Ancient Rome is now in vogue. The popular television series produced by the BBC and HBO has stirred interest in many of the viewers about how the Romans really lived. Public libraries receive numerous queries on the subject every day. Interest in the topic is in fact so wide that one librarian thought it best to contact Paavo Castrén, a professor emeritus in classical philology, for advice.
Castrén was just the man to help. He has headed the Expeditio Pompeiana Universitatis Helsingiensis (EPUH), the Pompeii Project of the University of Helsinki, for five years, leading the group’s investigative work on Pompeian excavations. This September, Castrén also published his book Pompejilaisia kohtaloita, ‘Pompeian Lives’, later probably to be published in English and Italian.
“Fictive films and books about ancient Rome are good for our cause, as they capture people’s interest and make them ask questions. The series should, however, be watched as entertainment, not as a historical documentary,” says Castrén.
Never watched that series as I don't subscribe to HBO. I heard it was pretty good though, better than yer usual Roman fare. But it occurred to me that if professionals can still complain about art not directly imitating life for a society we know very well from both archaeology and historical records, we can't get too het up over Apocalypto.