Finally got around to watching the first episodes of the second season of the sometimes meretricious, always interesting Rome
this weekend. It picked up right where the first season left off, right after the assassination of Caesar. It bothered me a little that the first season had that event in the Senate, rather than the Theater of Pompey, as history tells us. But the actual staging of the deed was spot-on. Rather than having Caesar say "Et tu, Brute?" or "You too you sonofabitch?!?" or some such, that exact sentiment was conveyed by his look at Brutus.
Caesar must have thirsted for immortal glory. One can only wonder what he would have made of the fact that people are still telling the story of his death, etching it in light even, more than 2,000 years later. Of course, he had help. But for the consolidation of his legacy by Augustus, his story would probably be no better known than that of Marius or Sulla.
As with the first season, I'm so taken with the series' verisimilitude that I can overlook its worst aspects, especially its gratuitously prurient nature (but hey, it's HBO). Besides the extraordinary look and feel of the production, I like its more-or-less historic accuracy, which is certainly better than you usually get with dramatized Romans; and the well-drawn fictional characters, especially the two soldiers. I also like the way that the story doesn't bother to explain everything the characters do, either in historic or cultural terms.
Another a good point: the show allows the characters to take their religion seriously, or not. Roman paganism is not treated, even implicitly, as a mere warm-up for Christianity.
It's made me pull my Cary and Scullard A History of Rome, Third Edition, off the shelf again. I open it up and written on the inside front cover is "Dees Stribling, Jan 14, 1981." Bought it for Roman history class that semester, taught tediously by a young classics professor.
Luckily that wasn't my introduction to the subject. My brothers were, sort of, at least with their commentary on the sword & sandal movies we'd see on TV; and then there was Mrs. Quarles, high school Latin teacher, henna-haired and eccentric, who had actually been places and seen things, such as former parts of the Roman Empire. I was also a member of the Texas State Junior Classical League for a few years, and went to TSJCL conventions primarily as a reason to get out of town (the same goal as with National Forensic League meets). One year I went all the way with the Latin Club to Amarillo. Exotic Amarillo. A vigorous dust storm buffeted the bus en route to the Panhandle.
My VU Latin professor, the late Dr. Ned Nabors, also referred to C&S from time to time. "If it isn't in Cary and Scullard, it didn't happen," he said, overstating the case, but he was fond of overstating things. Anyway, it's a worn old hardback, and if I want to know where Rome is fudging or conflating things, I look there. Just me being old-fashioned, since I could look on-line just as easily.
Labels: high school, Rome, television, Vanderbilt