Cabiria is a film directed by Giovanni Pastrone , released in 1914 . It is one of the first peplum in the history of cinema, it will impress David Griffith .

It is a major work of the history of cinema 1 , characterized by the scale of its scenery, and it is the first feature film to use the traveling 2 .


During the Second Punic War , a spy assisted by Maciste (of which this is the first appearance) infiltrates Carthage 3 .


The little Cabiria is missing with her nanny, after the eruption of a volcano. Abducted by pirates, the girl is sold on the slave market in Carthage. It is bought by the high priest Karthalo, who wants to sacrifice it to the god Moloch. Thanks to the intervention of Maciste and Romain Fulvio, who infiltrated the city, Cabiria is saved from the temple. Maciste then gives the child to Sophonisba, the daughter of Carthaginian general Hasdrubal.

First episode

Batto and his little daughter Cabiria live in a beautiful house in the shadow of Etna in Catania on the island of Sicily. Cabiria, plays with dolls with her nanny Croessa. When Etna erupts, Batto begs the god Pluto to save them, but his house and gardens are destroyed in the disaster. While trying to escape, the servants discover a secret passage. Taking advantage of the chaos, they loot the hidden treasure of Batto, before fleeing. In the storm, Croessa and Cabiria are left with the group of fugitives. Later, Batto and his wife mourn the loss of Cabiria, as they believe she died buried under the rubble.

Second episode

The fugitive servants share the spoils (Croessa gets a ring). However, while they are on the beach, they are surprised by Phoenician pirates. They bring Croessa and Cabiria back to Carthage where the little girl is sold to Karthalo, the High Priest. He intends to sacrifice it to the great god Moloch. In Carthage are also two Roman spies: Fulvius Axilla, a Roman patrician and Maciste, his slave with imposing musculature. Innkeeper Bodastoret greets Fulvius and Maciste in his Striped Monkey tavern. Croessa tries to prevent Cabiria’s sacrifice by pretending that the child is sick, but she is punished by the Carthaginians. Later, having managed to escape, she meets Fulvius and Maciste by chance. Recognizing them as compatriots, she begs them for help save Cabiria. To convince them, she shows them the ring of the treasure of Batto.

The entrance to the huge temple of Moloch is a gigantic three-eyed head, with its mouth as a portal. A hundred young children are offered by the inhabitants as offerings to the god. The devotees are gathered before the colossal statue of the winged god, whose torso is actually a fiery furnace, where the victims are precipitated. Croessa, Fulvius and Maciste manage to sneak into the temple and manage to remove Cabiria from the priest before she is sacrificed. Pursued by the frenetic crowd, they are forced to take refuge on the roof of the temple, before finding refuge at the Bodastoret inn. Croessa perishes, however, killed by the pursuers.

Third episode

Meanwhile, Hannibal and his troops make their way through the snowy peaks of the Alps, towards Rome. Soldiers, mercenaries, elephants and other animals pass through a hostile environment as well as they can. After learning these events at the inn, Fulvius decided to return immediately to Rome.

At the same time, the Numidian prince Massinissa is visiting Carthage. General Hasdrubal, Hannibal’s brother, promises him the hand of his daughter, the beautiful Sophonisba. In a large courtroom with two huge elephantine columns, Massinissa discreetly sends a gift to Sophonisba’s attention.

Bodastoretto, the innkeeper, sneaks into the temple of Moloch and in exchange for a reward, betrays his Roman hosts. Fulvius, Maciste and Cabiria then fall into an ambush by the priest’s henchmen. They are then forced to flee. Fulvius throws himself into the sea to sow his assailants, while Maciste and Cabiria, the henchmen on their heels, find refuge in the cedar garden of Hasdrubal, interrupting the secret rendezvous of Massinissa and Sophonisba. Maciste implores the couple to save Cabiria. In the midst of chaos, Sophonisba, Cabiria and a servant fled into the palace, while Massinissa made a diversion with the priest’s henchmen. However, Maciste is captured, tortured, and chained to a large millstone.

Fourth episode

The Roman fleet besieges Syracuse, a Greek city allied to Carthage. Fulvius, who joined the army, now participates in the fighting. The Roman galleys must nevertheless face an original weapon, developed by the scientist Archimedes: a set of giant mirrors, reflecting the sunlight, set fire to the sails of the ships of the Roman fleet.

Fulvius, still wearing the ring that Croessa had given him, is drifting, before running aground on a beach. Men, seeing him unconscious, try to steal the ring from him, before one of them recognizes the emblem of Batto’s house. Fulvius is then taken back to his house. The parents are happy to hear that Cabiria is still alive, although Fulvius can not certify that she is still alive. He nevertheless promised Batto to find her if he returned to Carthage one day.

Fifth episode

An intertitle tells us that Syphax, king numid rival of Massinissa, defeated the latter by forcing him to take refuge in the desert, before seizing the capital of Cirta. Hasdrubal, wishing to attract the alliance of the sovereign against Rome, gives him the hand of Sophonisba. At the engagement ceremony, the young woman can not hide her despair.

Massinissa on his side, forged an alliance with the Roman general and consul Scipio, who landed in Africa with his legions. They charge Fulvius to sneak up to Carthage, to observe the defenses of the city. Thanks to the deployment of an impressive human pyramid, Fulvius manages to observe beyond the city walls.

Hasdrubal sends the High Priest Karthalo to his daughter Sophonisba, instructing him to persuade Syphax to attack the Romans directly. The Karthalo convoy then crossed a vast desert and mountainous region to reach the Numidian kingdom. Meanwhile, Fulvius, who has entered the enclosure of Carthage, undertakes to search Maciste and Cabiria-prisoners now for ten years. He manages to extract information from Bodastoret. Fulvius, disguised as a freedman, then finds Maciste, still chained to his millstone. The latter, happy to find his master, manages to free himself. Back at the inn, Bodastoret dies in shock at finding himself face to face with Maciste. The two Romans manage to flee from Carthage.

In the city of Cirta, in front of a palace with two huge columns of felines, Syphax presents Sophonisba as his queen. Karthalo, who is present, notices the presence of a beautiful slave named “Elissa”.

In the midst of clashes between Romans and Carthaginians, Fulvius and Maciste find themselves in a desperate situation, exhausted and thirsty in the desert. Maciste sees a fire in the distance. This is the Syphax camp, which was set on fire by Scipio and Massinissa. Fulvius and Maciste are then captured by Syphax’s army routed.

The two men find themselves locked in a cell in the city of Cirta, along with other prisoners. “Elissa” (who is actually Cabiria, become a servant of Sophonisba), takes pity on Fulvius and Maciste, and brings them water. She does not recognize the two men.

Soon, Cirta is besieged by Massinissa’s forces. The city is defended by its occupants, who manage to repel the enemy.

Within the walls of the palace, Sophonisba has a nightmare, where she dreams of the god Moloch. Frightened, she interprets her dream as an omen that Cabiria / Elissa drew misery on Carthage. The queen then confesses to the priest Karthalo what happened in the cedar garden so many years ago, when she took the girl and made her his maid.

Maciste, who has forced the iron bars of his prison with his strength, is determined to take revenge on Karthalo. He burst through a window just in time to save Elissa-whom he recognized as Cabiria-from the priest’s hands. Fulvius joins him in the fray, but in chaos, they lose Cabiria and are forced to barricade themselves in a palace warehouse. Fulvius is dismayed to learn that the girl he had just seen was none other than Cabiria.

Just in front of the walls of Cirta, is held a frightful spectacle: King Syphax, chained, mocked by his rival Massinissa, is shown to the inhabitants of the city. Panicking at the sight of his fallen king, the city opens its doors to Massinissa and the Romans. In the great hall of the palace, Sophonisba, abandoning his pride, throws himself at the feet of Massinissa. Always in love with the young woman, the winner immediately marries her and promises her not to deliver her to the Romans.

Massinissa, aware of the presence of Fulvius and Maciste in the palace, decides to leave them alive, having learned the exploits of the two heroes. Sophonisba says that the guards killed Cabiria.

Scipio and his lieutenant Lelius arrive at the Roman camp near Cirta. Lelius, whose forces preceded Scipio, announces the change of Massinissa to Sophonisba. In the beginning, Massinissa defies Scipion arrogantly, before finally begging him to spare Sophonisbe the humiliation of being exhibited as a slave in Rome. Nevertheless, Scipion does not yield to his ally.

In desperation, Massinissa persuades Fulvius to lend him the help of his slave Maciste. The latter receives a bracelet, in which is concealed a message, to Sophonisba. As she reads the message, the queen understands that she must poison herself with the powder contained in the hollow of the jewel. With courage, surrounded by her court, she drinks the deadly beverage. She removes one by one her ornaments and adornments, giving them to her servants. Fulvius, who got wind of the message and the poisoning of the queen, arrives too late. Sophonisba, writhing in pain, reveals that Cabiria is still alive and, as a repayment for the gift of death, the sacrifice will not be spared him a second time. Cabiria is delivered from her cell, and arrives in time to see the unfortunate queen expire.

Fulvius and Cabiria return to Rome. While Maciste plays the pan flute, Fulvius declares his love to Cabiria.

Technical sheet

  • Director and screenplay: Giovanni Pastrone
  • Original music: Ildebrando Pizzetti
  • Didascalies: Gabriele D’Annunzio
  • Operators: Segundo de Chomón , Giovanni Tomatis , Augusto Battagliotti, Natale Chiusano
  • Production company: Itala Film
  • Country of origin: Italy
  • Genre: Peplum
  • Duration: 180 minutes
  • Release dates:
    •  Italy :(first in Turin )
    •  United States :
    •  France :


  • Carolina Catena : Child Cabiria
  • Lidia Quaranta : Cabiria
  • Gina Marangoni : Croessa
  • Dante Testa : Karthalo, the high priest
  • Umberto Mozzato : Fulvio “Fulvius” Axilla
  • Bartolomeo Pagano : Maciste, slave of Axilla
  • Raffaele di Napoli : Bodastoret, the innkeeper
  • Emile Vardannes : Hannibal
  • Edoardo Davesnes : Hasdrubal
  • Italia Almirante Manzini : Sofonisba, daughter of Hasdrubal
  • Enrico Gemelli : Archimedes

Preparation of the film

The film was shot in the studio in Turin, but also in Tunisia and Sicily.

Notes and references

  1. ↑ ” Page devoted to Cabiria on Cine club of Caen ”  [ archive ]
  2. ↑  [ archive ] Cabiria (1914) by Giovanni Pastrone], Le, movie blog, January 28, 2012
  3. ↑ ” Cabiria ”  [ archive ] , on

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