Re-Imagining the Caesars

Marco Angelini

Abstract


The recent DVD re-issuing of the television series The Caesars, Dir. Derek Bennett. ITV. 1968, presents an opportunity to revisit some of the background to the extraordinary recent interest in fictional and historical representations of ancient Rome, notably evidenced by the recent BBC/HBO lavish coproduction of the television series Rome. Originally broadcast to great acclaim in 1968, The Caesars has since been almost wholly overshadowed by the BBC adaptation of Robert Graves’s I, Claudius eight years later. This is a pity in some ways, because Philip Mackie’s The Caesars represents the high point of a decade of ambitious and successful drama programming at ITV, centred on literary and historical adaptations such as Saki and The Victorians, and as such it perhaps merits a more distinctive place in the development of television drama. Viewers and reviewers at the time, in fact, sometimes mistook this six-part series for a BBC production, such were the elevated scope and comparatively lavish production values of the hour-long films. As well as being critically applauded, The Caesars was a huge popular success; it is not fanciful, then, to suggest it might have reignited interest in this kind of historical output, paving the way for the BBC’s series.


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