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A Tribute to Rome:
"Gladiator Afternoon" and Films


An authentic Etruscan crested helmet, 8th century B.C., from the Museum's Mediterranean section collection, was excavated from a warrior's tomb in Narce, Italy. It will be on display next spring in the new suite of galleries: Worlds Intertwined: Etruscans, Greeks, and Romans.

Rome, the Eternal City, has long been a wellspring of creativity, and an inspiration for the arts. Beginning November 2, the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (UPM) offers a tribute to that great city with a Saturday afternoon film series (November 2, 9, 16, and 23), Ecco Roma, Città Eterna: A Cinematic Journey of Discovery, free with Museum admission donation. All films, shown in large-screen video format, begin at 2 p.m. in the Museum's Rainey or Harrison auditoriums.

To kick off the series, which begins with the Hollywood blockbuster Gladiator, the Museum is offering a special Gladiator Afternoon, beginning at noon on Saturday, November 2. Tim Pafik, author of the forthcoming book, Gladiator, The Armour, Costumes, and Weaponry, talks from noon to 12:30 p.m. about how the designers and armourers of the film Gladiator created their costumes, props and special effects. From 12:30 to 1:30 p.m., Steven Tamaccio, owner of Estetica Salon, offers hairstyling demonstrations, creating coifs in the style of the 2nd century A.D. setting of Gladiator. 

Local gladiator and military re-enactors from the Legion XXIV, Mid-Atlantic Province, Pennsylvania, and from the Gladiator Academy of Legion XXIV, will be circulating around the Museum, and giving presentations of various basic gladiatorial styles. University of Pennsylvania doctoral candidate Amy Zoll will be on hand from noon to 2 p.m. to sign copies and answer questions about her new book Gladiatrix: The True Story of History's Unknown Woman Warrior. Written as the companion text to the 2002 documentary Gladiatrix (airing on the Discovery Channel), the book centers on the controversial discovery of the grave of a female gladiator by the Museum of London Archaeological Service and explores the evidence for women gladiators.

Even the Museum Café gets into the act, offering a meal "fit for a gladiator." Visitors can join the fun, too--anyone who arrives in a credible Roman toga is admitted to the festivities for half off the standard admission donation.

Special Display from the Movie Gladiator

Armour Photo by Tim Pafik

Armour, from the movie Gladiator, was used in the opening battle sequences between the Romans and the germanic warriors and in the provincial gladiatorial scenes. It will be on display at the UPM November 2 through December 1. A larger display of costumes and weaponry from the movie, and the sword used by Russell Crowe in the colosseum scenes, is planned to coincide with the opening of Worlds Intertwined in March.

From November 2 through December 1, as a tribute to the enormous impact the film Gladiator has had in redefining the classical world in modern popular culture, UPM presents a special display of weaponry and armour created for the film Gladiator. About 20 original props include a collection of gladiatorial equipment from the provincial arena scenes (shield, axe, flail, mace and swords, and helmet) and from the opening battle scenes between Romans and barbarians (such as a legionary cuirass, helmet, belt, sword, and special effects retractable dagger).

Ecco Roma, Città Eterna: A Cinematic Journey of Discovery and the Gladiator Afternoon are part of the Museum's "Classical Year" of special events offered in anticipation and celebration of the March 16, 2003 opening of the new classical galleries, "Worlds Intertwined: Etruscans, Greeks, and Romans." The film series is co-sponsored by the Center for Italian Studies of the University of Pennsylvania and the Consulate General of Italy in Philadelphia.

A specialist in Italian cinema or an authority on ancient Rome introduces each film in the series, which was developed by Dr. Millicent Marcus and Dr. Nicola Gentili of the Center for Italian Studies, in collaboration with Robert Cargni, film curator. "The films included in our program invite you to discover Rome from four different cinematic perspectives," Mr. Cargni said. "There is Rome, the cradle of history; Rome, the glorious city where romance blossoms; Rome, through the eyes of artistic genius; and Rome, whose streets lead inexorably to the revelation of the innermost self."

Films in the Saturday, 2 p.m. series are:

November 2: Gladiator

Gladiator is the kind of movie upon which Hollywood once built its reputation but rarely produces anymore-the spectacle. One of the great achievements of the film is in creating a second-century Rome that is entirely credible and stunning in its detail. Ancient Rome is one of the most romanticized civilizations in the history of humanity, and rarely has it been brought to life with the grandeur of this film. Like many of the great Hollywood historical epics, Gladiator is the story of the triumph of a heroic figure over seemingly insurmountable odds. In this case, a slave (Russell Crowe) takes on the most powerful man in the world--the Emperor of Rome. Directed by Ridley Scott, UK/USA, 2000, Video, 155 minutes, technicolor, rated R. Under 17 not admitted without parent or guardian.


November 9: Fellini's Roma

Certain film directors are so closely associated with a locale that we automatically pair the two together. Fellini is as firmly associated with Rome as is Julius Caesar. Fellini's 1972 film Roma pays homage to his beloved city and provides another autobiographical glimpse into Fellini's life through an entertaining array of visual impressions. Like most of Fellini's films, Roma was inspired by a dream. As he states in his autobiography: "I dreamed I was imprisoned in an oubliette deep under Rome. I heard unearthly voices coming through the walls. They said, ‘We are the ancient Romans. We are still here.'" Directed by Federico Fellini, Italy, 1972, Video, 128 minutes, Italian with English subtitles, Technicolor, rated R. Under 17 not admitted without parent or guardian.

November 16: Roman Holiday

Roman Holiday is a delightful, captivating fairy-tale romance shot entirely on location in Rome. The bittersweet story, a charming romantic comedy, is a Cinderella tale in reverse. Runaway Princess Ann (Audrey Hepburn) rebels against her royal obligations, escapes the insulated confines of her royal prison and finds a ‘Prince Charming' commoner, American reporter Joe Bradley (Gregory Peck), covering the royal tour in Rome. Although they dream of becoming closer to each other, Ann knows she will inevitably have to part from him and return to her other life and duties, never to reveal the secret of her holiday in the Eternal City. Directed by William Wyler, USA, 1953, Video, 118 min., b/w, not rated.

November 23: La Dolce Vita

Fellini shot La Dolce Vita in 1959 on the Via Veneto, the Roman street of nightclubs, sidewalk cafes and the parade of the night. His hero is a gossip columnist, Marcello (Marcello Mastroianni), who chronicles "the sweet life" of fading aristocrats, second-rate movie stars, aging playboys and women of commerce. Following Marcello, the movie leaps from one visual extravaganza to another. The music by Nino Rota is of a perfect piece with the material. Directed by Federico Fellini, 1959, Video, 167 minutes, b/w, Italian with English subtitles, not rated.


  Almanac, Vol. 49, No. 10, October 29, 2002