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ANCIENT WORLD MOVIES
& TV SHOWS
RELEASED IN 2015

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or Archive pages for 2010201120122013
20142016
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Some stories never get old: in Aristophanes’ ancient comedy “Lysistrata,” the heroine persuades the women of Greece to withhold sexual privileges from their husbands and lovers as a means of forcing the men to negotiate peace—a strategy that inflames the battle between the sexes. In Spike Lee’s Chi-Raq, beautiful Lysistrata (Teyonah Parris) is in love with aspiring rapper Chi-Raq (Nick Cannon), but disturbed by the bloody war between his Spartan gang and the rival Trojans, led by Cyclops (Wesley Snipes). Can Lysistrata and her female friends stop the violence with their “No Peace/No Piece” strategy? The film opened December 4, 2015. Official page with storyline here.

The Celts: Blood, Iron and Sacrifice, a 3-part BBC documentary series presented by anthropologist Alice Roberts and archaeologist Neil Oliver, premiered on October 5, 2015, timed to coincide with the big Celts: Art & Identity exhibit running through January 2016 at the British Museum. Official BBC site with streaming details (in UK only) here. If you know of a US broadcast or DVD release, please let Steven know!


The short film Capriciile Fortunei (Whims of Fortune), produced in Romania, follows the fate of three Roman soldiers lost in the province of Dacia. All the dialogue is in Latin (with English subtitles). The film first appeared at YouTube on September 16, 2015, and can also be seen at this official web page. Director Octavian Repede previously (in 2012) made a 45-minute documentary about the ancient Dacians (whose civilization was obliterated by Trajan and his legions), Draco—Chipurile de paitra (Draco: The Stone Faces), which can be seen at this YouTube page (with English subtitles) and at this official web page.

How did two of the ancient world’s greatest cities function without the modern resources of petroleum or electricity? How did their governments meet the needs of hundreds of thousands of residents? These questions and more are considered by the BBC documentary series Building the Ancient City: Athens & Rome (first broadcast in August 2015), hosted by Professor Andrew Wallace-Hadrill. Official BBC site with streaming details (in UK only) here. If you know of a US broadcast or DVD release, please let Steven know!

In the 3-part BBC series Genius of the Ancient World (first broadcast in August 2015), historian Bettany Hughes travels to India, Greece and China on the trail of three giants of ancient philosophy who all lived at roughly the same time—Buddha, Socrates and Confucius. (Gore Vidal once imagined a ficitonal grand tour of this fascinating era in his remarkable novel Creation; see Steven’s vintage book review here.) Official BBC site with streaming details (in UK only) here. If you know of a US broadcast or DVD release, please let Steven know!

Essential viewing in the UK: Dan Cruikshank's Civilization Under Attack, a BBC documentary about the Islamic State's war on world heritage. Interviews some interesting insights from Rubicon author Tom Holland. Official site with streaming details (in UK only) here. If you know of a US broadcast or DVD release, please let Steven know!

The 6-hour mini-series Tut debuted on Spike on July 19, 2015 with Avan Jogia as the beleaguered Egyptian Pharaoh and Ben Kingsley is his advisor. Official page with trailer here. Now on DVD.

In Rome’s Invisible City, first broadcast on BBC on June 1, 2015, historian Michael Scott and TV presenter Alexander Armstrong go underground to investigate the world of subterranean Rome, taking along a team of 3D laser scanners to map their findings. Official site with streaming details (in UK only) here. If you know of a US broadcast or DVD release, please let Steven know!

With splendid clarity (and a PhD in papyrology), Margaret Mountford travels to Lesbos in search of the truth behind the legend of Sappho. Step by step, Mountford lays out precisely what we do and do not know about the most controversial writer of the ancient world and the first authentic woman’s voice in Western history. Sappho: Life and Love on Lesbos first aired on May 7, 2015 on BBC. Official page site with streaming details (in UK only) here. If you know of a US broadcast or DVD release, please let Steven know!



The Barbican’s modern-dress production of Sophocles’ Antigone with Juliette Binoche in the title role (and a new English translation by poet and classicist Anne Carson) aired on BBC on April 26, 2015, with the starstruck title Juliette Binoche: Antigone at the Barbican. Official site with streaming details (in UK only) here. If you know of a US broadcast or DVD release, please let Steven know!

The always astute Alastair Sooke heads to the land of Homer for the three-part series Treasures of Ancient Greece, debuting on BBC April 9, 2015. Official site with streaming details (in UK only) here. If you know of a US broadcast or DVD release, please let Steven know!

As part of the authored series “Secret Knowledge,” BBC presented The Body Beautiful: Ancient Greeks, Good Looks and Glamour on April 8, 2015. Classicist Natalie Haynes asks: Do we have the Greeks to blame for our obsessive body-consciousness and longing for perfect beauty—or did they simply capture better than anyone else a universal human ideal? Official site with streaming details (in UK only) here. If you know of a US broadcast or DVD release, please let Steven know!

Olympus premiered April 2, 2015 on SyFy. A visit to the official site might suggest this fantasy series is pitched at a juvenile audience more familiar with Homer Simpson than Homer (d’oh!), but Steven found the first episode unexpectedly engaging. Any connection to the actual myths and legends of the ancient Greeks is tenuous—but hey, Euripides did his own thang with Medea, so why not SyFy? Now on DVD.

A.D.: The Bible Continues premieres Easter Sunday (April 5, 2015) on NBC. From IMDb: “Tagline: The crucifixion was only the beginning! Plot: A.D. picks up where the smash hit, The Bible, left off, continuing the greatest story ever told…” Don’t you love show biz?

The Dovekeepers, a 4-hour miniseries based on Alice Hoffman’s best-selling novel, premiered March 31, 2015 on CBS. The story follows various women in ancient Israel whose lives intersect at Masada, the mountaintop stronghold besieged by the Roman army around 74 B.C. Since a previous miniseries based on the siege—Masada, broadcast in 1981—happens to be on Steven’s Top Ten Ancient World Movies list, he was keenly interested in this new production…and sorely disappointed. “The history is inaccurate and the storytelling is inept. All the guys look like cover models for romance novels, and all the gals are witchy-women who have a different way of knowing. Definitely not my cup of tea.”

It’s raining Bible movies! Hot on the heels of last year’s Noah is the TV movie The Ark, which premiered on BBC on March 30, 2015. The weirdly charismatic David Threlfall played Noah; the drama itself was simply weird, with a cockney household somehow transported to an indefinite ancient world setting where the inhabitants argue anachronistic questions of faith v. science…and if you blink, you’ll miss the Flood entirely. More info here.

The fascinating Nova episode The Bible’s Buried Secrets was first broadcast on PBS on March 26, 2015. The 2-hour documentary does an excellent job of explaining how historians and archaeologists establish dates for events and objects. Most eyebrow-raising scene: modern-day Samaritans practicing animal sacrifice, just like the good old days! Web page here; also available on DVD.

A great animated short from National Geographic, Time Travel to Ancient Rome, shows one idea of how Trajan’s Column was built—and reminds us that it was probably brightly painted, making it one of Rome’s most eye-catching monuments. (As to why the column was built, See Part Four of Steven’s novel Empire.)



The French comedy series Peplum debuted on February 24, 2015. From the official synopsis: “Against the background of decline of the Roman Empire, Peplum takes us into the lives of Bravus, a former slave who becomes adviser to the tyrannical Emperor Maximus. Between a stressful workplace and a chaotic family life, his days are not easy. At work, Bravus must clean up the messes made by the incompetent, cruel, capricious and narcissistic Maximus. At home, he must deal with his son Caius’s recent conversion to Christianity, his uncouth wife Octavia, and his sassy daughter Lydia. How can Bravus avoid burn-out in a declining society? The parallels with today can not be a coincidence.” A French Region 2 DVD of season one releases on April 8. 2015.

Nova: Building Wonders began airing on PBS on February 11, 2015. (A DVD releases on March 31.) Episode titles: Colosseum: Roman Death Trap; Petra: Lost City of Stone; and Hagia Sophia: Istanbul’s Mystery. Military historian Lindsay Powell posted this tart review of episode one on Steven’s facebook page: “It was a well produced programme. There weren't any new revelations. Reconstructing the lift mechanism in the hypogeum was a good idea. It was inconsistent though: the concern to fell the tree for the capstan using Roman methods was then not followed through in the construction of the device, where electric drills, threaded screws and nylon rope were everywhere evident. The ships in the naumachia sailed backwards too. And Vespasian Flavius: who is that? Still, overall 8/10. Much better than History Channel's Ancient Impossible.” Home page for the series here.

Did Troy really exist? Was there a war with invading Greeks? And was the Trojan horse a myth, or somehow real—either literally, or as a metaphor for some type of military device? Heady questions these, addressed by the Channel 4 doc Trojan Horse: The New Evidence, first broadcast in the UK on February 14, 2015. Presenters include military historian Mark Schwartz (seen here, with the on-site Trojan horse tourist trap in Turkey) and Barry Strauss (author of The Trojan War: A Hew History). For more info, visit the programme page. If you know of a US broadcast or DVD release, please let Steven know!

In Roman Britain: A Timewatch Guide (first broadcast in the UK on February 17, 2015), Dr. Alice Roberts uses 50 years of film from the BBC archives to explore how ideas about Roman Britain have evolved over the decades. Along the way she investigates the Roman invasion, Hadrian's Wall, the Vindolanda tablets, and the eventual collapse of Roman rule. For more info and streaming options in the UK, visit the programme page. If you know of a US broadcast or DVD release, please let Steven know!

She’s the queen we never get tired of—or in other words, “Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale her infinite variety.” Using the BBC film archives, Vanessa Collingridge explores how our view of Cleopatra has changed over the years, and how the last of the regal Ptolemies has become lost amid myth, cliché and propaganda. Cleopatra: A Timewatch Guide debuted on BBC on February 10, 2015. For more info and streaming options in the UK, visit the programme page. If you know of a US broadcast or DVD release, please let Steven know!

In Dragon Blade, lost Romans soldiers trek across China…and meet Jackie Chan! Set in the era of the Han dynasty (206-220 CE), the epic action movie also stars Oscar-winner Adrien Brody, Joan Cusack’s brother, and singing sensations The Chopsticks Brothers. See the mesmerizing trailer here. (Did a “lost legion” of Romans ever end up in China? Read a rather skeptical Wikipedia article about the question here.) The film opens wide in China on February 19, 2015; US release is not yet announced. (If you have an update, please let Steven know!) An ancient East-West mash-up previously figured in the 2011 Malaysian movie Clash of Empires, and yet another Rome v. China movie may be in the works by scripter Kurt Johnstad (search this page for his name for more info.)

The Lost Legion promises “sex, corruption, betrayal and the final death throws [sic] of a once powerful empire. Where enemies become allies, allies become pawns and one man’s struggle to survive is the last chance for a new Rome.” A feature-length pilot movie released January 20, 2015 (now streaming at Amazon) with spin-off TV series to follow (13 episodes have been shot in Prague). Any resemblance to actual Roman history is entirely coincidental. More info here. The “officail [sic] trailer” (here) makes clear the intent to cash in on the sex-and-violence formula of Starz’s Spartacus, but without the acting chops of Lucy Lawless and company.

The long-delayed Sinbad: The Fifth Voyage, directed by and starring Shahin Sean Solimon, finally began streaming at iTunes and Amazon in late 2014; a DVD released on February 3, 2015. For the monsters, the movie uses old-fashioned stop-motion effects (here called Super Animotion) pioneered by the late, great Ray Harryhausen. See the trailer here.

Coming from Fox in 2015: the TV series Hieroglyph, set in a mythical ancient Egypt “where fantasy and reality intertwine.” Watch the official trailer. Update: Fox cancelled this series even before it aired. See the story here.




But wait—there’s more!

Steven’s International Online Ancient World Film Festival
Watch this collection of mini-movies right here, right now!

Steven’s Wish List
Will we ever see these legendary
movies and TV shows?
Where Are
the Euro Movies?

Movies and TV shows from England & Europe, never shown in the US.


DVD Shop: WHERE ARE THE EURO MOVIES?ONLINE FILM FEST
SWORD & SANDAL MOVIES DOCUMENTARIESANCIENT CINEMA BOOKS
HAIL SHAKESPEARE!STEVEN’S TOP 10 MOVIES LISTWISH LIST
ROMEGREECEEGYPT & BIBLICAL EPICS
ENGLISH-LANGUAGE DVDS FROM GERMANY



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