Ancient history and contemporary public interest: the view from 2004

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Downloads (Pure)


Readers will be aware of a surge of popular interest in the ancient world. It can be seen in novels, coffee-table books, 'sub-coffee-table' books, public functions, television documentaries, stage-plays, opera and film. All this interest can't be bad for the subject. Colleen McCullough, author of a series of novels on Republican Rome from the time of Marius to that of Caesar (with possibly one more to come), takes great satisfaction in the thought that she has excited and reinforced public interest in the ancient world and swollen the numbers of those undertaking its study at the school and college level in the United States. One of her fans, the Premier of NSW, added - in direct response - the figures for this State HSC enrolments in Ancient History had risen from 7218 in 2001 to 8715 in 2003, making Ancient History the tenth most popular subject at this level. Premier Bob Carr made that observation in the lead-up to his public dialogue with the author at the Sydney Town Hall (on which, see below). Subsequent to the initial composition of these thoughts, the figures for 2004 have become available. The number of candidates undertaking Ancient History has risen to 9,718, meaning that, for the first time since the syllabus restructuring in 2000, Ancient History has outstripped Modem History (with a Current candidature of 9,521). Ancient History is now the ninth most popular subject at the HSG. The popular press is quick to lay much of that development at the feet of the "blockbusters", with accompanying photographs of the cuirass-clad Russell Crowe and Brad Pitt, power shoulder-guards to the fore. Ancient History is currently centre-stage. In the light of that current enthusiasm, I was invited to submit a "Comment" to the Macquarie University News. This was penned a number of times to meet the journalistic requirements of 500 words, and I offer here my initial thoughts - and a few supplementary ones.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)107-134
Number of pages28
JournalAncient history : resources for teachers
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2005

Bibliographical note

Publisher version archived with the permission of the Editor, Ancient History : resources for Teachers, Macquarie Ancient History Association, Macquarie University, NSW, Australia. This copy is available for individual, non-commercial use. Permission to reprint/republish this version for other uses must be obtained from the publisher.


Dive into the research topics of 'Ancient history and contemporary public interest: the view from 2004'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this