Friends, Romans And Countrymen

I came down with the flu for what I believe was the past 3 days. In between sleeping a lot, drinking orange juice a lot, and staying in bed with my laptop trying to do some writing, I discovered the HBO series Rome. The show runs for only two seasons and it chronicles one of the most critical times in human history. In the first season, Julius Caesar returns to Rome from his years of war in Gaul, to do battle with his political rival, Pompey, in a civil war that made Caesar a supreme dictator. The season ends with the famous assassination of Caesar in the Senate and the subsequent fall of the Republic. The second season centers on the political void that was created with Caesar’s death. A power struggle between his son by inheritance, Octavius (Augustus), as well as Mark Anthony, Brutus and the Senate, leading to a second civil war that made Octavius a dictator and created the Roman Empire. And all this, only some 50 years before Jesus Christ was born.

As a history buff with a particular love for the Roman Empire, I thought the series absolutely rocked. While it focuses on the main historical figures that include everyone from Ciecero and Cato to Cleopatra, it also tells the stories of two common men, Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo, soldiers in Caesar’s 13th Legion. Both men were historically mentioned in Caesar’s Commentarii de Bello Gallico. Vorenus and Pullo, are historical bystanders, often participating in or witnessing significant moments in Roman history.

With those two characters in mind, the viewer gets to see what Rome was like from the point of view of the higher echelons of power as well as as the common man. This is a time in Roman history when the gap between rich and poor, between the powerful and the weak, is at its greatest.

While the main events and time line is historical, a great deal of the show is obviously fiction. I’m not a big fan of productions about the Roman Empire, where every actor is white and has a British accent, but I suppose Shakespeare kind of ruined that for everybody. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the detailed life of the characters that I thought was an accurate reflection of these Roman times. From politicians and leaders, to followers, murderers, barbarians, lovers, haters, and adulterers. From the religious ceremonies, to the excessive drinking, violence, blood and sex the show really points out the moral decay of a society engulfed in the political abyss. The class schism is at its worst, with the ruling class abundantly wealthy and corrupt, while the lower class can barely eat, resorting mostly to whoring, corruption, and gangs who try to rule the streets. It is a Rome that is dirty, vulgar, morally bankrupt and realistic. I highly doubt anyone other than HBO could produce something like that.

The show was filmed entirely on the largest standing film set in the world, in Italy, with a budget of $100 million only for the first 12 episodes. Not to mention a crew of over 350 people. And like anything HBO makes, Rome is highly addictive, but intended strictly for adults. I cannot emphasize that last part more.

There are a total of 22 episodes, 1 hour each, and you can find both seasons readily available in most of the DVD shops in Amman.


  • I have heard a lot about this show – I’m definitely going to have to watch it soon. I’m addicted to any sort of biography or historical tale, whether it comes in a book or on a DVD. If you think so highly of it, then I’m guessing it must be really good!

    Salamtak! Don’t do what I did and neglect your nostrils. Moisturize after every nose blow. Otherwise, expect a lot of dead scaly skin to give off a rosy tint in the aftermaths of the cold. Ew, I’m so gross.

  • I love this series. Me and a bunch of my friends from grad school used to get together and watch it each week. Now that I think of it, the group was all women… with a serious crush on Marc Anthony πŸ™‚

  • I’ve just read your opinion piece and thought the closing 3 paragraphs interesting. I was glad to learn that despite your reservations, you encouraged your Jordanian brethren to vote which is commendable. As you well know, an election has three components: The electorate, the candidates and the voting system. While the second is a product of the third and we as concerned citizens don’t as yet have the means to affect, the first component is very much within our means to mold. As a politically literate Jordanian, it is incumbent upon you to spread this knowledge and combat what you refer to as the “apathy” prevalent in our society. When things do change, whether instituted from above, or demanded from below, a critical mass of people will have the political acumen to understand and support this change.

    All the best,


  • Definitely one of the best shows I have seen, and I hate series as a rule of thumb, pretty much agree with your review, I second the adult only, it is too explicit for some tastes. I donÒ€ℒt know if the versions in Jordan will be censored? If not there will be a lot people buying/renting this, who get home to be faced with a qayish soon after, my dad loves these type of historical programs but I wonÒ€ℒt be getting him this one, let him come across it by him self.

  • keko: the ones they sell in jordan are copies of the original uncensored dvds. so yeah, letting your father find it on his own is a good idea πŸ™‚

    Dave: i think you’ll enjoy it

    kinzi: i think your old enough to see even the worst of it πŸ˜€

  • they bring it on america plus but i cant watch it because of the damn parental lock thing .. my dad has it enabled so that anything above a 3 rating is locked ..

Your Two Piasters: