The Use of the Past to Shape the Present: Shifting Depictions of the Ancient World in Twentieth-Century American Cinema

  • Jacqueline E. Jay
Original Paper


The ancient film epic has its roots at the very dawn of cinema as a form of popular art and entertainment, with a number of early silent films drawing their plots from ancient Biblical and Classical sources, and the genre remains relevant in the early twenty-first century. Ancient film epics thus provide a useful lens through which to trace evolutions in film history and in western culture more broadly. This paper analyzes seven American films spanning the early twentieth century to the early twenty-first century (Intolerance, Quo Vadis, The Egyptian, The Ten Commandments, Spartacus, Gladiator, 300), identifying specific ways each film mirrors or challenges the time period in which it was produced.


Film history Ancient history Ancient film epic Intolerance D.W. Griffith Quo Vadis The Egyptian The Ten Commandments Cecil B. DeMille Spartacus Stanley Kubrick Gladiator 300 


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Copyright information

© Fudan University 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.History DepartmentEastern Kentucky UniversityRichmondUSA

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