We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Our Recent Essays Behind the Front Page
Sunday, October 12. 2014
Mrs. BD warns you that this 2005-2007 BBC/HBO series (on Netflix) can be addictive. Generally historically-accurate too, right down to the footwear. Rome.
It was a shame that Julius Caesar set in motion the destruction of the republic.
Posted by Bird Dog at 17:48 | Comments (15) | Trackbacks (0)
Trackback specific URI for this entry
Display comments as (Linear | Threaded)
Loved this series. They definitely played some games with the history so I wouldn't answer any SAT questions based on watching it, but it is terrific none-the-less. A number of good actors here but the Mark Antony performance is fabulous.
Having watched the entire series twice, once when broadcast and once recently, and thoroughly enjoyed it both times, my only substantive complaint (apart from the many, many loose ends that were never tied up - what happened to the slave boy Rubio, for one? What happened to Lucius Vorenus' membership of the Senate, for another?) was that the main characters never aged: the action of the entire series, by definition, has to take place over a twenty-year-plus period, from the end of Caesar's wars in Gaul to after the Battle of Actium, but the ravages of time didn't touch Vorenus, or Pullo, or (even less believably) Atia or Antonius. The only character who appears to have changed over time was Octavian, and in his case we go abruptly from an unchanging teenager to an equally unchanging young man. Weird.
Aging principal characters over the course of an limited series costs money and the female actresses don't like it. (especially when there is rampant nudity, Cleo's tits need to droop by another 5 degrees in the next shot. Make it happen.)
The networks correctly ascertain that the audience don't notice or care.
and in the case of the nudity, would rather not see it ;)
The Republic was dead long before Julius, he just gave it a funeral.
The only thing I remember about Rome is getting my wallet lifted in the subway. That was 40 years ago.
What destroyed Rome was excessive spending on welfare (hard to believe but Rome pioneered welfare) too much immigration who demanded, wait for it..., welfare, and to little expenditure on defense (they did spend a lot overseas but not to defend the homeland. Who says history repeats itself?
Most of it was a bore, even the big question of when would Polly Walker get naked this week got old.
And the Latin was always wrong.
I agree. That he got to the point of thinking he could become a ruler superior to the Senate was a symptom, not a cause. Assassination did not prevent such a ruler, rather made it more obvious that the Republic needed change. A pity Rome did not have something like the old Athenian system of appointing a "tyrant" with total power for a period of a few years followed by a period of exile at the end of his term.
"And the Latin was always wrong."
Latin? Didn't the Romans speak Roman?
Not sure, but I think they did with a dictator deal that lasted 6 months or a year, not sure.
Also, remember that when Caesar was murdered in 44 BC there were still plenty of old men who would have known, or known those who knew, of Lucius Cornelius Sulla's blood-stained assumption of the Dictatorship a few decades before. Sulla died in his bed (to everyone's surprise, including, apparently, even his own) but the precedent for Caesar as Dictator was not a good one (Cincinnatus was the only one who just folded his stool after his six months, job done in that time, and went back to his farm and that was centuries before Sulla and Caesar).
Rome seems to have been loosely based on history and loosely on a wonderful work of historical fiction by Colleen McCulloch. Her series of books started with Gaius Marius' rise (about 30 years before Julius Caesar was born) in The First Man in Rome and ended about when the series ended with Augustus in power. Her series is much less sexual and more historically accurate than the HBO series. But the movies were very visually pleasing. I liked them both.
Some truths and untruths from the HBO series:
A) Rome was indeed a very violent and sexist place. A couple of segments hinted at Rome's dependence on client-patron relationship. But it was FAR more important in real life than on the show. The patron gave his clients money, jobs and protection (like big city political bosses of 19th century America) in return for votes and muscle when he needed it.
B) The show nailed Augustus' personality much better than Julius Caesar's. Augustus was more lizard-like than human in the sense that he waited, cold-blooded for his enemies to make moves and mistakes before pouncing. Caesar comes across in the miniseries as a lecherous light-weight. While he was certainly a rake, he was almost certainly the smartest and most able man of his century (see the Battle of Alesia for quick proof). Yes, he took the republic to the brink of empire, but if he hadn't, someone else would have. And technically, Augustus did the deed, not Caesar.
C) Cleopatra is a drunken, drug-addled tart in the HBO mini-series. It is hard to get a read on her real life personality, but most of what we know about her comes from Augustus' time. He wrote and encouraged authors who would write that she was a foreign temptress who seduced every Roman she could get her paws on. He did this mainly to discredit the children of Cleo and Caesar who stood to gain money and power if Augustus allowed them to live (he didn't). Also, he wanted to show Antony as a discredited Roman who fell for the foreign seductress so that Augustus would win more Roman support when the battle for Caesar's legacy came. So I doubt Cleo was half as bad as Augustus claimed she was when he assassinated her character top further his political goals.
Whether you read modern historical fiction like the superlative Masters of Rome series alluded to here, or near-contemporary writers like Suetonius, it becomes very clear, very quickly that Rome could be a very dangerous place, perhaps like The Sopranos with togas. And if one were further down the food chain, the lack of political visibility, and hence potential vulnerability, was surely more than made up for by the increased exposure to general mayhem and mischief.