeda, for example) is much more common in European folklore. The Wise Old Man is more common in Norse or Arthurian legend (ancient heroes get oracles and advice from friendly deities, quite often female ones, but are otherwise on their own). The young hero yearning for adventure is not a common feature - ancient heroes are more likely to get exiled for accidentally murdering a relative or dress up as girls on the Island of Skyros to avoid 'adventure' (partly because the inevitably of fate and man's helplessness against the gods is often a theme, which doesn't work if your hero is desperate to get out there and start adventuring). Ancient metaphors for coming of age tended more towards sacrificing girls to deities (symbolising the 'death' of the young girl as she becomes a wife and mother) than training montages with fancy weapons.

This is not to say, though, that there are no Classical influences on the films. For one thing, the political system is based on the Senate - which I'll discuss in more detail when I get to the prequels (if I can bear to sit through The Phantom Menace again, and actually pay attention to the politics of it). The word 'Empire' might also bring Rome to mind, though to be honest, I'm not sure something described simply as 'the evil Galactic Empire' can really be mapped onto anything real (and the depiction of it here is much more reminiscent of Nazi Germany, right down to the 'Stormtroopers'). Otherwise, Classical elements in this first film are fairly limited, the ancient world not being terribly big on rebellions. Or spaceships.

 Cave home of the type used for filming Tattooine, in Tunisia

On another subject entirely, the added CGI for the special edition is horrible. Plastic, out of place and not nearly as amusing as Lucas clearly thinks it is.

And why does George Lucas hate arms? Every film, someone loses an arm. Logical I suppose, but you'd think occasionally they'd go for a leg instead.

Now I must go as I've developed a mysterious and inexplicable craving for a Danish pastry...

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Chelmsford 123: Get Well Soon


You might think it's a bad sign when an episode starts with the one thing your teacher always told you not to do in English class in primary school. The opening minute or so of this episode resolves the cliffhanger from the end of the previous episode, in which Badvok had his head chopped off, by demonstrating that it was all a dream of Grasientus'. It's the most awful cop-out and, more importantly, not remotely funny,

Luckily things improve after that, and this is probably one of the more successful episodes of Chelmsford 123, including an appearance of the "map room" (the Greek porn room), a scene in which Aulus and Grasientus literally twiddle their thumbs for five minutes and a moment in which Grasientus nearly comes face to face with Badvok's dangling kneecaps.

This episode revolves around a drought, which Aulus fears is the result of his sacrificing a carrot rather than an ox to Apollo some years previously. The gods usually take their revenge a bit quicker than that in ancient literature, but Aulus is desperate after all. Given that this is about a weather problem in Britain, the humour has much more to do with a British view of ourselves and our climate than ancient Rome, along with the obligatory jokes about how much the Mediterranean-raised Romans dislike our climate.

It's all more than worth it for the Britons' rain dance, complete with jazz hands. I'm not aware the ancient Druids had rain dances (insert hardly-any-need-for-them-in-Britain joke here) but who cares, it's hilarious. The apparently more successful haka-like rain dance Aulus accidentally discovers at the episode's end is less funny, but I think his architect was the one who hit on the real solution - he ensured it would rain immediately by declaring that day to be a Bank Holiday.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Game of Thrones, Season One


I read George RR Martin's A Game of Thrones years ago, because I got the book for free, and I can't remember very much about it, except that I vaguely enjoyed it but couldn't be bothered to read any of the rest (especially since I'd already heard that he wasn't overly speedy at getting the sequels out...). So, when the TV series starring everyone's favourite Northern Odysseus was announced, I was delighted - at last, an easy way to keep up with the story and find out what happened to everyone! I've just finished watching the first season (slightly behind the rest of the world, as usual) and am now trying to decide whether to actually read the second book, or just wait for the second season of the TV show and save myself some eye-ache (my brother's copy is in tiny, tiny print).

I pulled out my old copy of A Game of Thrones as well, and discovered an intriguing quote on the back. According to someone at the Guardian, the 'A Song of Ice and Fire' series as a whole has the ambition of constructing 'the Twelve Caesars of fantasy fiction.' This is not a claim Martin has ever made, to my knowledge, but I was mildly surprised that the person at the Guardian made the comparison - there don't, at first at least, seem to be that many similarities between the two.

The Twelve Caesars is the name commonly given to Suetonius' collection of imperial biographies, which covers the emperors from Julius Caesar to Domitian (that's Caesar, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, Galba, Otho, Vitellius, Vespasian, Titus and Domitian). Each biography is a separate work, held together by style and chronology - it's not a narrative of the period, each biography is the self-contained story of a single man's life, including but not limited to his reign as emperor. Also, it's history, not fiction (I may take issue with some of what Suetonius records, but it's all real gossip, if not real fact). So far, so different. Martin does narrate his chapters from the point of view of a wide range of characters, but their stories are intertwined in a way Suetonius' stories are not.

The level of similarity between the substance of the two stories varies. The Caesars whose stories are closest to the narrative of A Game of Thrones are Julius, Augustus, Galba, Otho, Vitellius and Vespasian, because they became emperor by war. One of the things that frustrated me a little while reading A Game of Thrones was that the story seemed a bit fragmented, but the main thrust of the narrative seems to be the fight for the Iron Throne and the attempt to hold or split apart the Seven Kingdoms. There are, then, thematic similarities with the stories of those Caesars who fought over the throne. There might also be similarities with Agrippina the Younger, mother of Nero, who supposedly poisoned Claudius to get her son on the throne, and perhaps with Livia. Presumably what made the Guardian reviewer think of the Caesars - and, particularly, the Julio-Claudians - were the broad elements of dynastic power, the struggle to rule and the hints of back-stabbing and poisoning at court. Though to be honest, given that the reviewer also compared the series' characters to the Borgias (they are 'so venomous they could eat the Borgias', which is a fabulous phrase) I have a sneaking suspicion he or she may actually have been thinking of I, Claudius more than, or equally with, Suetonius.

There are other elements of the series that are vaguely Classical. The Wall is the best candidate - it is quite clearly Hadrian's Wall, as the map showing the distinctly British Isles-like landscape in the opening credits clearly demonstrates. Below the Wall is the Empire of the Seven Kingdoms, with central administration (at the beginning anyway), law and order. Above the Wall, all is wilderness, barbarians who look like Tonks, death and general unpleasantness (sorry, Scotland). The maps in the book, split into North and South, look more like a weird, longish sort of country, but the map in the TV opening title sequence is unmistakably a warped version of Britain. Daenerys and Viserys' home over the Narrow Sea, on the other hand, has a distinctly Mediterranean look, but not really a Classical one, and the horse lords have more in common with Tolkien than anything else (they're a bit like a cross between the Rohirrim and the Klingons). The series' pronuniciation of 'Cersai' also sounds rather like 'Circe', the Classical witch, which seems sort of appropriate.

I suspect what really made the Guardian book reviewer think of the Caesars, though, was the repeated references to mad kings and incest (usually in combination with each other). There's a reason the Mad Monarch trope is listed on TV Tropes as 'the Caligula'. Little Boots is far from the only mad monarch who suffered from a mental illness that may or may not have been the result of inbreeding (it's equally possible it was something to do with the serious illness that nearly killed him early in his reign) but he certainly seems to be the best known. Whether this is because of all the rumours of incest with his sisters, the idea that he wanted to make a horse a consul, his declaring war on Neptune and taking sea shells as bounty or simply John Hurt's eye-scalding, unforgettable performance in a gold bikini in I, Claudius, Caligula is the byword for monarchical madness. The specific nature of Aerys Targaryen's madness is often left unspecified (though I did miss an episode, so let me know if I'm missing some detail!) but Harry Lloyd's fantastically creepy performance as the mad king's mad son, under his peroxide blonde wig, seems to have more than a little of the Caligula about it. And then at the end we get Joffrey, the product of incest, also extremely blonde, and mean and ruthless to the point of slightly unbalanced.

I'm not sure what the Caesars would think of the idea that utter madness is what they're remembered for the most, but between Caligula, the less mad but certainly not all together with it Nero and the downright unpleasant Domitian, I suspect it is this that really reminds people of the Caesars in Game of Thrones. So far, I'm only up to the end of the first book/season, but I eagerly await the promotion of horses to important political positions in the stories to come...

Monday, 1 August 2011

Top Ten Funny Moments in Classical Pop Culture



This is a scheduled post while I'm away but please do add your own suggestions in the comments and I'll see them when I get back! With thanks to Penny Goodman for the idea.




In no particular order because it all depends on your sense of humour, but starting with my personal favourite:

'That's what conquering nations do. It's what Caesar did, and he's not going around saying "I came, I conquered, I feel really bad about it!"'
Spike, on why Willow can't make the Native American spirit feel better, in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, 'Pangs'

A messenger brings the news of Lucius Caesar's death to Tiberius and Thrasyllus and they burst out laughing in I, Claudius, 'Waiting in the Wings'



'You lucky bastard!'
Brian is rescued and then dumped back almost where he was by an alien spacecraft, Monty Python's Life of Brian



'Infamy! Infamy! They've all got it in for me!'
Julius Caesar, Carry on Cleo

Flavia, Lupus and Jonathan pretend to have dreamed bad omens so that Captain Geminus can't go on his planned business trip, The Roman Mysteries, 'The Colossus of Rhodes'




'I'm... Spartacus.' 'And so am I!' (3.34 on the video)
The Doctor and Donna, Doctor Who, 'The Fires of Pompeii'



'It vexes me. I'm terribly vexed.' (The comedy is all in the delivery)
Commodus, Gladiator



'You - are wearing - his -MERCHANDISE!'
Hades, Hercules

'Beware Trojans, they're complete smegheads!'
Lister, Red Dwarf, 'The Inquisitor'



(Sounding exasperated) 'I was at an orgy, Mother'
Octavia, Rome, 'Heroes of the Republic'

And because you can never have enough funny - Honourable mentions:

'Have you been making friends again?'
Crixus to Spartacus, Spartacus: Blood and Sand, 'Great and Unfortunate Things'

'You sold me... queer giraffes.'
Proximo, Gladiator

(Also sounding exasperated, just after a book has caught fire) 'Xander, don't speak Latin in front of the books'
Giles, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, 'Superstar'
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