'Spartacus: Vengeance' Creator Lists the 5 Biggest Misconceptions of the Time Period
From waxed chests to homosexuality, Steven DeKnight reveals the facts on the era depicted on the Starz series.
To a certain extent, it isn’t really the job of a period film or TV series like Starz’s Spartacus: Vengeance to teach us about history. Its main purpose is to deliver a fantastic viewing experience for fans, but that doesn’t mean the series hasn’t tried to stay as historically correct as it can be.
“There are always a bunch of little adjustments that we have to make,” series creator Steven DeKnight tells The Hollywood Reporter. “I always say we try to stay close to history. We’ll bend it. We’ll try not to break it. But at the end of the day, our number one job is to entertain the audience. No one should be writing a term paper based on the show.”
The series does perform a good amount of research and DeKnight says that he isn’t shocked when fans call it out for what they believe to be anachronisms in the show. He understands where they’re coming from.
“I realized early on that most people watching, they really know the history side from other movies that they’ve watched, not from actually researching it, which I totally understand,” he says. “When I came to this show, I knew nothing about the time period. I had to start from zero. The start and finish of my knowledge of this period was Stanley Kubrick’s Spartacus. I knew absolutely nothing.”
At the same time, DeKnight says there are certain misconceptions of the time period that come up over and over from fans. Here are five of the biggest ones according to the series creator.
1. Cursing goes way back. “I sent my historical consultants a question about cursing, ‘What curses did they use?’ They sent me back a hysterical e-mail that ran through all the curses that they used. They were all exactly the same that we use now,” he says. “The only difference, I’ll get a little graphic…the only difference is, their worst curse word, the worst thing that you could call someone was ‘clit,’ which didn’t quite translate for us, because we think it would have invoked more of a giggle. But, all the cursing was pretty much the same. To this day, I still get people calling me out on the Internet about the anachronistic cursing on the show. It’s like no, that was real. A lot of it is taken from graffiti that was written on the walls.”
2. “Manscaping” isn’t a modern trend. “The Romans waxed. They waxed and they plucked. They considered hair barbaric,” DeKnight explains. “Now, for the gladiators, there’s a good chance that they let the gladiators be hairy and barbaric. For the aesthetic of our show, that really doesn’t fly quite honestly. You can imagine Manu Bennett, who is carved from stone, he plays Crixus, if we hadn’t waxed him down, you couldn’t see any of his muscles.”
3. In other hairy matters, the Romans wigged out. “Lucretia [Lucy Lawless] wears wigs. That was another question about wigs, yes they had wigs,” DeKnight says. “Of course they had wigs. The men wore them, too. You’ll see that Solonius [Craig Walsh-Wrightson] always wears a wig. If you were bald, you were considered to be lascivious. It was frowned upon. So, they would cover it up with wigs.”
4. And before you ask about the Romans wearing makeup: “I have had comments about makeup,” he points out. “ ‘They didn’t have makeup back then,’ people have said. Yes they did.”
5. Same sex, so what? “The Romans had such a different view of same sex relationships, especially among the men,” he says. “It was pretty much accepted among the men. The difference was, it was about power. If you were of a certain position, you needed to be on top. It only worked one way. Also, the Romans would, when they conquered a people, it was very common for the men in the Roman legions to rape the other men that they had conquered. That was also a show of power and force.”
“With the same sex relationships with women, it’s a little bit different,” DeKnight continues. “The Roman men seemed to really fear that. They weren’t quite as titillated as men are these days, but of course we bent that a little bit.”
“But for me, approaching the same sex relationships, I always wanted to approach it as a same sex relationship in this world as viewed no differently than a heterosexual relationship,” he explains. “I still get so many comments mostly from young guys saying, ‘Oh I love the show. It’s fantastic. Do you really need all that gay shit?” They always call it, “Gay shit.” I always politely tell them, ‘Yes. Yes I do. It will always be a part of the show.’ I just don’t understand how straight males can feel threatened by what two other people are doing. It always boggles my mind.”
Spartacus: Vengeance airs Fridays at 10 pm on Starz.
Email: Jethro.Nededog@thr.com; Twitter: @TheRealJethro