Thursday, December 01, 2005


My wife and I watched the first season of HBO's Rome. At first my wife, ever the wimp that she is, couldn't stand the graphic violence, and the overt sexuality of the society that existed in the first century BC. But as the season progressed, we both became fascinated by the complex story line that entwined itself around the actual events leading to the death of Julius Caesar, and the fictional characters Pullo and Vorenus, who always manage to be at the right place at the right time, and are silently instrumental in all major historical developments.

Pullo is an overlarge teddy bear, a little dopey, but loyal to a fault. Vorenus is a stoic man who lives by a strict code of ethics, for which he is willing to die for. He loves his wife dearly, but he can't escape the trap of his societal programming that dictates the place of a woman in a relationship. Vorenus is deeply conflicted, and faces several moral dilemmas throughout the series that pit his sense of duty to that of friendship and love. Pullo is a much simpler man, who often is a victim to his own impetuousness. He lives only to fight and have sex, and to protect his friend Vorenus, even if Vorenus doesn't appreciate him.

Both Pullo and Vorenus are soldiers, and fortune always puts them in the critical midst of the fray, which captures the attention of Julius Caesar, who takes a liking to Vorenus and promotes him eventually to Senator.

There is so much more to it. HBO attracts the best of the best. The actors are outstanding, and the casting is perfect. The actors that portray Julius Caesar, Vorenus, Pullo, Marc Antony, Octavian, Brutus and Cicero are spot on. All the others too for that matter, but these are the key players, and they are simply amazing. The season ends with the death of Caesar, but the actual history of the fall of Rome promises another season that is rife with possibilities. We will see the rise of Marc Antony, and the subsequent war with the young Octavian, who is only sixteen this season, but is played by a brilliant young man who bears the mantel of authority convincingly.

If you saw this series, then you know what I'm talking about. If not, then look for the DVD collection soon; put it on your Netflix queue. I followed a link by Hugh Hewitt once (settle down my liberal friends) to a history of the Roman Revolution that starts with the career of Tiberius Gracchus to Octavian/Augustus, and I highly recommend that everyone read it. It's easy to follow, and easy to leave and come back to. I read the whole thing, amazingly enough, well before I saw the Rome series. When I revisited the history again, just today as a matter of fact, I was amazed at how closely the events of the Rome series followed the historical facts. Plus, with that viewing experience behind me, I was riveted by the read, especially the part concerning what happens after Caesar, and how Octavian becomes the first emperor of Rome, and holds the GNP of Egypt in his personal fortune.

Check it out here.


jenbeauty said...

So glad you wrote about this! Very good review.

The reason hubby and I got HBO this fall was so I could watch this series. I was hooked from the beginning. I always regretted not learning or taking more classes regarding Roman/Greek history. Since college I have tried to, unsuccessfully, follow up.

My favorite characters are Octavian and Vorenus. I thought all the actors were amazing. It did take some time to get used to the violence and explicit sex but we enjoyed the complexity of the whole drama.

Scott said...

I love those characters too, although I have a soft spot for Pullo. Follow the link I put at the bottom of the post and read about Julius Caesar. You will recognize quite a bit from the series if you follow through. It seems that he really was a fair and benevolent leader, and fairly depicted.

Sadie Lou said...

This show sounds worth putting on my que for Netflix. Right now, I have all the "house" episodes from PBS. You know, Frontier House, Colonial House, etc. Ever see those? They are great for the kids; really clean, informative realty-type program.

Scott said...

Sadie - No, I haven't even heard of those. Good for kids you say? I'll have to check it out.

mr. schprock said...

Man, this really makes me wish I had HBO. Another good read is "I, Cladius" and "Cladius the God" by Robert Graves. The story starts at the time of Julius Caesar. The BBC made a miniseries of it about million years ago starring Derek Jacoby that was very good.

Sadie Lou said...

Yeah. The show takes willing families and makes them live as though they were in a different time period for like a couple months or something. Frontier House was awesome. I want to watch it again. There were these spoiled teenage girls that eventually came to love the hardships of that era--when they got home, they confessed they were bored.

Moni said...

Thanks for the review. I would like to see it, but sadly I only have basic cable.

Ha! I'm off to watch Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends with my daughter. Uhhhggh...***keeps repeating to herself*** ***"It's quality's quality time."

The Zombieslayer said...

I'm totally there! Love to read about all things Roman.

Now, they had good lives, up until Rome fell. The technologies they had were so close to what we have today. Our cement to this day still isn't as good as theirs.

Plus, HBO does put out some good stuff. Nice review.

Ultra Toast Mosha God said...

I have heard many good things about this series. It's a joint project between HBO and the BBC i think.

You can't beat the Life of Brian though...

Scott said...

Mr Schprock - If you follow the link to the Roman History I gave, there is a section on Caesar's funeral where Antony reads a Eulogy written by none other the Shakespeare. I thought that was interesting. Thanks for the book suggestions. I saw something called I Claudius, and it was hard to stomach. That guy was insane.

Sadie - That sounds incredible. I will definitely check it out. I have always wanted to try out those kinds of situations. Apparently there is a town in Mass (Stoughton?) that is as it was a 150 years ago, no electricity, no cars, etc. The fam and I are going there soon.

Moni - HBO is setting the standard high for television series. If you can possibly get it, it's worth it just for that.

Zombie - Yeah, and I heard that they had a working steam engine too, but couldn't envision a practical use for it. Can you imagine what an impact that would have had in supplying their armies on the borders of the barbarian invaders?

Toaster - I didn't know about the collaboration with BBC. The Life of Brian? I haven't seen that in years. The thing about Monte Python humor is that it starts to grate. My college buddies and I were always quoting it though.

jenbeauty said...

I, Claudis is wonderful. I love this dialog.

Yes HBO and the BBC was the joint venture for this series. I didn't realize they were going to tap into another season. I am very excited at that prospect.

I will have to take a look at your link Scott. Over the years I have read various things regarding the Roman Empire. Ceasar is not my favorite but I like that part of history.

Shesawriter said...

I have to admit I *tried* to watch Rome but my attention kept drifting. I don't know why. It wasn't the graphic violence. Visually speaking, the series was beautiful. I still can't figure out why I didn't connect with it.


Eve said...

As a history major this is my least favorite time period - so shoot me LOL. But the show does sound interesting so maybe I'll look it up.

mr. schprock said...

" I saw something called I Claudius, and it was hard to stomach. That guy was insane."

Could that have been "Caligula" instead?

Scott said...

Jen - Yeah, check it out. It's very interesting.

Tanya - Well, it can't be for everybody now, can it? It does get better as the season progresses, when you get to know the characters better.

Eve - You won't regret it...

Mr Schprock - Ok, I'm feeling a little stupid right now. Yes, it was Caligula. In particular I'm thinking about the spear scene.

The Zombieslayer said...

I heard that they had a working steam engine too, but couldn't envision a practical use for it.

I'm not at all surprised.