Saturday, March 31, 2007


The city that saw the likes of Julius Caesar, Pompey, Mark Anthony, and Brutus is now a series on HBO. Now, on its second season the series does not only give a human perspective on histories most well known Romans but also on the life of everyday people in Rome.

Lucius Vorenus (Kevin McKidd) and Titus Pullo (Ray Stevenson) play our everyday Romans. Though both are soldiers they are still part of the common people or plebs as Romans would call it, and they take the story from the top of Roman society to the very bottom.

As soldiers they served under Caesar and Anthony, and in between wars they lived in the most humble abode in Rome. It is when Vorenus and Pullo are not soldiers that I find most interesting as the story delves into everyday life.

There were many gods and not only the roman kind; so common and varied like toothpaste at a grocery. Death was a fact of life and it is so unlike in the present day context. You can kill slaves as Pullo did with one and with no repercussions. There was a scene where the young Octavian killed a prisoner. Later on and in a league with Titus Pullo, Octavian masterminded the killing of man who has had a child with the wife of Vorenus. In spite of his youth Octavian showed no hesitation or fear. The point is if you are rich, you are powerful, if are able to kill, then chances are you can get away with it.

What surprised me, however, was the sex; Rome has more than I was expecting in a TV series. Producers have defended it as a historical truth. In a pre-Christian world, sex had no dirty connotation, and that includes man-on-man sex. Nobody says its homosexual to do so like today when even mention of the word sounds like a disease. At that time it was just one of the choices – white woman, black woman, man. To each his own.

The cast of Rome, at least judging from the accent, are mostly British. It gave the series a regal aura something that befits one of the greatest empires the world has ever known. My standout would have to be James Purefoy who plays Mark Anthony. He is arrogant, courageous, seductive, powerful, ruthless, and at times a drunken fool. The performance of the Mark Anthony character, for me, was the strongest in the series exceeding even Caesar’s and Pompey’s.

Is it accurate? For the most part I guess, but I haven’t watched enough Discovery channel or National geographic to easily say which is true or not. Hollywood has been criticized at times on how accurate are their history based films. Suffice to say that we must all read up on our history, as many sides as possible, before swallowing a film or anyone’s point of view, hook, line, and sinker.

The series is not for everybody, but only for those who love history, who are curious how people like Caesar could have acted if they were alive. Rome is both primal and a source of sophistication. It is one of the most interesting series to watch on TV today.

And if TV doesn’t show it try Quiapo. Hehehe.