UCL Faculty of Arts & Humanities


Classical Antiquity in Cinema

Professor Maria Wyke’s research addresses classical antiquity’s depiction on film and made an impact on the curation, restoration, exhibition, and appreciation of films set in classical antiquity.

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Professor Maria Wyke’s research focuses on the representation of classical antiquity on film, in which area she is recognised as a world-leader having stimulated the establishment of ancient Greece and Rome on Film as a sub-discipline of classical studies. 

Wyke’s investigations have led directly to improvements in the cataloguing of silent films about ancient Greece and Rome, where prints were previously unidentified or incorrectly identified. In 2014 - 2019, she advised archivists at the Australian National Film & Sound Archive (NFSA), the British National Film Archive (NFA), the Pathé-Gaumont archive, the Cinémathèque française (CF), and the Library of Congress.  

Wyke was instrumental in establishing from 2013 an annual strand of antiquity screenings at the Bologna Film Festival, Il Cinema Ritrovato. This is the largest international festival of archival films, attracting historians of film, archivists, cinema managers, and film fans (in 2016, there were 3,500 delegates from over 50 countries, and 100,000 attendees overall). In 2014 and 2016, the Co-Director of the Festival organised two days of screenings of antiquity films (total audience 520), and Wyke co-organised the associated workshops (total participants 120). Wyke contributed advice and comment on the selection of films and the themes that tied them together, provided entries in the festival catalogues, led the organisation of the workshops, and co-led the discussion with festival audiences.

The Co-Director of the Bologna Festival testifies that “for the festival and indeed the studies of silent cinema [Wyke’s] research and interpretations are very important, making clear connections between different medias and cultural productions, bringing new audiences with different ways of access and interest to the films”. 

Wyke regularly arranges guided screenings of rare examples of silent cinema’s antiquity films, with live musical accompaniment in a variety of venues nationally and internationally. In total, she has screened 46 films through 16 events held in the academic institutions, museums, cinemas or theatres of 11 cities across 8 countries and 4 continents: London, Oxford, Exeter, Rome, Olomouc, Victoria, Ann Arbor, Chicago, Sydney, Juiz de Fora and Oslo. Approximately 1,550 people have attended in total, comprising the general public, silent film fans, school children and teachers, students and academics.  

For university teachers and students in the UK, Australia and the USA, her research has provoked expansion of the traditional curriculum to embrace antiquity on film.