Catherine A. Morgan and Peter Heather
‘Which of the gods was it that brought the two together in strife?’, asks the Iliad as it launches its narrative (1.8); early in the Odyssey*Zeus complains that mortals blame the gods when they are responsible for their own sufferings (1.32–3). Both poems however swiftly complicate any attempt to limit explanations to either the human or the divine level. Achilles and Agamemnon quarrel, Achilles kills Hector, and Odysseus gets home, largely because they are the people that they are, but gods often intervene too. The Greeks win because they are better fighters; they also win because more gods are on their side. The poems also suggest another form of explanation, not tracing events to their origins but relating them to a familiar pattern of human life. Suffering is the lot of humanity (Il. 24.525–6); outrages like those of the suitors are punished. Life is like that, and one should not be surprised.
Greece, Rome, and the other civilizations of the ancient Mediterranean have provided the world of cinema with some of the oldest and most powerful stories of Western culture and history. They have also provided cinema with narrative, iconographic, and generic structures and genealogies whose force has informed not only specific films but also the principles themselves of script-writing and film design. In addition, they have provided film theorists and practitioners with ways of conceptualizing the sensorial and cognitive experience of film viewing itself. The classical antiquity of cinema is not a single and unified film genre but a complex body of film practices and theories diffused across a wide range of cinematic traditions, cultural contexts, and aesthetic experiences.
In its turn, cinema has played a prominent role in debates about the ever-changing nature of the past, whether accused of killing history and usurping other forms of memory, viewed as a factory of regressive nostalgia, or celebrated as enriching and broadening the ways in which we think of the past as altering the present and shaping the future. Film provides opportunities for historically situated, transnational and multicultural studies of the ancient world; for scrutinizing the wider appeal and accessibility of ‘the classics’, and for questioning what is valuable and canonical about them; for working with interpretative models which are derived not only from literary theory but also from visual culture, media studies and cultural studies, and which broaden our understanding of the intersection between the textual and the visual. Film offers an engagement with modern popular culture that can go beyond the polarities of compliance and resistance associated with ideology, while also holding the promise of a rebuttal of the Platonic critique of the arts. It can address cultural syncretisms, contradictions, and negotiations, while also providing insights into the transformative nature of the encounters between modern viewers and the utopian or dystopian fantasies the classical past has inspired.
Gian Biagio Conte and Glenn W. Most
A grouping of texts related within the system of literature by their sharing recognizably functionalized features of form and content. Theory of genre as such is quite lacking in antiquity (its place is taken by theories of *imitatio) and ancient theoretical discussions of specific literary genres are few and for the most part unsatisfactory. They operate according to criteria which are one-sidedly formal (generally metrical), thematic (the characters' moral or social quality, the general subject-matter), or pragmatic (the situation of performance), but scarcely attempt to correlate or justify them; they are more interested in classifying existing works than in understanding the mechanisms of literary production and reception and are directed to the needs of the school and the library, not to the critic's; they bungle some genres (lyric) and ignore others (the novel). Rhetorical handbooks sometimes distinguish among oratorical genres, but the precise relation between their (often pedantic) prescriptions and the literary works remains uncertain.
Peta G. Fowler and Don P. Fowler
Subject of a painting exhibited in 1785 by J.-L. David, who however appears to have made up the idea of the oath, though the men depicted are certainly the famous legendary *Horatii.