An Archive of Animations/Cartoons of Ancient Greece & Rome: From the 1920s Through Today

Ancient Greece and Rome have pro­vid­ed fer­tile hunt­ing grounds for ani­mat­ed sub­ject mat­ter since the very incep­tion of the form.

So what if the results wind up doing lit­tle more than frol­ic in the pas­toral set­ting? Wit­ness 1930’s Play­ful Pan, above, which can basi­cal­ly be summed up as Sil­ly Sym­pho­ny in a toga (with a cute bear cub who looks a lot like Mick­ey Mouse and some flame play that pre­fig­ures The Sorcerer’s Appren­tice…)

Oth­ers are packed with his­to­ry, myth­ic nar­ra­tive, and peri­od details, though be fore­warned that not all are as visu­al­ly appeal­ing as Steve Simons’ Hoplites! Greeks at War, part of the Panoply Vase Ani­ma­tion Project.

Some series, such as the Aster­ix movies and Aesop and Sona sta­ple of The Rocky and Bull­win­kle Show from 1959 to 1962have been the gate­ways through which many his­to­ry lovers’ curios­i­ty was first roused.

(Russ­ian ani­ma­tor Ana­toly Petrov’s erot­ic shorts for Soyuz­mult­film may rouse oth­er, er, curiosi­ties, and are def­i­nite­ly NSFW.)

And then there are instant clas­sics like 2004’s It’s All Greek to Scoo­by in which “Shag­gy’s pur­chase of a mys­te­ri­ous amulet only serves to cause a pes­ter­ing archae­ol­o­gist and cen­taur to chase him.”  (Ye gods…)

Senior Lec­tur­er of Clas­si­cal and Mediter­ranean Stud­ies at Van­der­bilt, Chiara Sul­prizio, has col­lect­ed all of these and more on her blog, Ani­mat­ed Antiq­ui­ty.

Begin­ning with the 2‑minute frag­ment that’s all we have left of Win­sor McCay’s 1921 The Cen­taurs, Sul­prizio shares some of her favorite car­toon rep­re­sen­ta­tions of ancient Greece, Rome, and beyond. Her areas of pro­fes­sion­al spe­cial­iza­tiongen­der and sex­u­al­i­ty, Greek com­e­dy, and Roman satireare well suit­ed to her cho­sen hob­by, and her com­men­tary dou­bles down on his­tor­i­cal con­text to include the his­to­ry of ani­ma­tion.

The appear­ance of car­toon stars like Daffy Duck, Tom and Jer­ry, and Pop­eye fur­ther demon­strates this antique sub­ject matter’s stur­di­ness. TED-Ed and the BBC may view the genre as an excel­lent teach­ing tool, but there’s noth­ing stop­ping the ani­ma­tor from shoe­horn­ing some fab­ri­ca­tions in amongst the bux­om nymphs and buff glad­i­a­tors.

(Raise your hand if your moth­er ever sac­ri­ficed you on the altar to Spinachia, god­dess of spinach, in hopes that she might unleash a mush­room cloud of super-atom­ic pow­er in your puny bicep.)

You’ll find a num­ber of entries fea­tur­ing the work of Japan­ese and Russ­ian ani­ma­tors, includ­ing Ther­mae Romae, part of the jug­ger­naut that’s sprung from Mari Yamazaki’s pop­u­lar graph­ic nov­el series and Icarus and the Wise Men from the leg­endary Fyo­dor Khitruk, whose retelling of the myth sent a mes­sage about free­dom from the Sovi­et Union, cir­ca 1976.

Begin your decade-by-decade explo­rations of Chiara Sulprizio’s ani­mat­ed antiq­ui­ties here or sug­gest that a miss­ing favorite be added to the col­lec­tion. (We vote for this one!)

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch Art on Ancient Greek Vas­es Come to Life with 21st Cen­tu­ry Ani­ma­tion

18 Clas­sic Myths Explained with Ani­ma­tion: Pandora’s Box, Sisy­phus & More

An Ani­mat­ed Recon­struc­tion of Ancient Rome: Take A 30-Minute Stroll Through the City’s Vir­tu­al­ly-Recre­at­ed Streets

25 Ani­ma­tions of Great Lit­er­ary Works: From Pla­to, Dos­to­evsky & Dick­in­son, to Kaf­ka, Hem­ing­way & Brad­bury

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Join her in New York City for the next install­ment of her book-based vari­ety show, Necro­mancers of the Pub­lic Domain, this April. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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