Rome (2005–2007)
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The Stolen Eagle 

In Gaul in 52 B.C., two Roman soldiers, Legionary Titus Pullo and Centurion Lucius Vorenus, are tasked with recovering Julius Caesar's personal Eagle, stolen from his camp in the dead of ... See full summary »

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In Gaul in 52 B.C., two Roman soldiers, Legionary Titus Pullo and Centurion Lucius Vorenus, are tasked with recovering Julius Caesar's personal Eagle, stolen from his camp in the dead of night. With his campaign in Gaul coming to a successful conclusion, Caesar's popularity is continuing to grow. He's saddened however when he receives news from his good friend Pompey Magnus that his daughter, Pompey's wife, has died in childbirth. In the Senate, Pompey must defend the prolonged absence of his friend and co-Consul Caesar against charges of corruption and of waging an illegal war. It's all a ruse however as he is plotting to eliminate him. Meanwhile, Atia of the Julii sends her son Octavian to Gaul deliver a gift of a beautiful stallion to his great uncle Julius Caesar. He is taken prisoner along the way. Fortunately, Vorenus and Pullo rescue him and as a result, both receive Caesar's favor. Written by garykmcd

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28 August 2005 (USA)  »

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1.78 : 1
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Trivia

Caesar's need for the stolen eagles' return was not simple vanity. Like the samurai's sword, the eagle was regarded as the soul of the soldiers. By Ancient Roman law, if the eagle was lost, the entire legion was disgraced and should be broken up. See more »

Goofs

Octavian is only eleven-years-old at time of this episode but the actor is clearly older. See more »

Quotes

Marcus Tullius Cicero: When confronted by a hungry wolf, it is unwise to goad the beast, as Cato would have us do. But it is equally unwise to imagine the snarling animal a friend and offer your hand, as Pompey does.
Pompey Magnus: Perhaps you would have us climb a tree!
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Rome Main Title Theme
(uncredited)
Written by Jeff Beal
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An eye-popping but slightly excessive introductory episode
11 March 2008 | by (Italy) – See all my reviews

What Deadwood did for the Western, Rome was supposed to do for the epics: revisit the genre and reveal the murkier side big movies like Spartacus had only hinted at. The most obvious comparison would be Gladiator, arguably the only swords-and-sandals flick to show ancient Rome as it really was: a decadent city, filled with whores, brutes and bloodshed. HBO's serialization of the birth of the Roman Empire (the show was canceled after depicting the battle that led to the downfall of the Republic) aimed to tell this gory tale in an intelligent, yet entertaining way, and for the most part it succeeded admirably, despite some gratuitous excess in the first few episodes, especially the opening one.

Then again, what was to be expected when The Stolen Eagle deals with the final stages of the Gallic Wars, the conflict that brought Julius Caesar (Ciaràn Hinds) to everlasting fame? The episode begins with the concluding battle between Romans and Gauls, one that gives Lucius Vorenus (Kevin McKidd) one more triumph to brag about when he returns home and sends the brutal, vulgar Titus Pullo (Ray Stevenson) to prison for insubordination. On the flip-side, Caesar learns his only daughter, Julia, died in childbirth, a fact that gets even worse considering her husband was Pompey (Kenneth Cranham), Caesar's political ally and friend, not to mention the only man capable of preventing the Senate from declaring the Roman conqueror a public enemy. The bad air generated by this set of events is already being felt in the great city, as Caesar's niece Atia (Polly Walker) already thinks of making new influential friends. When she isn't busy having sex with as many men as possible, that is.

It is that last element that caused controversy when Rome originally aired on BBC, alongside a few excessively violent bits. Not that flesh and blood are always bad: it just depends on how they are used within the series. In the case of HBO masterworks like The Sopranos, Six Feet Under and Deadwood, explicit sex and graphic blood-letting serve the story and add dramatic poignancy, whereas in Sex and the City, well… it's just funny. In the first episode of Rome, however, it is hard to justify the full frontal nude scenes of Polly Walker, other wise terrific in her vicious portrayal of Atia, since they do nothing at all to move the story forward or establish her character (okay, maybe they are necessary in order to prove she is a slut, but there are better ways to achieve that goal). As for the violence, a similar remark is needed for the utterly gratuitous close-up of a decapitated bull, with blood flowing freely all over a young girl's body: that sequence has no narrative relevance at all, and constitutes nothing more than gore for its own sake. It also robs the key players of screen time they so richly deserve, especially Hinds, whose wounded yet powerful take on Caesar is the best celluloid incarnation of the character so far, and James Purefoy, gleefully malevolent as the scheming Mark Antony. McKidd and Stevenson make a convincing leading duo as well, although the first show doesn't give them many chances to interact properly.

Thankfully, the not-so-perfect storytelling in this debut hour is compensated by state-of-the-art visuals: the marvelous production design (all actual sets, based in Cinecittà, a famous studio located, fittingly enough, just outside Rome) and gorgeous costumes make the seductive looks of Gladiator seem amateurish, fully justifying the show's huge budget (some reports indicate it is the most expensive series ever produced as of 2007). With several feasts for the eye and an intriguing story to stimulate the mind, Rome is flawed (at least in the first half of the season) but also good enough to ensure viewers won't be annoyed, assuming the overblown carnage of early episodes doesn't strike them too hard in the gut.


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