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Rob Tapert Interview In The New York Times

Sex and Gore? That's Ancient History

WHEN the Victorians were feeling gloomy about their prospects they used to compare themselves to the ancient Romans. They read Gibbon, Plutarch and Tacitus and looked for parallels: a society burdened by empire, corrupted by wealth, deficient in manly virtue. Lately we have been doing much the same, only instead of consulting the Latin texts we turn to screen epics like "Gladiator," the HBO series "Rome," and the 2007 Zack Snyder film "300," which, strictly speaking, was about Spartans, not Romans, but let's not be fussy. The cable channel Starz, as part of an effort to expand its slate of original programming, is extending this classical tradition with "Spartacus: Blood and Sand," a 13-part series that starts Friday, and has already taken the unusual step of commissioning a second season before the first one even runs. [...]

The early episodes include a number of well-drawn personalities, many of them plucked (or embellished) right from Plutarch, our main source for what little we know about Spartacus, a man, the text says, "not only of high spirit and valiant, but in understanding and in gentleness superior to his condition." (Plutarch does not mention abs or lats, which Andy Whitfield, an Australian actor who plays the character, has in abundance, but they probably go without saying.)

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