Trying to portray ancient, non-Christian cultures on screen in this far more tight-laced (despite all the rantings about too much sex and violence) cultural environment of contemporary television is fraught with difficulties for producers aiming for accuracy rather than pandering towards modern prejudices. Let's look at two offerings currently on a TV screen near you.
Spartacus: Gods of the Arena is the prequel to Spartacus: Blood and Sand, which screened last year. Much has been made - nay, it is even the crux of its marketing appeal - about the amount of blood-soaked violence and sweaty sex featured. And it is true that the portrayal of blood, in all that slow motioned slicing, stabbing, carving and flaying of the unfortunate humans on the receiving end, is high on the fetish scale. To defend yourself or kill your opponent in Roman times you needed to be prepared to get your hands bloody (and it teaches all those modern gun-nuts how real men used to do it without access to 2nd Amendment firearms), have enough strength, moral inclination and willpower to drive that steel into another human body, and be ready to deal with the splattering and gurgling consequences. And that's what we viewers have to deal with too: the sight and sounds of an arc of blood flying slo-mo through the air, a standard image sequence in each episode, has all the qualities of a moneyshot. And that is my main criticism with Spartacus: I wish there be as much attention paid to visual and aural detail in the sex scenes as there is in the gore. The sex is portrayed as coy: genitals are barely glimpsed (certainly no hard-ons), the writhing only worthy of a standard soft porn movie, the throes of passion look choreographed and determined by lighting directors and makeup artists - you need to almost put it on fast forward to get some earthy grunt and sweaty action.
In all, if you're going to make a bodily fluid film can we please have less blood and more semen?
Even in a non-fictional portrayal of classical culture, like the documentary series The Ancient Greek Olympics, currently on The History Channel, the narrator had to 'apologise' the production was unable to actually show historical reality (i.e. male athletes always exercised and competed nude) due to our 'Christian' (un-modern) sensibilities about the naked body on screen. Even in our so-called secular times it is still not permitted to show the ancient (and irrepressible) glorification of the nude male body on television and it proves that we are still living in a form of dark ages and have a long road ahead toward enlightenment. It was no surprise the church fathers banned the Olympics - still, it took them four centuries into the Christian era before they succeeded - but we will never be a true post-religious society unless the ancient Olympics can be restored, and, in the meantime, portrayed accurately on TV.