Professor Jon Solomon of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign joins CC’S Anastasia Bakogianni to talk about the reception of ancient Greece and Rome in cinema. Jon explains his fascination with films about classical antiquity which led to the publication of his book The Ancient World in the Cinema(1977, rev. 2001). He tells us how attitudes towards classical reception have gradually changed over the course of his career and how films about classical antiquity have come to play such an important role in scholarly debates.
The most recent renaissance of films about ‘the ancients’ began twenty years earlier in the mid-1990s. Their popularity has continued unabated ever since with more films and TV series that ever about antiquity. Jon argues that as classicists and teachers we should engage with these popular receptions of our subject. They not only provide us with material for our classes, but they also allow us to think about our ancient sources from different angles.
Jon is currently working on a new project to edit and translate Boccaccio’s Genealogy of the Pagan Gods for Harvard University Press. The first volume was published in 2011 and he is currently working on the next two. Jon’s English translation of the Renaissance author’s fifteen-book Latin treatise is the first of its kind. Boccaccio provides us with a different lens through which to re-examine our relationship with classical mythology, as well as offering us a spirited defence of the value of reading classical poetry that originated in the Christian world of the fourteenth century.