From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Salammbô (1862) is an historical novel by Gustave Flaubert, which interweaves historical and fictional characters. The action takes place immediately before and during the Mercenary Revolt against Carthage in the third century BC. Flaubert's main source was Book I of Polybius's Histories. It was not a particularly well-studied period of history and required a great deal of work from the author, who enthusiastically left behind the dreary subject-matter of Madame Bovary for this lurid tale of blood-and-thunder.
The book, which Flaubert researched painstakingly, is largely an exercise in sensuous and violent exoticism. Following the success of Madame Bovary, it was another best-seller and sealed his reputation. The Carthaginian costumes described therein even left traces on the fashions of the time. Nevertheless, in spite of its classic status in France, it is practically unknown today among English-speakers.
In the novel ancient Carthage in North Africa is used as a foil to ancient Rome. Its culture is portrayed as morally corrupting and suffused with dangerously alluring eroticism. This novel proved hugely influential on later portrayals of ancient Semitic cultures.
- Salammbô, a silent film by Pierre Marodon, with music by Florent Schmitt
- Salammbô, a peplum (or sword and sandal film) by Sergio Grieco (1962)
- Salammbo was also very freely adapted for the Italian silent movie classic Cabiria in 1914, which was the first of many films to star the recurring character Maciste.