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Half-Naked yet Empowered?:  Spartacus (2010-) (Ancient) Gender Equality in Contemporary Television
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Umeå Centre for Gender Studies (UCGS). (Umeå Group for Premodern Studies)
2013 (English)In: 12th Annual Hawaii International Conference on Social Sciences, Honolulu Hawaii, 2013Conference paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Spartacus is attested in several ancient sources (Plutarch, Appian, and Florus) as the leader of a rebellion against the Roman Republic (73 to 71 BC). Despite that none of Spartacus' historical representations overtly suggest that he aimed at reforming Roman society by abolishing slavery and promoting equality, he has inspired a number of intellectuals across times and cultures as a egalitarian leader. Marx, in the Manchester letter to Engels (1861), considered him a real representative of the ancient 'proletariat’ and members of the German Spartacus League, a forerunner of the Communist Party of Germany. In contemporary popular culture, the most recent reception of the tale of Spartacus is the US Television series Spartacus: Blood and 

Sand (premiered on Starz in: 2010- followed by a late prequel and a sequel), where he is also portrayed as a just and egalitarian leader.

In this paper, I will discuss how Spartacus (2010-) promotes social and gender equality as an ancient virtue within a contemporary context. Unlike Spartacus’ historical and other cinematic representations, women play a major role in the 2010- TV series either as slaves that join the rebellion, inspired by the egalitarian Thracian slave-leader, or wealthy Romans who oppose him. Despite incidental nudity, scenes of a sexual and violent nature, a TV MA rating for graphic violence, and strong sexual content in overexposed video stylization, I will show that female characters evolve from the older sexualized and objectified females of gladiatorial Sword and Sandals (e.g. Warrior and the Slave Girl: 1958) to strong and brave action heroines. Finally, I will discuss how the 2010- TV series reflects upon the impact of equality and feminism in the portrayal of the ancient world in our contemporary popular culture. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Honolulu Hawaii, 2013.
, Conference proceedings of the international conference in social sciences, ISSN 15397300
Keyword [en]
reception, classical studies, gender, popular culture
National Category
Cultural Studies Classical Archaeology and Ancient History Other Humanities not elsewhere specified
Research subject
Classical Archaeology and Ancient History
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-80279OAI: diva2:648277
12th Annual Hawaii International Conference on Social Sciences
Available from: 2013-09-14 Created: 2013-09-14 Last updated: 2013-09-19Bibliographically approved

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