Ancient Rome….Taking a Step Back in Time

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We are always a bit late keeping up with series on HBO (probably because we don’t subscribe to HBO!!), and therefore missed it when they were airing ROME.  But, after hearing rave reviews on the series, we rented it on NetFlix.  Wow!!!  What an epic show it was!  The production was definitely worthy of the many awards that it received.  It was mostly filmed in the Cinecitta Studios in Rome on a set that spanned over 35 acres! 

The story takes place during the 1st century, and it begins with Julius Caesar’s conquest of Gaul, and ends with the reign of Emperor Octavian Caesar and the take over of Egypt (including the deaths of Mark Anthony and Cleopatra).   Even though the story has some fictional characters, many of the historical data is accurate and allows you to experience life of Ancient Rome.  It was a cruel world, with the value of human life at an absolute minimum.  Death was around every corner – both in murder as well as self inflicted for the sake of maintaining honor.  The important historical figures are portrayed in graphic detail, but obviously portrayed through the eyes of the director and slanted towards his interpretation of what these people were really like.

The show follows the lives of two fictional characters, Titus Pullo and Lucius Vorenas, as they go from being soldiers in Julius Caesar’s army to civilians, and back to soldier life.  This series is very graphic – both in sexual content as well as violece.  People are stabbed, maimed, and gored with no sparing of the blood and guts.  It is all there for us, the viewers, to witness.  The sexual scenes leave nothing to the imagination, either!  But this is probably how it was back then, and all that was important was the here and now – they didn’t believe that their earthly actions would bring them to consequence in the afterlife.  That came afterward!! 

What enthralled me was trying to equate what I was seeing in “ancient Rome” to what I have seen in “modern day Rome”.  The forum, of course, was at it’s peak as far as architectural perfection, but what captivated my imagination was more the “neighborhoods” depicted in the series.  The Aventine, where the common folk lived in the series, is now one of the wealthier neighborhoods of Rome.  Each of these different districts were ruled by their own “gang lords”.  Different “gangs” or collegiums (as they were called back then) ruled different parts of the city, protecting their inhabitants and fighting against each other if need be.  The dynamics between the upper and lower classes, as well as the practice of slavery, was interesting to witness as well.  So much cultural and sociological development was protrayed in this series, which is, what I think, allowed it to earn such high acclaim.  I can wholeheartedy recommend this series to any historical buff who is interested in learning more about the culture of Ancient Rome.  Kudos to the producers, writers,and directors of this epic series!  I wish there were more of these historical fiction mini-series to bring history alive!

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