Entertainment over historical accuracy

Exodus: Gods and Kings

Photo credit: Twentieth Century Fox

Photo credit: Twentieth Century Fox

I watched the movie back in December 2014 when it was released here in Australia. I wanted to see it not for its historical content but for its visual depiction of Ancient Egypt. We are fortunate to live during a time where computer technology and continued archaeological discoveries can be used together to re-create these periods. As a writer of historical fiction/fantasy, I am very grateful for the advancements.

Like all mythology, the story of the exodus and Moses has a basis in some fact, and not meant be taken literally. [Read: “Does Exodus: Gods and Kings deserve to be banned for historical inaccuracy?”] Like ancient stories, it was a moralistic tale, one of caution and retribution. The Ancient Egyptians were exemplary record keepers and there was no hint or comment on such an event. Of course, the pharaohs amended written evidence to suit their propaganda; we just have to look to Ramesses II and his victory over the Hittites which we know didn’t happen the way he viewed it. The fact is the truth is quite different.

Egyptian pharaoh Ramesses II storming the Hittite fortress of Dapur https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hittites

Egyptian pharaoh Ramesses II storming the Hittite fortress of Dapur
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hittites

There is no evidence to suggest the exodus happened. Israeli archaeologists surveyed the area of Sinai during the period 1967 to 1982 and found nothing. Historians also note it wasn’t Ramesses II who expelled the Jews from Egypt. There seems to be new theories that Amenhotep II was the pharaoh of the time that correlates with the exodus. There has also been other suggestions that point to when the volcano erupted on Thera/Santorini during the 1300 BCE, there was at the time in Egypt an incursion involving the Hyskos, a military race. Evidence of this war is written on the walls at Karnak and proof of an “exodus” of the Hyskos people (not the Jews) from the east due to the natural disaster.

As to the movie, the visual effects are stunning and it brings to life Ancient Egypt during the reign of Ramesses II. I was surprised to see one of the classifications of the movie by IMBD as a biography. We know Ramesses existed, yet the events of this story are not accurate. The movie was entertaining, and if not over the top with it some of the acting. I thought Christian Bale was wooden and the supporting cast a little trite. Good movie for a Sunday afternoon where you can switch off for a while.

Did anyone else watch the movie? What did you think of Ridley Scott’s version?

Thank you for visiting and reading. As always, your comments are valued and welcomed.

Historical fiction fantasist Luciana Cavallaro, a secondary teacher, meanders from contemporary life to delve into the realms of mythology. Subscribe to her FREE short story http://eepurl.com/bhESs1

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15 thoughts on “Entertainment over historical accuracy

  1. Good to see you back, Luc, after a short while, as you promised. I have not seen this movie, Exodus, which had hit multiplexes in Mumbai, but I missed it. It did not have a long run, or else I would have caught up with it. But I have worked in Egypt for a couple of years, based out of Alexandria. It is a fascinating place, specially for people interested in history. I have seen the pyramids of Gaza, cruised down the Nile and seen the Cairo museum, but could not make it to Mount Sinai, and few other spots. What I could observe from the heritage buildings and sculptures and pictures of Pharos, and the ancient people of Egypt is a striking similarity in features and architecture of Dravidian kingdoms in South India. I cannot call it India, because the nomenclature was non-existent; the geography was called Bharat Varsha, encompassing present India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, parts of South East Asia, and parts of Iran, Iraq and Turkey. Sanskrit and Tamil, two languages that existed in Bharat Varsha, are considered to be over 8000 years old, thus easily the world’s most ancient languages, tracing its origins to Lord Shiva himself. All other languages, Latin, Greek, Arabic, evolved much later. There are sites in present day South India whose antiquity is considered to be over 2100 million years. All these point to clear possibility of human migration from South India towards North of India, and therefrom flowing to various geographies outside extending to Africa, Greece, Egypt, Americas, and other parts of the planet. If one studies Sanskrit, its similarities can be seen vis-a-vis Latin, Greek, Arabic, Hebrew, Aramaic, Pali etc. Contrary to earlier theories, there is nothing like an Aryan influx into India from Central Europe. Aryans were original inhabitants of northern parts of India, and the migration, clearly, was in the opposite direction. Rig Veda is the world’s oldest scripture and sanatana dharma is the most ancient moral code and belief system. What one sees in all other religions and moral teachings are a reiteration of what is already there in Rig Veda. The more one digs in, the more that is visible is the true oneness and interconnectedness. Trust this clarifies the way forward…warm regards and best wishes your way…xxRaj.

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    • I did not realise how old both Sanskrit and Tamil languages were, though not surprise. You may be interested in a book I read: The Sacred History by Jonathan Black. It covers what you have written. A wonderful book, one that I will re-read.
      Thank you Raj for the awesome information xx

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      • Thanks, Luc, for suggested read. It is always an ordeal identifying authentic sources of information. Many of western historians present distorted versions of history, and same is lapped up by an unsuspecting audience, drawing wrong conclusions, and often going widely off the mark. One has to literally sift through data to get to the bottom of it all. We are living in an era of media phenomenon called ‘paid news’, where news is created to serve vested interests. Well, it is not a new phenomenon, as it existed even centuries ago, as evident from versions of history slanted for the clergy and institutionalised religions…ciao..,xxraj.

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      • It’s a shame really. The media like most companies are out to make money and the bigger the hype the better.
        The clergy were very good at amending texts to suit their purposes. Nothing has changed as you’ve state.
        ciao xx Luc

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  2. I don’t demand historical accuracy in novels or movies about the lives of ancients, because really it would be impossible. They would be about two seconds long if it covered only what we really knew about a particular person. I do, however, expect some token gesture toward accuracy in the details about time periods about which we DO know a fair amount. And we know a LOT about the 19th dynasty. Most of the details in Exodus: Gods and Kings were the equivalent of someone timing the chariot races in Ben-Hur with a stop watch.

    It almost seemed like they had an opportunity, they botched it. The hairstyles, coustumes, landscape, temples, and palaces were more often than not just wrong. To name a few others: Pyramids were already thousands of years old, not JUST being built. Ramses never proclaimed himself Ramses the Great . . . although he surely thought it:-). The film Ramses wore the crown of a Queen, not a pharoah. The list goes on and on and on. And don’t get me started about the God of Isaac and Abraham being a snarky ten year old boy.

    I also thought the movie just didn’t provide a very entertaining story. The character arcs were so flat they might as well have been concave. The traditional exodus story makes for a pretty good read or movie, but this version just bored me. Ramses and the Battle of Kadesh could have been a pretty exciting tale if told properly, too. I had been looking forward to this movie for months, but in the end I nearly walked out.

    FYI: Although the Tut mini-series had its own set of problems, I thought it was an order of magnitude better than Gods and Kings.

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    • I have to admit seeing the pyramids just been built did irk a little, given as you said how much is known of the 19th dynasty and of Ramesses. After that I sat back and took it as an entertainment. They should have put a disclaimer saying it was “loosely” based on fact. Would have been great to see the Battle of Kadesh re-created with respect. One day we can hope a visionary director will pay tribute to the past but still entertain with respect.
      Thank you for the wonderful comment, Michalea

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  3. I suspect any movie based on any individual’s life or an event at a moment of time is destined to be fictionalized, even if it deals with the recent past. “Argo” comes to mind as a good example of modern events being fictionalized. More than ever, we live in an age when so many people want “more” and “bigger” action and thrills in their entertainment. It’s a shame, really, when the real people and events should be interesting enough on their own. But if I was a stickler about sticking to facts, I don’t think I’d be seeing too many movies!

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    • Quite so! I do enjoy watching movies for the escapism. Perhaps the phrase “based on real” events should be re-worded “Loosely based on real events”. I don’t have a problem with fictionalisation of events but at least respect the when the pyramids were built!

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  4. I like the disclaimer before “The Prince of Egypt” (1998).

    “The motion picture you are about to see is an adaptation of the Exodus story.

    While artistic and historical license has been taken, we believe that this film is true to the essence, values, and integrity of a story that is a cornerstone of faith for millions of people worldwide.

    The biblical story of Moses can be found in the book of Exodus.”

    Let the world think what it wants, I suppose.

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    • Great example of another attempt to tell the Exodus story. I love the wording: true to the essence, values and integrity. Hmm… not so sure about that. It was a nice cartoon.
      Thank you!

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  5. Thanks for sharing this, Luciana. I’ve been wanting to see this movie for a while. I’m not turned off. I like Ridley Scott’s films, but more importantly I love anything set in the ancient world, even if it contains loads of inaccuracies. A long time ago, the historian in me made a deal with my storyteller side – they both agreed that story had to take precedence as much as possible, while still respecting some of the history. When it comes to movies (and books for that matter) I think it’s ok to stretch the truth and theorize. Movies like Exodus, Gladiator, Kingdom of Heaven, Robin Hood (all Ridley Scott movies!) may make the academic community cringe, but I think they are important in that they make the history, or the periods of history, more accessible and interesting to the average person.
    Loads of people start reading about those periods after they see those movies, and then learn more and more about the true history. These movies funnel people into the history, and that can only be a good thing. Why not! Was Gladiator completely accurate? No. Did enrolment in Classics courses at universities shoot up after that move came out? Yes!
    I say, give us more of these movies. Let history entertain us, and expose a whole new generation of people to the past. Cheers 🙂

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    • I can imagine as a historian it must have been difficult to come to reconcile these embellishments. As a amateur history buff, I can appreciate how it must irk. Like you, as a storyteller, you need to concede certain facts to make an entertaining story.
      I agree, if it leads people to be more interested in ancient history and want to read, then let’s hope more movies are made 😀
      Thanks Adam for your wonderful comment.

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