Review of 'Rome' (1st & 2nd season)

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Review of 'Rome' (1st & 2nd season)

Postby Tarquinius Dionysius on Sat Feb 02, 2008 5:08 pm


I just finished watching the second season of HBO/BBC's Rome. I'm not going to delve into my thoughts at length here, but let me just say that, apart from minor drawbacks, I think this is pretty much the best, most entertaining and most historically accurate recreation of ancient Rome ever captured on screen. A standard for all future series and films to match. Following are some good and bad points:

The Good:
  • Historical accuracy: as mentioned, historical accuracy is high. And the series does not just focus on the higher ranks of Rome. The emphasis is as much on the common people, something which is very rare in series of this type. All layers of society are probably represented: slaves, gladiators, jews, common citizens, soldiers, patricians,... Furthermore, the plot stays fairly close to history while adding a healthy dose of revisionism where needed. The characters aren't weighed down by the hindsight of history, impersonating famous people like marble statues: these are living, breathing people, pretty much inventing themselves as they go along.
  • Mark Antony and Octavian: apart from the show's main two characters (Titus Pullo and Lucius Vorenus), I thought the acting and writing was particularly strong for Mark Antony and Octavian. Simon Woods, and especially James Purefoy as Antony, really inhabited these characters. Woods with the right mixture of cold intelligence and idealism for Octavian, and Purefoy ever charismatic and bold as Antony. His demise is probably one of the most moving scenes in the series.
  • Sex and violence: anyone who's even caught only one episode of Rome won't have missed the copious amounts of nudity and gore present. And I for one really appreciate this courage on the part of the filmmakers. They could have sanitized this, but it would have been dishonest to history, which by all accounts informs us that Romans were fairly frank in matters of sex and violence.
  • Rome: one last thing which deserves mention here is the city of Rome itself, which looks a lot more naturalistic than it is usually depicted, realistically recreating the city how it must have looked during the final days of the republic. Not just a few white marble temples and some arches.
The Bad:
The bad points are mostly in terms of characterisation for me.
  • Brutus: one of two major letdowns on the series. I'm all for historical revisionism where necessary, but in Brutus' case, I felt that the writers were completely unsure how to treat his character. Here, he simply comes across as a humongous whiner, with no interest in politics, ultimately stabbing Caesar merely over a personal grudge. At no time does he seem to have any idea what he's doing or why he's doing it, even at the Battle of Philippi. It's somewhat ironic really that, by the second season, it's Cassius who comes across as the most principled and competent man, while having been introduced as a completely opportunistic crook in the first season.
  • Cicero: granted, maybe Cicero wasn't such a great politician as Roman historians would like to have us believe, but if the character is handled at all, how can you not emphasize that he was at least looked upon as a great orator? Somewhat surprisingly, this character gives no significant speech throughout the entire show. And the only speech of consequence that does appear is delivered by someone else, by letter.
  • Battle of Philippi: most of Rome's production cost was spent on vast sets and costumes, so there weren't hundreds of extras available to recreate battle sequences. This is most glaring in season one (where one battle is merely suggested with blurry shots of horses), but understandable. Season two does a slightly better job at it, with CGI to supplement the action where necessary. Still, my qualm with the Battle of Philippi isn't so much its technical recreation, but its 'historical accuracy'. I don't understand it, the battle is so interesting (as reported) the script nearly writes itself. Yet the filmmakers opted for a very straightforward approach with Antony and Octavian overpowering the opposing forces with little or no effort. Cassius is killed in combat and Brutus commits suicide by wading into a sea of soldiers. A missed opportunity.
Last edited by Tarquinius Dionysius on Fri Apr 04, 2008 4:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby M.Apollonius Silvanus on Fri Mar 28, 2008 7:28 pm

I loved this show,even though with some points as you pointed out, they could have done better. IMO they could have added more battles and even added more period and allowed the show to have continued more than just 2 seasons. They rushed through it to fast imo.

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Postby cepasaccus on Thu May 01, 2008 12:31 am

There were all kinds of sex in it, but they did not show any male-male sex. I wonder if this would have been to much for the public.

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Postby Tiberius Dionysius Draco on Thu May 01, 2008 11:39 am

cepasaccus wrote:There were all kinds of sex in it, but they did not show any male-male sex. I wonder if this would have been to much for the public.

They did, albeit very shortly. Atia's head slave (forgot his name) let's the spy into the mansion in return for sexual favors (though he doesn't know he's a spy).
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HBO's Rome

Postby Marcus Calidius Gracchus on Sun Jul 20, 2008 5:32 am




Whenever I need to immerse myself in and travel back across the veil to Ancient Rome I just put both seasons of HBO's "Rome" on over a weekend or throughout a week and I'm there again!!

I find the attention to detail, minor detail and the historical accuracy of the every day mundane things in Roman daily life to be of a very high standard indeed. Its the things you see in passing or in the background that have been put in to the scenes that mark this series out.

Whether its using the correct period military equipment for legionaries of the late Republic, the faithful recreation of a Roman marriage cremony, the type and style of furniture and layout of Atia's DOMVS, to the latin graffiti outside proclaiming that "Atia loves everyone" the level of detail is very impressive. All the vibrant colour, bustling hub bub and melting pot that was Rome is there as opposed to the more usual Hollywood portrayal of an austere white marbled museum piece.

The house of LVCIVS VORENVS is a simple place we see indoors the LARARIVM close to the centre of their apartment and everyday activity an accurate reflection of the importance of the household gods and religion in the ordinary familiy home. VORENVS as PATERFAMILIAS leads the household and the prayers seeking blessings for new ventures, as patron he receives his morning petitions the queue almost spilling onto the street. You get a real flavour too of the warren and den of inequity that was the Subura.

Roman social attitudes and accepted norms are illustrated accurately and almost casually, reflectling completely different values to those of modern Western society long since coloured by Judeo-Christian religious morality.

As for the casting of the characters, I thought them all very good and believable. I thought the main characters very suited to their roles in particular Servilia, Atia, Caesar, Antony, Cato, Pompey, Cicero, Brutus - thats most them right? I thought it very clever how our two fictional characters VORENVS and PVLLO believably interact with historical peronages and events without actually changing history.

I commend and recommend this series to those who wish to learn of and experiece a flavour of Ancient Rome.





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Roma iterum

Postby C.AeliusEricius on Thu Sep 25, 2008 6:18 pm

I started Rome over again last night. (partly in reaction to "the real world".)
I have problems with some of the things in the series, but it is "hollywood", not university.

In one of the commentaries that are in the second series volume one of the makers of the showmade an very interesting comment. He said that historians tended to hate the show because of the details that it got wrong. classicists loved the atmosphere the series evoked.
I can well understand that.

Valete bene.
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- Caelum videre iussit, et erectos ad sidera tollere vultus.
- He bid them look at the sky and lift their faces to the stars.
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Re: Roma iterum

Postby Q Valerius on Mon Dec 22, 2008 5:46 am

I finally got me a copy of Rome 1st season. It's not so bad, and mea puella et ego like to watch it when we're bored. I'm not ever sure if she's thoroughly interested in my running commentary on the inaccuracies, but we both agree that the battle scenes (at least in season one) were simply horrendous. And Octavia and Servilia! Di immortales! Octavia Octaviusque!!! Frater et Soror!?!? Minime! It's not quite how I'd envision it, and I'm not sure I was too fond of the over-emphasis on Vorenus and Pullo, but it's not all bad. I want to finish.

For a non-Roman show, what of House, M.D., eh?
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Re: Review of 'Rome' (1st & 2nd season)

Postby M Sempronia Pulla on Sat Jan 10, 2009 5:22 pm

I admit, I avoided this show for a very long time, up until this fall in fact when I finally watched both seasons. My lack of HBO played a minor part in not watching the series. My main reasons were fear of historical inaccuracy and that it was just an excuse to show something decadent i.e. lots of pointless and exploitative sex scenes (I don't have a problem with sex, just prefer to read it than watch others do it). After entering a period where I was craving all things Roman, I gave in and watched it. At first, I was hung up on the various inaccuracies and was practically driving my then partner--who is not into history at all--insane. However, it soon snagged me and I not only enjoyed the show for what it was, but loved it, all historical et al flaws aside. I was rather sad that it had ended at only two seasons, but I've read that a Rome movie is being discussed/planned.

I too was a little dismayed by the practical lack of male homosexuality shown in the form of a relationship of some sort. In total there was a reference to Octavian and Caesar doing it (a misunderstanding based on eavesdropping), Atia's worrying that Octavian was gay, some pretty boy high end male prostitutes in a brothel, and then the spy who was a little weird/oversexed (sex addict?) that resulted in the slave being scolded for picking a boy from off the streets.

Concerning Voronus and Pullo, they certainly went out of their way to connect them to the major historical figures and events. It was a little funny/corny in that regard (Oh YOU again, well you must be blessed so here let me thrust you right into anything and everything that matters), but they made it work for the purposes of plot.

As for House, the original female doctor in the show played the high end prostitute that took Octavian's virginity. I personally love House, but it's so not many TV shows. And you really have to accept that Dr. House is just a know-it-all jerk that never shuts up. ;)
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