Masculinity In Ancient Rome by Christian Vega Edit

Masculinity Edit

Sword and Sandal films shed a lot of light on what masculinity was like in Ancient Rome as well as what it was like at the time that each film was made. From films like Quo Vadis, to Cleopatra and even Gladiator, it is evident that sword and sandal films reinforce inherently similar ideas of what masculinity was like at the time, while showing variations in the male display of masculinity that reflect the time the film was made. This masculinity is shown off through the demonstrations of violence, strength, and the display of the male body in these films. Characters like Marcus Vinicius, Julius Caesar, and Maximus are presented in ways that exemplify this Roman masculinity.
Quovadis-sept1953-movieposter-jpnmag Quo Vadis 1951

Quo Vadis: Marcus Vinicius Edit

In Mervyn LeRoy's Quo Vadis (1951), Robert Taylor played Marcus Vinicius, a commander of the Roman Military. Vinicius is juxtaposed with some of the more religious themes presented in the film, particularly his participation in violence and death, so his masculinity aligns with that of the very manly and strong Roman soldier that is presented in films like Cleopatra (1963). "The hypermasculine gradually tamed by the calm steadfastness and faith of the Christian woman and finds something to believe in" (Fitzgerald, 35).

Cleopatra: Julius Caesar Edit

Cleopatra poster

Cleopatra (1963)

In Joseph L. Mankiewicz's Cleopatra (1963), Rex Harrison played Julius Caesar and presents himself with a very similar sense of masculinity. A seasoned war hero who shows strength in wisdom as well as on the battlefield. Caesar exemplifies a more wise and tamed masculinity, one that is built on strength but not demonstrated through excessive means. This representation of masculinity is also found in Quo Vadis to a certain extent.

Gladiator: Maximus Edit


Russell Crowe

In Ridley Scott's Gladiator (2000), Russell Crowe played Maximus Decimus Meridiu, a general in the Roman army. Maximus exemplifies how the 21st century audience views hyper-masculinity as a very normal and attainable masculinity. One of the most memorable points in the film is when the half naked Maximus yells, "are you not entertained". Such displays give way to this entirely new idea of masculinity that is unparalleled by anything before its time. Masculinity in sword and sandal films from this point on demonstrate this newfound reliance on the physique of the actor as well as the sheer masculinity of the character being developed.

Sources Edit

  • "Cleopatra (1963 Film)." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2016. <>.
  • Cyrino, Monica Silveira. Big Screen Rome. Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub., 2005. Print.
  • "Gladiator (2000 Film)." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2016. <>.
  • "Oppositions, Anxieties and Ambiguities in the Toga Movie." Fitzgerald, William. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2016.
  • "Quo Vadis (1951 Film)." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2016.