Some of Dr Sillett's reactions to Bromans

Retweeting the Romans

Matt Pickles

As an expert on the literature of the Roman Republic and an avid viewer of the recent ITV show Love Island, Oxford classicist Dr Andrew Sillett was always going to try watching Bromans.

The new ITV programme is billed as a “gladiator reality show” which claims to send “eight modern-day lads back in time to see if they can cope with living and fighting like Roman gladiators”.

As he settled down to watch the first episode last week, Dr Sillett tweeted his reactions.

His tweets went viral – they were retweeted by dozens of other users and media outlets.

At the end of the show, he concluded: "10/10 will watch again."

“The interest my tweeting generated came as something of a surprise,” he tells Arts Blog.

“In all honesty, I didn't come to Bromans from an academic angle, it just followed on naturally from a summer spent in the company of Love Island. “All the responses I've received have been very friendly and supportive (which is hardly to be taken for granted on Twitter...).”

Andrew is evangelical about the importance of public engagement with a wide audience.

“I came to Classics from a bit of a standing start myself, as my school didn't offer Latin, Greek, Classical Civilisation or anything like that,” he says.

“Not that it was anything like Bromans that caught my interest ten years ago, that was a talk from Brasenose's Llewelyn Morgan (who bears only a passing reference to the gladiators of Bromans).

“Nonetheless I think it's undoubtedly important to be aware of what sort of contact the majority of people have with your subject.”

It is unlikely that many viewers of Bromans assumed it was a realistic depiction of Rome - but Dr Sillett says it did capture certain aspects of life in the Republic.

“In the run-up to Bromans airing I encountered a lot of snootiness in relation to the show's vulgarity, but I think that rather misses the point,” he says.

“Rome wasn't all marble, rhetoric and epic poetry, it had a popular culture of its own that was coarse, sweaty and physical.

“I think Bromans captures that as well as, say Ridley Scott's Gladiator; there's plenty ITV2 can teach us.”

Dr Sillett is a lecturer in the Faculty of Classics, specialising in the literature of the late Roman Republic and early Empire.

You can read more of his thoughts on Bromans here, and follow him on Twitter here.