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Screening the Golden Ages of the Classical Tradition

Edited by Meredith E. Safran

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A survey of modern cinematic and televisual responses to the concept of the golden age

This collection of fourteen essays explores how the dominant media of our time – film and television – have engaged with the golden age as formulated in the Western classical tradition.

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Series Editors’ preface, Editor’s Acknowledgments, List of Contributors, List of Illustrations

Introduction: Searching for Gold in an Age of Iron, Meredith E. Safran

Part I: The Glory That Was Greece

1. Re-(en)gendering Heroism: Reflective Nostalgia for Peplum’s Golden Age of Heroes in Hercules: The Legendary Journeys 2.14 (1996), Vincent Tomasso

2. Kissed by the Muse of Roller-disco: Utopia versus the Golden Ages of America, Hollywood, and Classical Myth in Xanadu (1980), Meredith E. Safran

3. Gilding American History through Song Culture in O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000), Ryan Platte

4. A Leonidas for the Golden Age of Superhero Films: The Thermopylae Tradition in 300 (2006), Eric Ross

5. The Dueling Greek Golden Ages of 300: Rise of an Empire (2014), Seán Easton

6. Confronting the Ancient Greek Golden Age in Jules Dassin’s Phaedra (1962), Emma Scioli

7. Pericles, Cincinnatus, and Zombies: Classicizing Nostalgia in The Walking Dead (2010-), Laura Gawlinski

Part II: The Grandeur That Was Rome

8. "All That Glitters…": Problematizing Golden-Age Narratives in Vergil’s Aeneid and the Western Film Genre, Kirsten Day

9. The Golden Age and Imperial Dominance in the Aeneid and Serenity (2005), Jennifer A. Rea

10. Turning Gold into Lead: Sexual Pathology and the De-mythologizing of Augustus in HBO’s Rome (2005-2007), Thomas J. West III

11. The Dux Femina Ends Westeros’ Golden Age: Cersei Lannister as Agrippina the Younger in HBO’s Game of Thrones (2011 - ), Meredith D. Prince

12. The Golden Aspects of Roman Imperialism in Film, 1914-2015, Anise K. Strong

13. Broken Eagles: The Iron Age of Imperial Roman Warfare in Post-9/11 Film, Alex McAuley

14. Dreaming of Rome with Ridley Scott’s Gladiator (2000), Matthew Taylor

Filmography, Bibliography, Index

About the Author

Meredith E. Safran is Associate Professor of Classical Studies at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut (USA). She has written multiple papers for journals and edited collections. She is the co-editor of Roman Comedy: Performance, Pedagogy, Research and of Classical Myth on Screen (both 2015). Her work has also appeared in Screening Love and Sex in the Ancient World (2013) and Blackwell’s Companion to the Ancient Greek and Roman World on Screen (2017). She earned her PhD in Classics from Princeton University.


The intersection between the idea of a lost Golden Age and on-screen invocations of ancient Greece and Rome is intriguing. This should be compulsory reading for students of film, Classical reception, and anyone interested in modern popular culture’s appropriation of the past to articulate concerns very much of the present.

- Emma Stafford, University of Leeds

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