Why Film and TV get it totally wrong about the Romans

Everyone thinks they know what Romans looked like. From Quo Vadis all the way through to Gladiator, there’s a specific style-clothes, army uniforms, buildings, what have you. A Fashion Statement taken up in the less grandiloquent world of TV, books and computer games until it becomes a standard reference point. Like westerns, Vietnam movies, and 1970s dramas, with all that big hair, lapels and Ford Cortinas.

Except it wasn’t like that, as this amusing video from The Archaeologist makes clear. People make shows about characters like Atilla or Hypatia wearing clothes from the age of Augustus. It would be like putting Donald Trump in the costume of Phillip II of Spain. Go on, it only lasts 12 minutes; you’ll learn something.[1]

Interesting but harmless? It doesn’t really matter, about the Romans’ underwear, except perhaps to specialists. But there’s a deeper worry. People get fixed ideas about more important things. Vaccines. Pollution. Economics. After which, diseases of the human mind like Confirmation Bias and Directed Reasoning set in. Case in point: the reason that producers always dress Romans as if they lived in 1 AD is because it’s the only way modern audiences can register them as “Roman”. So if you’ve been trained to think every scientist who talks about vaccination is part of a conspiracy, you’ll dismiss any facts before they are proffered. And that, more than any other single thing, is the real problem of out times.


#costume drama #history #confirmation bias #directed reasoning

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