In this British historical drama, the turbulent transition from Roman republic to autocratic empire, which changed world history through civil war and wars of conquest, is sketched both from the aristocratic viewpoint of Julius Caesar, his family, his adopted successor Octavian Augustus, and their political allies and adversaries, and from the politically naive viewpoint of a few ordinary Romans, notably the soldiers Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo and their families.
A down-to-earth account of the lives of both illustrious and ordinary Romans set in the last days of the Roman Republic.
If only for this reason alone, we should commend the makers for their bravery, to do so in this era of heightened Victorian values. Polly Walker, Lindsay Duncan, Zuleikha Robinson (Gaia), Lyndsey Marshal (Cleopatra), Kerry Condon (Octavia), Alice Henley (Livia, wife of) all have credible nude scenes, sometimes in underexposed long shots. I think the only one who doesn't have a nude scene is the Vorena the Younger!
According to the "Making of Rome", the actresses acknowledge that the different morals from these Victorian times, are quite a jump to make, including the integrated homosexuality, which was not 'accepted', but was a part of everyday life.
I don't think I have ever seen a mainstream TV show where ALL female characters have nude scenes. Of course there are a lot of nude women as extras, in the background etc.
Remarkable. We know little about Ancient Rome's manners and habits, but we're certain that Romans were too brutal to be shown on national TV in prime time. So what do you expect from TV series? Probably not some historic research, but rather a decent show. These series belong to "blood & sperm" genre. Only a few first episodes pretend to show something unusual about characters behavior. The further the more characters & plot features obviously are taken from modern life, not ancient. Maybe it's funny for people to view ancient "product placement" and other BTL marketing techniques in historical show; but it doesn't add much to plot or background; so in my opinion it's a rather dumb joke.
If authors could concentrate on ancient life better, the show would only benefit. Sadly, no. The popularity of the show was enough to greenlight a second season, with an option for three more seasons afterwards. Seasons three and four would have revolved around the war between Octavian and Mark Anthony in Egypt, with season five focusing on the rise of Jesus in Palestine. However, due to the show's enormous costs, the cancellation was announced midway through the production of season 2. This forced the writers to end the Octavian-Mark Anthony story arc in the second season. The necessity to cover two seasons worth of history in a few episodes explains the large jumps in time had to be made at the end.
Due to the very solid receipt of the series, HBO executives later expressed some regret in the cancellation. Writer Bruno Heller is quoted as saying that he is still interested to give the series a proper wrap-up with a movie. (source: http://www.reuters.com/article/2008/12/01/us-rome-idUSTRE4B00VV20081201
For those interested in further viewing: the events in Octavian's life, concerning his later career, succession and death, are depicted in the classic series I, Claudius which starts in 23 BC (Rome season 2 ends in 30 BC). When Vorenus and Pullo learned that Erastes had taken his children, they storm his hideout and kill all of Fulmen's guards. When they confront Fulmen, Pullo says "Tell us where the children are, you might yet live." Fulmen scoffs at this because he knows what kind of man Vorenus is. Erastes admitting he sold the children into slavery wouldn't have boded well for him and Vorenus would have likely killed him anyway. So by lying and saying "I fucked them, I killed them and threw them in the river.", he is essentially killing Vorenus in turn. Had he told the truth, Vorenus would have had the hope of finding his children, knowing they were alive. But by lying and saying they were dead, would rob Vorenus of his will to live. As the creators of the series have always stated, they aimed for authenticity rather than accuracy. They enlisted the help of several historians and did quite an effort to recreate the Roman world, culture and habits into its tiniest details. The depiction of daily life, politics and warfare in Rome is therefore quite accurate, aside from some small issues (such as house decorations etc.) that still cause some controversy among historians.
The main story is also generally true. There was a long feud between Julius Caesar and Pompey Magnus that ended with Pompey's defeat, but Caesar was subsequently killed by his former enemies. In the vacuum of power, several groups kept fighting for the rule of Rome, which finally ended with the defeat and suicide of Mark Anthony and Cleopatra. The makers did, however, afford themselves quite some artistic licence with several historic facts and events, for the purpose of dramatic storytelling and to avoid unnecessary complexity.
The series greatly condenses the timeline of events and simplifies or alters both the politics and personal lives of people involved. For instance, Atia is depicted as a scheming, power-hungry vixen, which is quite contrary to historical evidence. She also lives through the entire series, whereas in reality, she died a year after Caesar, and was not present during most of the time depicted in season 2; Octavia, Atia's daughter, was never married to (and never divorced) a man called Glabius (as seen in season 1); she was married to someone else with who she had 3 children, all born after Caesar's death; the battle of Pharsalus was in reality preceded by the battle of Dyrrhachium, in which Pompey's army managed to defeat Ceasar's; The battle at Phillipi was not fought in one day; Cassius committed suicide during the first battle; Brutus was not killed either, he committed suicide after the second battle (although singly walking into the enemy's army could be considered suicide; his death by multiple swords was probably made to mirror Caesar's death); Brutus' mother Servilia did not commit suicide, she died a natural death (actually about a year after Atia's death); Mark Anthony already had two children with Cleopatra before he was married Octavia; he left Octavia to reunite with Cleopatra and have another child. Many of the real events have been moved in time to fit the time frame of the episodes better. For instance, Julia, Pompey's wife and Caesar's daughter, had already died years before the time depicted in the series; the siege of Alexandria already started before Caesar's battle with Ptolemy; and Cleopatra committed suicide 11 days after Mark Anthony's suicide.
Some accurate character traits known from historic sources made it into the show. Caesar was indeed of noble birth, but very popular with the commoners, also due to his habit of bribing people and being extremely merciful towards former enemies. Also correctly depicted is his brilliance as a general, being able to win several battles while being vastly outnumbered. Perhaps the most accurate characterization is that of Marc Antony, whom history describes as being a noted carouser as well as a brilliant general, and loyal ally to Caesar. His antagonism towards Cicero is also quite true; Cicero would described his disdain for Anthony, and wondered how someone of noble birth could be such a vulgar man.
Aside from altered facts, the writers inferred several facts for which there is no historical evidence (but technically no evidence against either). For instance, the secret relationship between Octavia and Marcus Agrippa, Mark Anthony's affair with Atia, the intensifying rivalry between Atia and Servilia, the incestual affair between Octavian and Octavia, Octavia's sexual relationship with Servilia, Servilia's active role in Caesar's assassination, Caesarion's escape from death, etc. The scene where Octavian helps cover up an epileptic seizure of Caesar's, which his mother mistakes for an affair between the two, is a combination of historical speculation that Caesar was an epileptic and an accusation from Marc Antony that Octavian had been Caesar's lover.
A completely fictionalised part of Rome is the entire Lucius Vorenus/Titus Pullo subplot. Vorenus and Pullo really existed, they are described by Caesar in his book De Bello Gallico (About the Gallic War) as rival officers. Everything aside from that (personal lives, historic roles, interaction with real persons) was created by the writers as a means to involve common men in the rich history and culture of the Roman Republic. The writers also invented Julius Caesar's slave Posca, his friendship with Caesar and his forced marriage to one of Octavia's friends.
The timeline for the series begins in 50 BC, when Caeser's term as consul ran out and the events of the story begin. They end in 30 BC, with the death of Mark Antony and Cleopatra. In the show this timeline seems to be greatly condensed. Despite the main action taking place over about twenty years none of the characters except for Octavian, who goes from a teenage boy to a man, and Caesarion who goes from an infant in season one to a pre-teen in season two, seem to age at all. Roughly 10 years pass in the two seasons of the show. a5c7b9f00b
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