The Depictions Of Ancient Egypt In Popular Media
The ancient Romans, Greeks, Mayans, Egyptians and other cultures are otherworldly to us, because the Dark Ages (roughly) separate us from these fascinating and surprisingly advanced civilizations. We spent the early modern period up to the Renaissance catching up to many of the advances that were made thousands of years ago, like cement, accurate drawing, and astronomy. Of course, many things in the ancient world were less advanced than they were during the Renaissance and certainly in modern times, but the draw of ancient cultures continues to be strong. However, no ancient culture draws in audiences more than ancient Egypt.
Why is ancient Egypt so popular?
The modern interest in Ancient Egypt stems from the 19th Century and the beginning of the 20th Century when Egyptology became all the rage. Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt in 1798 led to the spreading of numerous ancient Egyptian source materials around Europe, sparking the interest of many. Various archaeological digs took place in the early 20th Century but it was the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922 that set off a wave of interest, dubbed ‘Tut-mania‘ at the time.
Ancient Egypt in film
The earliest film that used the setting of ancient Egypt was Anthony and Cleopatra. Released in 1908 and based on Shakespeare’s play of the same name, it had a running time of 10 minutes. The 1932 film The Mummy, starring Boris Karloff as titular villain Imhotep, is set in the 1920s and 30s so it was both produced and set in the Tut-mania period. Though the story was made up and even the ancient Egyptians did not believe in the reanimation of mummies, some plot points were based on historical events. Imhotep was not a real person but his manner of death, being buried alive, was used as a punishment for the would-be assassins of Pharaoh Ramesses III.
The film was a success, but it was the only ‘Mummy’ film that would be until 1999. There were nine more ‘Mummy’ films that were part of various series, none of which did well at the box office. The 1999 remake of the original 1932 film was the one to break the curse. Starring Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz it was a rip-roaring action-adventure film that made $415.9 million from an $80 million budget and spawned two sequels.
The curse returned with the second of the sequels, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, which fared poorly with critics and was the lowest grossing film in the series. The series was rebooted in 2017, with Tom Cruise at the helm but that was also received poorly.
Ancient Egypt in video games
Ancient Egypt has been an especially popular setting for video games over the years. The majesty of the pyramids and sphinxes, the mystery of the mummies and the stark aesthetics of the desert are well-suited to adventure games. Ancient Egypt is also a popular setting for online casino games. Many games use the setting to provide a fun new context for gaming and it also features on some of the online casino sites. For that ancient Egyptian setting for your casino games, try the promotions on Stakers. Ancient Egypt has also been used as a setting in many strategy games, from the long-running Civilization series to Age of Mythology.
The Tomb Raider series took four games to get to Egypt but, finally in Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation, you could take Lara Croft through ancient pyramid tunnels, dodging traps and fighting actual mummies. It wasn’t exactly a realistic portrayal of ancient Egypt, but it demonstrates the typical representation of ancient Egypt in video games.
More recently, Assassins Creed: Origins took the series to ancient Egypt. It recreates entire areas of Egypt with impressive graphical fidelity, allowing you to run around and fight all through ancient towns and even on the pyramids. While there are more mystical parts where you fight gods, Origins does a good job of showing more of the realities of life as it was for many ordinary people – you can see people fishing in the Nile and farmers using irrigation systems to make use of the water from the river.
The portrayals of ancient Egypt have varied enormously over the history of both cinema and video games. It is clearly a setting which continues to capture the imaginations of audiences.
Occasional writer and fan of video games and scifi TV shows!