Reflections - Part IV - Reflections on the Story of Gracchus

warning: these sections may feature nudity and sexually explicit and violent  text and images
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Part IV - REFLECTIONS ON THE STORY OF GRACCHUS

So ... how did The Story of Gracchus come about ?
To begin with, Vittorio Carvelli, is an artist, who trained at art school in traditional forms of painting and drawing.
With the advent of advanced computer graphics, he turned his attention to his main interest, which was the 'male nude'.
Contemporary male nudes often look a bit odd, but put them in a classical or mythological background and they can appear quite natural.
Sempronius Gracchus - Charles  Laughton
Vittorio Carvelli
And so Vittorio began a series of youthful male nudes, called the 'Slave-boys of Gracchus' (the name taken from the original version of the film 'Spartacus').
Much later he was asked to contribute to an internet project called 'Roman Imperium'.
The Roman Imperium blog is basically a survey of the history of the Roman Empire (so far it has only reached the end of the Julio-Claudian Dynasty) - with particular emphasis on Roman culture.

'The Roman Principate'
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2016
It was through his involvement with that project that he realised that the character that he had created - 'Gracchus' - who was, presumably and wealthy Roman Slave owner, could be developed into Roman patrician, living in around the time of the Emperor Nero (the same period as the historical fiction 'Quo Vadis').
And why that particular period ? Simply because the earlier periods had been 'done to death'
The later period, which authors and filmmakers relished as the 'Fall of the Roman Empire' - (the title of a well known and very bad film), was rather too depressing, and full of earnest Christians - keen to take over what was obviously a 'doomed enterprise'.
'Fall of the Roman Empire'
The end of Nero's reign, and the period known as the 'Year of the Four Emperors', and the subsequent Flavian Dynasty, on the other hand, was interesting and full of intrigue, and showed the Empire at its height.
Originally, it was intended that many of the images from the 'Slave-boys of Gracchus' would be used in the new project ('The Story of Gracchus'), but novels have a way of gaining a 'life of their own', and very soon the story had wandered off (intentionally, however), into all kinds of interesting byways, that required numerous new images.
The problem, of course, for Vittorio, was not to fall into the same sort of 'trap's that had ensnared so many other authors, playwrights and directors, who ventured into the dangerous waters of ancient historical fiction.
Those 'traps', or 'problems' are described in the next section - Part V - with reference to various books, films and TV series of historical fiction (mainly dealing with the Roman Empire) and the problems that these works have encountered.
These 'traps' and 'problems' relate to historical accuracy, both with regard to political events, and personalities and general culture, and also attitudes and mores.
There can also be problems with regard to themes and plotting, and finally style, particularly with regard to the visualisation of the story and images (which will be dealt with in a later section).

THE QUESTION of HISTORICAL ACCURACY
A ROMAN PERSPECTIVE

History is really important, but within the context of 'The Story of Gracchus', telling the story is more important.
Serious students of ancient history might think we’re taking an uncritical approach to ancient narratives, possibly taking the scurrilous lies and fanciful inventions of writers, who should have known better, as gospel.
And such students would possibly be right. 
But be warned - no one is going to pass an Ancient History exam using 'The Story of Gracchus' as source material.
And we think that is fine, because it’s about telling exciting stories, not getting a degree in Classics. 
The Romans understood this.
In the ancient world, history wasn’t about re-telling what (supposedly) actually happened.
It was about 'presenting' things that might have happened, and things that should have happened. 
History had to be 'true', but it did not have to be 'factual'.
To a Roman, 'truth' went beyond 'facts'.
It was about universal truths, - moral truths
And it should be remembered that lot of Roman history was 'made up'.
In 390 BCE, Gaulish tribesmen invaded and sacked Rome.
They burnt Rome’s hall of records.
Every one of the annals of Rome, up to that point, was gone.
Roman historians and storytellers reconstructed what they could from hearsay and myth, but in the end, the sources they used weren’t always all that honest.
Modern historians are fairly sure that Augustus didn’t spend one day a year dressed as a beggar.
They are equally certain that Elagabalus didn’t smother his dinner guests to death with rose petals, and confident that there was no such person as Celsus.
Modern historians think that Julian was probably killed by a lucky shot from a Saracen auxiliary who didn’t make it back to his own lines.
It doesn’t really matter.
The story - and the truths it held - mattered to the Romans more than the facts, and as far as 'The Story of Gracchus' goes, if that approach was good enough for the Romans, it’s good enough for now for our story.

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