Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears! The apex of Ancient Rome may have occurred around 1,500 years ago, but it is still something that is studied, observed, and investigated today. Everything around us – from some of the numbers we use and newspapers to modern sanitation, air conditioning and surgical equipment – has its basis in Ancient Rome. But how has Ancient Rome influenced pop culture?
Ancient Rome on the Screen
Ancient Rome regularly crops up in pop culture, specifically on the screen. Most people immediately think of 2001 Best Picture Oscar winner Gladiator, which introduced audiences to Russell Crowe’s Maximus Meridius. Older audiences will already be acquainted with 1961’s Spartacus, which was then remade as a series running from 2010 – 2013, while the Carry On film series took aim at Caesar in Carry On Cleo (1964). British sitcom Plebs (2013 to present) takes a comedic look at life in Ancient Rome, while film epic Ben Hur was remade in 2016.
Game of Thrones creator George R.R. Martin claims he took inspiration from Ancient Rome for some of the political machinations on the hit fantasy series. Ancient Rome is still a subject of fascination due to the fact that while it has its constraints, the stories that can be told from the time are expansive and could encompass almost anything. Audiences love escapism and there’s no better place to escape to.
Ancient Rome in Gaming
Ancient Rome has a specific set of visuals that immediately transport people to the era of gladiators and emperors. Using this helps games developers attract people who might be interested in exploring more about the history, while wrapped up in modern gameplay. The fact that the theme is still popular enough to be used on modern gameplay formats shows just how prevailing it is.
For example, the first Age of Empires expansion was The Rise of Rome, which introduced Roman civilisation to the supremacy PC game. Moreover, the Buzz Bingo online slot game Centurion fuses an Ancient Rome battle theme with video slot gameplay on both desktop and mobile devices. For a long time, the rumours swirled that the next Assassin’s Creed game would be set in Ancient Rome and be titled Legion. However, in the end Ubisoft chose Viking themes instead.
Ancient Rome in Pop Culture
Many people will remember the Pepsi commercial that featured Britney Spears, Pink, and Beyoncé enter the Coliseum to fight to the death only to stop and drink cola together instead to the tune of Queen’s We Will Rock You. Shakespeare may seem like the distant past to us, but his use of Rome in his plays about Julius Caesar and Coriolanus was at the time an instance of Rome references in pop culture. The fact that such plays were so popular shows just how long Ancient Rome has been a fascination when it comes to entertainment.
The enduring popularity of Ancient Rome comes from the epic nature of it. Not only do we marvel at the stately ceremonies, political plots, and dangerous day-to-day life, but we enjoy learning what we owe to those in the Ancient Roman empire. Ancient Rome presents a slice of life completely different to what we know, but infused with some of the same issues that we still face, which lends itself to remaining popular across pop culture.