This episode pretty much gives you a good sketch of the career of Julius Caesar, good enough to be without embarrassment. What we see are reenactments of battles, of peaceful villagers, of arguments in the Roman Senate, and finally the execution of Caesar himself and his replacement by Augustus, the first of the emperors. It was the end of democracy as the Romans had known it.
Caesar came from an aristocratic family fallen on hard times, conquered the Barbarians of Gaul on the northwestern frontier -- no easy trick -- and then casually, and without authority, invaded Britain and a couple of other places after inventing reasons why it was imperative that he do it.
Nothing succeeds like success. Caesar became a hero to most of Rome and military types flooded into his army as auxiliaries. This disturbed the conservative aristocrats back home -- a populist general -- and they told him to return. Caesar saw his end if he did so, so he took his army with him, to be on the safe side.
The Talking Heads state baldly that he was forbidden to bring his army across the Rubicon River, which marked the Italian borders of Rome, because the Senate was wary of his simply taking over the government and declaring himself sole ruler of the empire. I'm no historian but I was always told that there was a standing law against a general returning with his army, that it had nothing to do with Caesar personally.
In any case, Caesar returns and we know what happens next. "Et tu, Brute"? He said it in Greek, according to a contemporary historian, but it's come down to us in Latin.
As in the other episodes, of which I've now seen five or six, half the images are of soldiers marching along or hacking away at one another with swords and axes.
Also, as in other episodes, everything takes place in the dark, smoky forests of Lithuania, where the scenes were shot. That's okay for the Northern Frontier -- France, Germany, Britain, and so forth. Mid-latitude temperate forests of mixed evergreen and mostly bare deciduous trees. Okay. That suggests Germany. But it's tiresome and wincingly wrong somehow to see battle around Rome -- or even in southern Italy -- in the same ecological milieu. There have been criticisms from some viewers that the Roman soldiers are wearing the headgear or carrying the arms of the wrong era. I don't mind that so much because I can't tell the difference anyway. But I can tell a Hansel-and-Gretl Schwarzwald from a sun-baked Mediterranean scrub climate.
It's impossible not to admire the stunt men. The same ones appear to be doing the same tricks in every episode. They throw each other around and do backflips when struck. I hope they were well paid.
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