Skip to Content

Search: {{$root.lsaSearchQuery.q}}, Page {{$}}

Screening: "Gli Ultimi Giorni di Pompei" (Opening to Jerome Lecture Series)

Tuesday, March 10, 2015
12:00 AM
Michigan Theater, 608 East Liberty St., Ann Arbor MI 48104

Ancient Rome in Silent Cinema

In recent years, Hollywood has released a number of big-budget films set in antiquity, yet cinema has been fascinated with the ancient world and with Roman history in particular ever since it emerged as a new technology more than one hundred years ago. Within a few months of the first public shows of moving images held in 1896, Nero was brought onto the screen trying out poisons on his slaves, and hundreds more films about ancient Rome were made thereafter. The vast majority of these films remain largely forgotten although they still survive in archives across the world. Yet the persistent presence of ancient Rome in early cinema compels us to ask: why did so modern a medium have so strong an interest in antiquity right from its start? What did ancient Rome do for cinema? And what did cinema do for ancient Rome?

The University of Michigan Jerome lectures delivered this year by Professor Maria Wyke (University College London) will explore these questions. In association with the lectures, she will present this screening of a spectacular Italian feature film from 1913 which achieved considerable international success.  Based on the novel by Edward Bulwer-Lytton, it tells the story of a slave-girl’s unrequited love for her master, occult mysteries, murder, mayhem, and tragic loss – set in Pompeii in 79 AD as Vesuvius prepares to destroy the city which this film has reconstructed so beautifully.

Gli ultimi giorni di Pompei (1913)
dir. Eleuterio Rodolfi
Società Anonima Ambrosio, Turin
duration: 1 hour and 47 minutes

cast: Fernanda Negri-Pouget (Nidia), Ubaldo Stefani (Glaucus), Eugenia Tettoni (Jone), Antonio Crisanti (Arbaces), Cesare Gani Carini (Apecide).

Set in Pompeii in 79AD and based on the novel by Edward Bulwer-Lytton, this spectacular Italian film (directed by Eleuterio Rodolfi) achieved considerable international success. The young gentleman Glaucus falls in love with beautiful Jone, whose brother is a disciple of the villainous High Priest of Isis, Arbaces. Glaucus kindly purchases a blind flower seller, Nydia, to save her from her owners’ beatings and she returns his generosity with love. The High Priest tries to seduce Jone in the temple but Glaucus arrives just in time to save her. On Arbaces’ deceitful advice, Nydia gives Glaucus a potion thinking it will make him love her but instead it drives him temporarily insane. Arbaces murders Jone’s brother and frames Glaucus for the deed. Just as Glaucus is being thrown to the lions, Vesuvius erupts. During the ensuing panic, the High Priest is killed by falling rubble. The blind flower girl – the only person who can find her way in the terrible darkness -  leads Glaucus and his beloved to the shore and safety. Bereft of Glaucus, Nydia drowns herself to leave the couple to their happiness.


$10 adults, $8 students/seniors, $7.50 Michigan Theater members.  ALL members of the UM community receive free admission by showing a valid UM ID.