Area man not amused by Roman rumpo

Due to a passing illness – not serious but annoying – plus a few work commitments, posting has been a bit light round here lately. Normal service will resume shortly, but here’s another cracker from the Tele:

Ban Spartacus orgy filth, says DUP MLA

Say what?

A DUP MLA has called for a controversial TV series featuring extreme violence and explicit sex scenes to be banned from UK TV.

Spartacus, which is based on the world of gladiators in the Roman Empire, is so rude that campaigners are trying to block it from British screens.

Sounds intriguing…

The TV series features full-frontal nudity, extreme violence and explicit scenes of orgies.

Did I say intriguing? Positively enticing would be more like it. But of course this doesn’t fly in some local quarters:

Last night DUP Assembly Member Mervyn Storey added his voice to calls for the series to be banned in the UK.

“We have been fast going beyond the realms of taste and this series will further plunge us into the abyss,” he said.

“I have grave concerns about the content of much of our TV viewing, and this is something which I believe should not be on our airwaves.”

There’s also a quote from the late Mrs Whitehouse’s NVLA, now trading as Mediawatch, but disappointingly none from DUP culture minister Nelson McCausland, nor from the DUP’s resident film buff Jeffrey Donaldson. Perhaps they can be enticed to lend Mervyn some moral support.

Actually, one of my bugbears is that – apart from the classic I, Claudius – TV drama has not really made the most of ancient Rome’s potential. The recent BBC/HBO series Rome was fun, but it was hindered a little by actors talking like they were playing EastEnders in togas.

Senator Philo: I don’t believe I’m hearing this.

Senator Grantus: Sorted, bruv.

Caesar: Get outta my pub!

It won’t do, when we’re used to ancient Romans talking like Derek Jacobi or Patrick Stewart (although, strangely, never with Italian accents). I would also point out that the subject matter of those Pompeii wall murals would make Mervyn Storey’s hair stand on end, before you even get to the Roman authors. Juvenal is a personal favourite – he’s an extremely funny satirist if you can tolerate his repeated jibes at foreigners, gays and Jews – and there’s enough source material to be as lascivious as you like. Gladiator fights and the occasional naked cock aren’t the half of it. If Mervyn had been paying attention in Latin, he’d know this.

Mind you, if they dubbed the dialogue into Ulster Scots, the DUP could hardly object. Nelson might even dish out a grant for it.

28 Comments

  1. Madam Miaow said,

    March 6, 2010 at 8:04 pm

    OK, now I have to see it. To-ga! To-ga! To-ga!

  2. robert said,

    March 6, 2010 at 8:20 pm

    Onward Christian DUP soldiers
    Feed them to the lions…

  3. ejh said,

    March 6, 2010 at 8:41 pm

    although, strangely, never with Italian accents

    What accents would they have had though?

    One of my recollections about learning Latin at school is that we were taught to pronounce v as a w. Dunno why – did something in Latin literature induce some people to think that was correct? (As it happens Spanish, which is derived from Latin, also pisses about with the v – in its Castillian version anyway – by making it more like a b.)

    • weserei said,

      March 6, 2010 at 9:33 pm

      Evidence from borrowings, Indo-European comparisons, etc. is conclusive that V was originally pronounced as W in Latin, though there’s some debate as to when the change happened. The more familiar pronunciation of V (to English speakers, at least) was probably universal by the fall of the (Western) Roman Empire. And so from then until the 1960s, most Latin students learned to pronounce Latin more or less as though it were modern Italian.

      The Spanish confusion of B and V (the two letters 100% homophones in nearly all dialects of modern Spanish) is ancient:

      cur hispani tam felices?
      quibus vivire est bibere!

      • splinteredsunrise said,

        March 6, 2010 at 10:18 pm

        I remember Latin being taught with what sounded like a modern Italian accent, or at least the Chico Marx version thereof.

        The V problem would be an ancient Iberian thing. I know that Basque systematically renders the Latin V as a B.

      • ejh said,

        March 7, 2010 at 8:04 am

        That’s fantastic stuff, thankyou, but how do they know? Is there an assumption made, deriving from the assonances of poetry from different periods?

      • chris y said,

        March 7, 2010 at 12:27 pm

        They know because there were people who wrote books at various points explaining to the great unwashed how to talk Latin proper; and because you can infer a lot from how Latin names were transliterated into Greek; and because there’s a pun in Cicero that only works if you pronounce ‘v’ as ‘w’. Etc. A guy called W.Sidney Allen wrote a book in the early 60s called ‘Vox Latina: the pronunciation of classical Latin’, which lays it all out. I think it’s still in print.

        If you get taught Latin by Mother Church, they’ll teach you to pronounce it like modern Italian, because that’s the convention for ecclesiastical Latin, but even Erasmus knew better. Until the end of the last century most countries taught it in schools as if it was their native language (French latinists were notoriously incomprehensible). Thus, ‘Ad tee levayv-aye ocyoolose meeose, qu-aye habitass in seelis (Ad te levavi oculos meos qui habitas in coelis). This still hangs around in legal Latin – habeas corpus, etc.

      • ejh said,

        March 8, 2010 at 9:54 am

        Thanks very much.

  4. harry monro said,

    March 6, 2010 at 10:41 pm

    Zena, warrior princess, in a toga no less. If only Frankie Howard were alive to lend it his gravitas. I am Lurcio, no I am Lurcio.

  5. De Northside Socialist said,

    March 6, 2010 at 10:44 pm

    Isn’t it a bit early for the DUP to police the morals of others given the unfortunate events of the last few months? Admittedly the Robinson’s affair was more of a Greek tragedy…..

  6. WorldbyStorm said,

    March 6, 2010 at 11:30 pm

    a) hope you’re feeling better. b) The Rome thing is interesting. I sort of felt much the same way as you did re Rome the TV series. Genuinely interesting and striking, but… what the heck with the accents? This sounds better. I’ve been reading the Robert Harris books, Imperium et al, and found them pretty compelling so I guess I’m well on for anything Roman related. Thanks for the heads up. c) surely this is part of our rich Judeo-Christian heritage. I’m surprised (I’m not) by the response of Storey…

    • splinteredsunrise said,

      March 7, 2010 at 12:05 am

      Mervyn, of course, is the chair of the Assembly education committee…

    • Ramzi Nohra said,

      March 7, 2010 at 9:00 pm

      you may want to read “Rubicon” by Tom Holland. GIves as good an account of the early republic (and its aftermath) as I’ve ever read.

  7. March 7, 2010 at 8:13 pm

    As to accents, it reminds me of a translation of Lysistrata I read where the Spartans were depicted as speaking broad Scots. I assume the point of the EastEnders accents is to emphasise that “these are common gutter proles talkin’ now”?

    • splinteredsunrise said,

      March 7, 2010 at 8:52 pm

      Wasn’t there that drama on Stalin where Uncle Joe, Beria and the other Georgians were depicted with Irish accents, while the ethnic Russians talked like Brits? It sort of worked.

    • March 8, 2010 at 7:42 am

      I’ve heard that story about Lysistrata before. Oliver Stone made a similar comment regarding the casting of Alexander on the Late Late Show once; that he used Irish actors and accents because he felt they best conveyed the requisite violent and dirty culture. Strangely, this passed without comment.

      Good old Michael Ripper’s cockney accent was always on hand in a Hammer firm to inform the viewer of his character’s social status (whether he was supposed to be a Tyrolean peasant or Transylvanian coachman.)

      • Dr. X said,

        March 8, 2010 at 10:58 am

        I have to say I see nothing strange about that passing without comment.

    • ejh said,

      March 8, 2010 at 9:55 am

      Also see Life Of Brian, where the Samaritans speak with Welsh accents.

    • chris y said,

      March 8, 2010 at 11:45 am

      There was an old English racist habit of referring to Scots (the language) as Doric, i.e. Spartan, on the grounds that the Spartans were uncultured and laconic and spoke a dialect the Athenians had problems understanding. I believe some Scottish literary folk adopted the term as their own, so I suppose the translator of Lysistrata was playing with this tradition.

      • harry monro said,

        March 8, 2010 at 1:37 pm

        Chris I had heard the same thing except that the word was coined by the Edinburgh elite looking down their noses at the peasants, Edinburgh being the Athens of the North, the cultured enemy of the crude Spartans who were only useful as soldiers. No idea which is truer

      • Danny said,

        March 9, 2010 at 10:50 pm

        I didnt know these origins, but ‘the Doric’ is actually what folk from north east scotland called their own dialect.

        Like many people my knowledge of this comes mainly from Lewis Grassic Gibbons fantastic ‘Scots Quair’, which has ensured a lasting respect for the term. Ive never heard ‘doric’ used in Scotland as a put down or to describe how people speak anywhere else

  8. neilcaff said,

    March 8, 2010 at 12:28 am

    My money is on the whole thing being a terrible misunderstanding. Someone probably told Mervyn Storey Spartacus had a Roman Plot…

    I’ll get my coat.

  9. March 8, 2010 at 11:51 am

    The TV series features full-frontal nudity, extreme violence and explicit scenes of orgies … Mervyn Storeys favorite book contains only one of the three: extreme violence plus some hints on more in the Song of Songs … or has he simply confused Romans with Roman Catholics?

  10. frunobulax said,

    March 8, 2010 at 9:18 pm

    Wasn’t there that drama on Stalin where Uncle Joe, Beria and the other Georgians were depicted with Irish accents, while the ethnic Russians talked like Brits? It sort of worked.

    Red Monarch (1983) – and very well it did work.

    Uncle Joe: (IIRC) “Why is the sky blue, and what are lesbians for?”

    • splinteredsunrise said,

      March 8, 2010 at 11:42 pm

      That’s it! I’ve been trying to remember that for years. Khrushchev didn’t come out of it too well IIRC.

      • frunobulax said,

        March 10, 2010 at 10:47 pm

        I’d buy the DVD in a trice if there was one. I’m sure you’ve found a few clips on-line, but if not:

        Is that Russian subtitles in the second clip — I wonder what year that was shown?

  11. halfer said,

    March 18, 2010 at 10:50 pm

    Me and a few mates ran this event at last years Belfast Film Festival. DUP didn’t like the Cultural direction….

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2009/mar/03/ulster-scots-flesh-gordon


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