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.