Monday, August 29, 2005

HBO: Rome

HBO: Rome. I watched the first episode of this show on HBO tonight. As a whole, I liked it and I do look forward to seeing more episodes.

Here are a few thoughts:

This series is beginning with the start of the great Roman civil war between Julius Caesar and Pompey. Most of the people in the world know that eventually Caesar is going to win. Most will know that the boy Octavian will eventually rule the world as August Caesar. However, the state of history education in the USA may mean that many Americans will be surprised by how this series ends. (However many seasons that takes...)

I also note that most of the actors appear to be British. This is the same as the BBC 1970s TV series I, Claudius. Why are Brits hired to portray Romans most of the time? The Romans considered Brittania at the time of Caesar to be one of the most barbaric places in the world. What irony that British actors are presented as Romans. For obvious reasons, English is used for this TV series rather than Latin. So why does it matter what accent the English has?

I was a bit disturbed by how Caesar was portrayed when he learned his daughter Julia had died. In the HBO series, he is indifferent and promptly seeks to find political gain. In contrast, Pompey mourns the death of Caesar's daughter who is also his wife. My readings of history on this topic (which include Jimenez, R. L. (2000) in Caesar Against Rome: The Great Roman Civil War and Holland, T. (2003) in Rubicon: The Last Years of the Roman Republic) lead me to conclude that Caesar was not indifferent to the death of his daughter. Very few fathers would not have some grief at the death of one of their children. Why should Caesar be presented differently? This must be forshadowing of how Caesar is going to be presented in this series...

I eagerly await to see how this series is played out.

7 comments:

FreebornMD said...

I also had high hopes and it did not disappoint as so many previous works of historical fiction have done.

In the opening scenes the legions battled the forces of the Averni. I was pleased that the Romans fought in an orderly rank and file fashion. Something so often overlooked in movies was the businesslike way in which the "better" armies of antiquity carried out the art of war. Guess its just more hollywood to show individuals squaring off, mad dashes into harms way, chaotic masses fighting, etc.

Was disappointed however that at the zenith of the Gaulic campaign, this small glimpse of battle was all we were given before they displayed the captured Vercingetorix before Caesar.

Miland said...

"I was pleased that the Romans fought in an orderly rank and file fashion. Something so often overlooked in movies was the businesslike way in which the "better" armies of antiquity carried out the art of war."

I agree. This is the reason the Roman war machine was successful for centuries. It usually resulted in a slaughter when fighting barbarians but it resulted in prolonged campaigns when Romans fought Romans.

I hope the series continues to display Roman fighting accurately as the Civil War begins.

SQPY23 said...

I've not been able to find any reference to Octavian being kidnapped in Gaul. I suppose this is merely a plot device. He does seem to be properly depicted in age though, he would've been about 11 years old in 52 BCE.

I've also not been able to find any reference to the kind of front line tactical replacement depicted in the opening sequence - for that period, circe 52 BCE. Supposedly Seutonius used it against the Britons, but that's nearly a 100 years hence.

SQPY23 said...

By the way, Salve! Great blog. Always nice to find serious history on the web. I found you through Stephanie.

I agree with freebornmd on Vercingetorix. I should've thought they could at least have done a CG depition of Alesia. It was a pretty big deal, after all...

Curzon said...

How many episodes are there going to be? How many series? How many seasons? This could go on for a very long time...

louis said...

Regarding "..reference to the kind of front line tactical replacement depicted in the opening sequence.."

JFC Fuller says that Polybius (203-120bc) gives detailed accounts.

See pg 86 of Fuller's 'Ceasar, Man, Soldier Tyrant', in contrast to the Macedonian phalanx, "the legion, organized as it was in three seperated lines, was able to hold two-thirds of its men outside the danger zone - the zone of demoralization - in which the remaining third was engaged.

Therefore, until required to replace or reinforce the front line, the legion had both physically and morally fresh troops at its disposal."

Fuller also stated that as Caesar began his military career later in his life, he probably didnt stray far from the improvements made by uncle Marius.

please correct me where I am wrong.

modd said...

The greatest historical regugitation of all time (hav'nt wathched "a great many" though). I was'nt to happy with how cleopatra looked though, i was expecting someone with a bit more hair, big dark eyes and all the trimmings. All in all, an excellent show. I eagerly await season II.