No Christmas would be the same without many a wasted hour spent buried in the couch wiped-out on a bellyful of turkey and stuffing, or nursing a hangover after a Herculean nights mulled wine consumption flicking the channels in a dozy haze. It’s a Christmas tradition (although we can’t guarentee that it dates back as far as some other ancient seasonal rituals)
This year you can spare yourself all those awful festive films and Christmas music videos youve seen a million times, by keeping Heritage Keys handy guide to ancient world-themed Christmas TV close at hand.
All the old-school three-hours plus historical epics are being dusted down again for the season of good will among them many of the biggest ancient world blockbusters of all time as well as a raft of comedy and family-orientated ancient world-related movies, and even a few interesting-sounding documentaries.
Our listings are UK-centric, but we’re pretty sure international readers will be able to track down plenty of the below highlights in their countries too seasonal staples many of them no matter where you come from.
We Wish You an Epic Christmas: Ancient World Screen Classics
Christmas TV Viewing Schedule:
Mon Dec 21
12.05pm The Ten Commandments (Channel 4)
Tue Dec 22
10pm Sex in the Ancient World (History)
11.30am and 9pm Ben Hur (Sky Movies Classics)
8.35am The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (Sky Action/Thriller)
11.15am and 9pm Spartacus (Sky Movies Classics)
7pm Herod: Behind the Myth (History, Christmas Day)
10.10pm Indiana Jones and The Raiders of the Lost Ark (Sky Movies Modern Greats)
11.15pm Gladiator (ITV1)
2.05am One Million Years BC (ITV1)
9pm Decoded: Dan Browns Lost Symbol (Channel 4)
10pm The Real Da Vinci Code (Channel 4)
10.05pm Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom (Sky Movies Modern Greats)
Sun Dec 27
8pm 2012: The Final Prophecy (National Geographic)
10.10pm Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade (Sky Movies Modern Greats)
11pm Rome: Rise and Fall of an Empire (History)
Mon Dec 28
8pm Man on Earth (Channel 4)
12.35pm Carry on Cleo (ITV1)
Tue Dec 29
2pm Jason and the Argonauts (Channel 5)
Wed Dec 30
9pm The Turin Shroud: The New Evidence (Channel 4)
9pm Troy (Watch)
New Year’s Eve
6.45pm Meet the Spartans (Sky Movies Comedy)
9.05pm Lara Croft, Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (Watch)
New Years Day
8pm Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (Sky Movies Screen)
Im Spartacus. No, Im Spartacus. No you’re mistaken Im Spartacus, etc. So goes the suicidally heroic banter, roughly speaking, in the iconic climactic scene of Stanley Kubricks all-time great (Sky Movies Classics, Christmas Day, 11.15am and 9pm), as Kirk Douglass band of rebellious slaves all get a bit schizophrenic after defying an emperor.
If its greased-up warrior chaps, going at it mano-a-mano in mortal combat youre after, then youd best not miss Gladiator (ITV1, Christmas Day, 11.15pm) either a modern classic which sees Romes toughest general Maximus battle to avenge the death of his family, who have been slaughtered at the order of bonkers Emperor Commodus (one of our TopTen Roman Emperors in the Movies). Warning: contains Russell Crowe (in small pants).
Well give Troy (Watch, Wed Dec 30, 9pm) a nod as well, another decent contemporary swordsnsandals affair, featuring Brad Pitt, Eric Bana and Orlando Bloom. One of the most famous scenes in Hollywood history crowns Ben Hur (Sky Movies Classics, Christmas Eve, 11.30am and 9pm), which sees Charlton Heston star as a Jewish nobleman sentenced to slavery returning to exact his revenge in a spectacular chariot race.
Jason and the Argonauts (Channel 5, Tue Dec 29, 2pm) is a Greek mythology-based fantasy from 1963, featuring all kinds of cool but extremely creepy stop-motion Hydras, Harpies and skeleton warriors, created by special effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen. If you happen to have four hours spare, check out Biblical epic The Ten Commandments(Channel 4, Mon Dec 21, 12.05pm) too. Theres a mince pie in it for anyone who manages to stay awake the whole way through.
Video: Spartacus Theatrical Trailer:
Family, Funny and not-so Family Flicks
Do you like Indiana Jones? Do you really like Indiana Jones? Good in that case you can catch all four of the unorthodox archaeologists movie adventures to date over the holidays: Raiders of the Lost Ark (Sky Movies Modern Greats, Christmas Day, 10.10pm), The Temple of Doom (Sky Movies Modern Greats, Boxing Day, 10.05pm), The Last Crusade (Sky Movies Modern Greats, Sun Dec 27, 10.10pm) and even the new one Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (Sky Movies Screen 1, New Years Day, 8pm) although its a bit pants so wed advise just taping Raiders and watching it again.
Elsewhere in family Christmas TV-land, Indys female equivalent gets her big, um, guns out in Lara Croft, Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (Watch, Hogmanay, 9.05pm), and theres yet more archaeological action Dr Hawass definitely wouldnt approve of going on in The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (Sky Action/Thriller, Christmas Day, 8.35am).
Zack Snyders gore-fest 300 gets smuttily-spoofed in Meet the Spartans (Sky Movies Comedy, Hogmanay, 6.45pm). For an even bigger laugh and bear in mind that this one isnt even meant to be a comedy check out John Wayne in one of his lesser-known roles as Genghis Khan in The Conqueror (Sky Movies Classics, Wed Dec 22, 7pm).
For a bawdy, camp giggle British-style, try Carry on Cleo (ITV1, Mon Dec 28, 12.35pm), or (dont worry, this ones on well after the kids have gone to bed) One Million Years BC (ITV1, Christmas Day, 2.05am) which stars iconic 70s lovely Raquel Welsh prancing about in prehistoric times with nothing but an animal skin covering her modesty, pretty much for that reason only. Ooh-er.
The Ancient World Unwrapped: Historical Documentaries
On the subject of ancient world naughtiness, find out all about the worlds first lads-mags in Sex in the Ancient World (History, Tue Dec 22, 10pm). Dont worry: its a documentary so you can chalk it up as research. Besides, youd best make the most of your Christmas, since if the ancient Mayans of South America are to be believed, youve only got two of them left before the world ends. 2012: The Final Prophecy (National Geographic, Sun Dec 27, 8pm) investigates the truth behind the outlandish theory that the world will fall to bits in two years, which as youll spot from the comments on this blog gets certain souls very excited indeed.
A collapsing world is incidentally the theme of Rome: Rise and Fall of and Empire (History, Sun Dec 27, 11pm), which looks at the first and last days of the civilization that brought you straight roads, a weird numbers system and throwing Christians to lions. Also straight-outta Rome, but from the days before things went a bit pear-shaped, comes Herod: Behind the Myth (History, Christmas Day, 7pm) a look at the remarkable engineering feats of a notorious king.
Tony Robinson examines ancient civilizations that took on climate-change and won including the Hauri of Peru, forefathers of the Inca in Man on Earth (Channel 4, Mon Dec 28, 8pm). Find out whether anyone knows what the circumpunct is when the Time Team man also takes the facts behind Dan Browns controversial best-seller to task on Boxing Day evening on Channel 4, in Decoded: Dan Browns Lost Symbol (Channel 4, Boxing Day, 9pm), followed immediately by The Real Da Vinci Code an hour later.
Another religious hoax may or may not be exposed in The Turin Shroud: The New Evidence (Channel 4, Wed Dec 30, 8pm), which sees Dr Raymond Rogers have a root around for the truth behind the famous relic written-off as a fake by some supposedly linked to Jesus Christ, whose birthday is fast-approaching.
A merry seasons viewing to one and all! To get your and yours really in the mood for some ancient viewing, you could try these recipes for the perfect Christmas dinner (ancient style). Oh, and if you’re still on the hunt for last-minute gifts, for youngsters here’s a few recommended toys, and for adults some great books. All of them of a you guessed it archaeological or ancient world theme.