Summary: “Rome” is the saga of two ordinary Roman soldiers and their families. An intimate drama of love and betrayal, masters and slaves, and husbands and wives, it chronicles epic times that saw the fall of a republic and the creation of an empire. The series begins in 52 BC, as Gaius Julius Caesar has completed his masterful conquest of Gaul after eight years of war, and is preparing to return to Rome. He heads home with thousands of loyal battle-hardened men, huge amounts of loot in gold and slaves, and a populist agenda for radical social change. Terrified, the aristocracy threatens to prosecute Caesar for war crimes as soon as he sets foot in Rome. Caesar’s old friend and mentor, Pompey Magnus, attempts to foment mutiny in order to maintain the balance of power. Two of Caesar’s soldiers, Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo, thwart Pompey’s plan and in the process, win the eternal gratitude of Caesar and the Julian clan, affording the two plebian officers an intimate view of the ruling class. The fates of Pullo and Vorenus become entwined with those of Caesar, Mark Antony, Cleopatra and the boy Octavian, a strange and awkward child who, by political guile and bloody force, will become the first emperor of Rome.(Source: HBO Press Release)
I Claudius was maybe the best miniseries ever. The television series Rome is even better.
I’ve been an avid Roman history buff ever since my own high school triumvirate of Caesar, Cicero and Virgil, and I have to say that this historical fiction is both exciting AND quite accurate with the important stuff.
Every character is terrific, in particular Ciarán Hinds as Caesar and Max Pirkis as Octavian. Julius Caesar was perhaps the most complex “great” figure in history. Was he a great populist, trying to champion the people against the Optimates, or was he an ambitious demagogue, who was using the Roman mobs to attain the imperium? Hinds depicts this complexity perfectly, while projecting a steely will that is shared by Caesar’s emerging protégé, Octavian. Thanks to Max Pirkis’s brilliant portrayal, we see the no-nonsense pragmatism, ruthlessness and brilliance that will propel this boy into becoming the greatest despot in history.
And what about that dissolute Mark Anthony? We can already see Actium in his face. And with Atia, I think Livia (as depicted in I Claudius) and Messalina have met their match.
And midst the struggle for mastery of Rome, we see the struggle of more common folk just trying to make a living. Rome makes the parallel stories of the Optimates and Centurian, now Prefect, Vorenus and Legionnaire Pullo a perfect vehicle for comparing the travails of different classes — their love lives, social lives, how they treated the servants, how they fought. Seen from these different perspectives, we get a three-dimensional view and, for me, the closest to feeling like one is actually there of any historical fiction ever produced.
By their commitment to quality of production and integrity of story, HBO and BBC demonstrate what television can be. This is a wonderful, wonderful series. Anyone with a love of history, drama and spectacle will devour it with delight.