How historical is the film Gladiator

The man who brought Rome to ruin - TV documentaries as imparting knowledge using the example of Emperor Commodus

Mölk, Katharina (2018) The man who brought Rome to ruin - TV documentaries as imparting knowledge using the example of Emperor Commodus.
Master thesis, University of Vienna. Faculty of historical and cultural studies
Supervisor: Hameter, Wolfgang

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Abstract in German

Based on the series "The Roman Empire: A Bloody Rule" (OT: Roman Empire: Reign of Blood) from 2016, which was broadcast on Netflix, my work deals with the image of the Emperor Commodus, which is shown to television viewers by means of documentaries . Because this history series presents itself as documentation. Because the mini-Netflix series (consisting of six episodes) completely reverses the image that one got of the emperor through films like “Gladiator” (2000) or “The Fall of the Roman Empire” (1964) and does not consider it cruel Ruler, rather than a victim of his time shows. Nevertheless, even at the end of this series, the verdict that was attached to him repeatedly before: Commodus was the emperor who caused the fall of the Roman Empire. In the thesis, questions should be clarified through an interview with the author of the series Jeremiah Murphy, such as: Why is this series focusing on Commodus? Why is his negative image turned into a positive one? Why is he still portrayed as the founder of the fall of the Roman Empire at the end of the series? Have the scriptwriters read the original sources? What criteria were used to select the historians who spoke in the series? Why did you choose the Netflix format? Who is the target audience and what is the aim of this mixture of documentary and TV series? I am particularly interested in why the series revolves around Commodus, because he is one of many Roman emperors who are not known to the general public at all, and if so, it is mainly from the film "Gladiator". There is also no newer Commodus monograph. The last book written for both historians and a wider audience is that of Jerry Toner (The day Commodus Khilled a Rhino, Baltimore, 2014). Jerry Toner is also one of the historians who speak about Commodus on the Netflix series and try to get the audience to understand that Commodus wasn't actually malicious at all. So far I haven't come across any other documentary that deals purely with Commodus, but in those in which he is mentioned, he is always characterized negatively. Furthermore, the question arises about the implementation of the topic in a combined form of TV series and documentation: - Why is a series format used here with an epic-monumental effort? Is it because the film boom is over and series are now the most popular genre and you can now earn more money with series? The fact is that in this series, too, there are elements that simply sweep today's television audience away: the mystical antiquity, a colorful spectacle in the image design, lush furnishings, eroticism, pomp and splendor. And also: "just cool fight scenes". This is something that captivates people today, just as it was back then: the fascination with horror. The audience wants to see blood. And that is something that can be shown very well in this series about Commodus and his games in the Colosseum. - Why is this series cited as documentation? Documentation gives the topic credibility. When the viewer sees a documentary in which historians speak, he believes it and sees it as shown to be true. In my work I would like to analyze what is verifiably correct in the documentaries about Commodus and what is fantasized about in order to achieve a better effect with the audience. I will try to emphasize how big the journalistic part and the scientific part is. • Structure: Since there are actually no documentaries about Commodus alone, I will always start from the Netflix documentation in my work and compare it with the other documentaries in which Commodus appears. I will proceed in such a way that I begin with a small account of which image of the Emperor Commodus has been presented to the television audience so far. Then I will explain what the new Netflix series is about and then equate the structure of the work with the structure of the series: the work is divided into 6 chapters, each analyzing an episode of the series. The individual chapters should therefore also have approximately the same number of pages. During the analysis of the individual episodes, I deal with the following aspects and questions: - What is the background of the historians who speak in the episode? - What about the truth content / what was invented for the series? - How are the events presented in the other documentaries and what sources do they refer to? In summary, I would like to analyze the following with my work: - How is Commodus presented in the various documentations / why does he initiate the fall of the Roman Empire? - What is the scientific claim / the truth content of the documentation?

Keywords in German

Commodus, documentation, Caesar madness, Cassius Dio, Herodian, Historia Augusta

Document Type: University thesis (master thesis)
Author:Mölk, Katharina
Title:The man who brought Rome to ruin - TV documentaries as imparting knowledge using the example of Emperor Commodus
Circumference:114 pages: illustrations
Institution:University of Vienna
Faculty:Faculty of historical and cultural studies
Degree title or
University course (ULG):
Master's degree in Ancient History and Classical Studies
Publication year:2018
Language:ger ... German
Supervisor:Hameter, Wolfgang
Assessor:Hameter, Wolfgang
Classification:15 History> 15:28 Roman Empire
15 History> 3:25 PM Ancient History
AC number:AC15200913
Document ID:54600
(The PDF layout is identical to the print version of the university thesis.)

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