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
Fifty-five local extras were cast as "Roman Legionaries" and sent to a two-week boot camp, living in tents, to train as Roman soldiers. Training included military discipline (waking at 5 a.m., bed by 9 p.m.), marching, swordsmanship, camp building and dismantling, group training and maneuvers (day and night time training), and bathing restricted to the local lake without soap at night. Forty-three of the 55 extras completed the boot camp. See more »
During slave auctions the slaves wear loin cloths. Factually slaves which were sold as laborers or young women were presented naked. See more »
Because episode three is 37 minutes long, it was hard for BBC2 to schedule in the UK, and it was also felt that the short running time would make the episode feel curiously light. The first three episodes were therefore edited down into episodes one and two for the UK. This was mostly achieved by trimming within existing scenes; few scenes were actually lost. The final two episodes of the first series were also edited into a single double-length episode, possibly because it was around the Christmas period and was easier to fit into the holiday schedule than two regular-length slots. See more »
An excellent evocation of Ancient Rome and its people
One of the grand stories of history, Julius Ceasar and the beginnings of the Empire, told in a style which is both compelling and historically accurate. I am an art historian with a particular interest in Ancient Rome, and I find this to be the best evocation of Ancient Rome yet on screen.
Rome at the time of Julius Ceasar was the major power in Europe and northern Africa, but it was not yet the great city of the Emperors. For once the set designers have got it right. It is colorful (not the pure white city of Hollywood), squalid, profane, reverent, brutal, and alive with life. We know of the graffiti from ancient sources. We know the outlines of the history, which this series treats very accurately. What we cannot know is the souls of the major actors in this great drama. This mini-series gives us a glimpse into the motivations, both grand and petty, of the people who brought down the Republic but did not quite replace it with the Empire. Not quite yet.
Aside from the sets and set decoration, which is superb (first time a Roman insula or apartment building is accurately shown on film to the best of my knowledge), what this series does is give us a sense of the possible motivations behind the historical facts. Is this the way it really was? No one can say. It does fit the historical data we have. What this series does, beyond everything else, is remind us that these figures were people with all the complexity of motivation that we experience in people today. The producers, directors, and actors have admirably avoided the cardboard cut-out and pretentious posturing.
Be warned, this mini-series is just as casually brutal and profane as Ancient Rome was. I would not let young children watch it, at least not without serious guidance. I will say that it is just plain excellent and well worth your attention. You will be entertained and informed. It will make you think about characters that we know only distantly from books or from far more conventional Hollywood cardboard characterizations. Unequivocally a great production.
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