I was pleased this morning to see that the news about Halle Berry's production of a mini-series about Hannibal for History had broken. Here is the AFP head:
With the help of Hollywood actress Halle Berry as a producer, the American network dedicated to exploring the past will develop a miniseries on the African general who challenged the Roman Empire.
Full story here. It was a project that I worked on for much of the summer as historical advisor to Red Arrow and to the writer Jeffrey Caine, better known for his work on GoldenEye.
The experience of working on a big budget production is a curious one and the job of advisor is, as much as anything, one of gatekeeper. This is only the second film I have worked on in this capacity, and the last one never made it out of pre-production. On one hand it was a much more sophisticated job than I had expected. A bit of me did expect to have to explain patiently to Hollywood types that no, the Romans didn't use iPhones. But in numerous conversations and emails with Jeffrey I was blown away by how much he had read and absorbed.
Curiously the sticking point was the lack of knowledge about women in Carthage. I was met with disbelief time and time again in the US and in London that we simply don't know the name of Hannibal's mother or that of his sisters. The idea that the names of women were not important enough to record was something no one could get their heads around.
Even though I never got to meet Halle face-to-face, I can't wait to see the series.
A couple of people have asked about the banner at the top of the blog. It is part of a mosaic from north Africa and dates to cAD150. A border survives on two sides of the mosaic, but the original extent of the mosaic on the other sides is unknown. The best guess is that it was part of a larger floor showing several scenes. It is currently in the J Paul Getty Museum.
I have been planning to update the design of Bread & Circuses for a little while now. It has had pretty much the same layout for the past seven and a half years and it was starting to look a little tired. Today I am premiering the new look - Design 2.0 if you will. Although I have spent the last couple of days testing the new look, there will, inevitably, be teething problems. Please bear with me as I iron them out. But most of all, I hope that you enjoy it!
It has been just over a year since I last posted and figured that it was time to start again. Much has happened in the world of late antiquity and research continues to evolve. New sites have been uncovered, new manuscripts discovered and new books have been published. All of this quite apart from the genius television that was Bonekickers.
Bread and Circuses will continue where it left off and with pretty much the same obsessions: the battle of Teutoburg Forest, Julian the Apostate and the later Roman empire, though other bits and pieces will find their way in.
The Last Pagan, my bio of the Emperor Julian is now out in the US; Rome's Greatest Defeat, the only full account of the battle of Teutoburg Forest, is out in a revised paperback in the UK, and The Art of War, a collection of essays on early warfare edited by Andrew Roberts, is out in a couple of weeks. I was lucky enough to contribute a chapter on Arminius. The proofs look incredible. It is amazing what can be done when a publisher has an art budget.
The blog also looks pretty much as it did before. I have been able to recover my original posts, though images have been deleted. I will be adding links down the side as I go. If I have forgotten someone, please take it as an oversight rather than a deliberate slight.
Looking back over past postings, I realise that I have never cited the passage from which this blog takes its name. Here are the lines (77-81) from Juvenal’s tenth satire. The translation is Peter Green’s from the Penguin edition.
iam pridem, ex quo suffragia nulli vendimus, effudit curas; nam qui dabat olim imperium, fasces, legiones, omnia, nunc se continet atque duas tantum res anxius optat, panem et circenses.
But nowadays with no votes to sell, their motto Is “Couldn’t care less”. Time was when their plebiscite elected Generals, heads of state, commanders of legions: but now They’ve pulled in their horns, there’s only two things that concern them: Bread and circuses.
The manuscript for The Last Roman is now happily in the hands of my publishers. The original intention of the blog was to keep track of my thoughts and references as I was writing the book. I wanted to see whether a blog was a help or a hindrance to the process.
I have been surprised how useful it has been both to help organise my thoughts and as a place to explore the distractions you inevitably come across as you write; those that are not appropriate for the final draft for reasons of space or relevance. A happy-side effect I had not anticipated has been the number of professionals in the field I have had the pleasure of meeting through the blog.
Blogging has been a curious process. An old friend had been encouraging me to start for years and I am pleased that he did so, indeed wish I had listened to him long ago. David Meadows has posted on and off (see here as well) about how best to blog and he is right. When blogging become folded into your normal daily routine, it become much easier, especially so if you are an early riser.
The question is what to do next. Bread and Circuses is likely to change its focus slightly. I am working on a number of classically-oriented projects and the blog will begin to reflect those research interests, though I shall continue to post about late antiquity, the Emperor Julian and Teutoburg Forest whenever I see something of relevance.
I am a journalist and writer working on a book on the very last moments of the Roman empire called The Last Roman: Romulus Augustulus and the Decline of the West. With the film The Last Legion, based on the book by Valerio Massimo Manfredi and starring Colin Firth and Ben Kingsley, due for a release in January 2007, The Last Roman explores the history of the events that the film inspired. As with my previous books, the publisher is Sutton. The manuscript is due at the end of March and should be in the shops by the end of summer.
“Bread and circuses” is an experiment. Partly intended as a vade mecum, the blog will let me think out loud as I write and allow me to explore some ideas in depth which are only of peripheral relevance to the book.