Rome -- the Eternal Source Material

An entertaining new essay by Allan Massie explores the continuing fascination of Rome for fiction writers and moviemakers -- and their audiences.

Why are so many novelists in the modern age drawn to write about the ancient world, especially Rome but also, to a lesser extent, Greece? The line of those who have done so goes back at least to Edward Bulwer-Lytton and The Last Days of Pompeii, written at a time -- the 1830s -- when classical studies were central to education throughout western Europe....[M]ost [such novels], whatever their literary quality, aim to be popular, which is to say that they have a strong narrative, striking characters and richly dramatic scenes.