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The Original Blockbuster

Jon Solomon

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The complete history of the Ben-Hur phenomenon

Ben-Hur was the first literary blockbuster to generate multiple and hugely profitable adaptations, highlighted by the 1959 film that won a record-setting 11 Oscars. More than a century before The Hunger Games and Harry Potter, and decades before Gone with the Wind and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, General Lew Wallace’s Ben-Hur was spun off into dozens of popular publications and media productions, becoming a veritable commercial brand name that earned tens of millions of dollars.

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About the Author

Jon Solomon is Robert D. Novak Professor of Western Civilization and Culture at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is the author of Giovanni Boccaccio: The Genealogy of the Pagan Gods (Harvard University Press, 2011), The Ancient World in the Cinema: Revised and Expanded Edition (Yale University Press, 2001), Ptolemy’s Harmonics: Translation and Commentary (Brill, 1999), The Ancient World in the Cinema (A. S. Barnes & Co, 1978), Ancient Roman Feasts and Recipes (E. A. Seemann, 1977), The Complete Three Stooges (C3 Entertainment, 2001). He is editor of Accessing Antiquity: The Computerization of Classics Studies (University of Arizona Press, 1993), Apollo: Origins and Influences (University of Arizona Press, 1994) and Ancient Worlds in Film and Television: Gender and Politics (Brill, 2013).


He has collected an unimaginable amount of material and has thus created a Ben-Hur lexicon that, for a long time, will serve as a reference book for all future stories about the famous Roman and his later works.

(translated from German)

- Kresimir Matijevic, Europa-Universitat Flensburg, Thersites

Jon Solomon here sets a new standard for scholarship on the reception of antiquity in the media age. His book is an epic in its own right: a thorough treatment of an astonishing literary phenomenon that still pervades our popular arts and commercial culture, even legal history.

- Martin Winkler, George Mason University

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