Thursday, January 02, 2014

The New Colossus

Not that I'm obsessed or anything (*cough*), but Henry Cavill is even better as eye candy in Immortals than he is in Man of Steel. I think it's the chlamys and the chiton.

The movie itself is utter crap, though: it's sepia-tinted, induces visual vertigo, and is only loosely based on the Theseus legend of Greek mythology. I haven't taken classics since high school, but I do remember that the Minotaur wasn't actually part of an invading barbarian horde trying to unleash imprisoned Titans in order to capture a bow with magical powers and defeat the Hellenes. But Netflix was going to take it off of Instant Streaming in a few days, and I had insomnia... so why not watch it?

A much, much better way to pass time while re-living Grandpa's old lectures about the ancients is to read Ruth Downie's murder mystery series about a doctor in Roman Britain (for a great and hilarious murder series that takes place in ancient Athens, see Gary Corby's books). It's not as dark as the Nox noir series, for starters ... if detective stories set in the tinderbox border worlds after the Roman massacres of the Druids can be "not dark", that is.

The series features as its protagonist the highly intelligent but sometimes bumbling medical officer for a Roman Legion based in in Britain. The books are at times funny and heartbreaking, but always interesting ... even if the Medicus' relationship with his slave-turned-mistress-turned-wife clashes uncomfortably with modern conceptions of gendered power dynamics.

I finished the Medicus series right when Congress failed (again) to pass comprehensive immigration reform, and I couldn't help but think about how human migration patterns and melting-pot cultures ebb and flow with the empires of their times. Throughout the books, the doctor struggles with his love/hate relationship with Britain herself, native Britons who see him (correctly) as part of the occupying forces, his homeland and estranged family in Gaul, and the meaning of and duties inherent in Roman citizenship.

While reading the series, I couldn't get Kipling's "The Roman Centurion's Song" out of my head:
I've served in Britain forty years. What should I do in Rome?
Tempest-tossed, indeed.

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