The best TV shows & movies to watch before joining Classics BA

Studying Classics, one of the most interesting degrees out there, means you have the leisure of both criticising and indulging in inaccurate Hollywood depictions of the classical world.  

Eunmin is a Classics student at King’s College London

Watching shows and movies set in the ancient world will definitely get you more excited to study Classics than ever and possibly inspire you to do extra readings before starting the course – and the purpose of watching by no means have to be academic! 

Here are some of the best classics-related watches on Netflix/iPlayer/Prime: 

1.  Disney’s Hercules 

Disney’s classic ‘Hercules’ is loosely based on the original myth. Since the movie does not present the brutality of Greek mythologies such as the story of Hera attempting to kill her own stepson, Disney’s ‘Hercules’ should be taken as a more family-friendly spin on the tale. It has been over 20 years since the first release of the movie and yet it remains a timeless classic due to its adorable characters (like baby Hercules), witty jokes and the iconic soundtrack. 

2. Gladiator

‘Gladiator’ is a historical drama film following the story of Maximus, a once-powerful general forced to become a common gladiator. The director hired historians as advisors in an attempt to portray Ancient Rome somewhat accurately. Overall, it is highly entertaining and it captures the look and feel of Roman culture. 

You can find Gladiator on Netflix or Amazon Prime.

3. Mary Beard’s Ultimate Rome: Empire Without Limit 

Mary Beard’s BBC 4 part-documentary is not only informative but entertaining. I would recommend this series to anyone who is interested in Ancient Rome even if they have no previous knowledge of it. We follow Mary Beard at Rome covering various topics from the origin myth of Romulus and Remus all the way up to the fall of the Empire. Using her exciting story-telling skills, she even shows how the administration of Rome worked by slicing up a pizza she orders at a restaurant at one point. 

Mary’s series is not currently on BBC iPlayer, but you can find it on YouTube

4. 300 

With an incredibly high budget for a film, it is no surprise that 300 has spectacular fight scenes throughout. Set in 480 B.C., King Leonidas of Greek citystate Sparta leads 300 men into battle against King Xerxes of Persia at the Battle of Thermopylae. It is regarded as fantasy film, based directly on a graphic novel rather than from historical events. It features many famous quotes such as ‘This is Sparta!’ and ‘Tonight we dine in hell!’. And if you did not have enough of the Greeks and Persians in this, there is also a sequel, 300: Rise Of An Empire. 

5. Plebs

And at last but not least, there iITV’s comedy show, Plebs, with 5 brilliant seasons. It follows two plebeians and a slave’s day-to-day life in Ancient Rome. This crude but amusing series tackles relatable issues such as dating, renting a house and running a business but in a historical setting – specifically, Ancient Rome. It is not entirely historically accurate but the show does an excellent job of fusing the past and contemporary with the use of language and the topics they tackle – for example, one of the main ‘plebeians’ is blatantly characterised as an ‘Essex’ lad. 

You can watch Plebs on ITV Player

More information:

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