Historical Fiction in Film: Quo Vadis

4 April 2015
Examines the background and historical accuracy of the legendary Hollywood movie “Quo Vadis.”

This essay examines historical fiction as seen in the famous Hollywood movie Quo Vadis. The successes and failures of the film in accurately portraying Roman history and the struggle between early Christianity and Roman society are analyzed. Through a look at real historical sources, we can see that for the most part the film is an entertaining but flawed example of the retelling of a historical event and the personalities of that time. For example, the film leads viewers to believe that this period of history was the climax of the conflict between imperial Rome and early Christianity, but in fact Nero was no worse for the Christians than many other emperors before and after his reign.
“The characters of Marcus Vinicius and Lygia in the film are symbolic of the rift between imperial Rome and the early Christians, however, they are fictional characters and did not exist in ancient Rome. Galba was in fact the real leader who replaced Nero (he does in the film as well), but he was a seventy-year old man who only ruled for about six months before he was executed by rivals in the forum and replaced by Otho.”
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