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In this British historical drama, the turbulent transition from Roman republic to autocratic empire, which changed world history through civil war and wars of conquest, is sketched both from the aristocratic viewpoint of Julius Caesar, his family, his adopted successor Octavian Augustus, and their political allies and adversaries, and from the politically naive viewpoint of a few ordinary Romans, notably the soldiers Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo and their families. Written by
I Claudius was maybe the best miniseries ever. Now, there's Rome, and it's even better.
I agree with another reviewer, that quibbles about historical inaccuracies, such as accents or how old so-and-so should be, are silly pedantry. I've been a Roman history buff ever since my own high school triumvirate of Caesar, Cicero and Virgil, and I say that this historical fiction is both exciting AND quite accurate with the important stuff.
So far, every player has been terrific, in particular Ciarán Hinds as Caesar and Max Pirkis as Octavian. Julius Caesar was perhaps the most complex "great" figure in history. Was he a great populist, trying to champion the people against the Optimates, or was he an ambitious demagogue, who was using the Roman mobs to attain the imperium? Hinds depicts this complexity perfectly, while projecting a steely will that is shared by Caesar's emerging protégé, Octavian. Thanks to Max Pirkis's brilliant portrayal, we can already see the no-nonsense pragmatism, ruthlessness and brilliance that will propel this boy into becoming the greatest despot in history.
And what about that dissolute Mark Anthony? We can already see Actium in his face. And with Atia, I think Livia (as depicted in I Claudius) and Messalina have met their match.
And midst the struggle for mastery of Rome, we see the struggle of more common folk just to make a living. Rome makes the parallel stories of the Optimates and Centurian, now Prefect, Vorenus and Legionnaire Pullo a perfect vehicle for comparing the travails of different classes their love lives, social lives, how they treated the servants, how they practiced their faiths, how they fought. Seen from these different perspectives (which we did not get with I Claudius), we get a three-dimensional view and, for me, the closest to feeling like one is actually there of any historical fiction ever produced.
And look at the production values. Is it any wonder, when we see who's behind the camera Michael Apted and John Milius that we have an immaculately crafted work?
By their commitment to quality of production and integrity of story, HBO and BBC are demonstrating what television can be. This is a wonderful, wonderful series. Anyone with a love of history, drama and spectacle should be devouring it with delight.
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