Customer Reviews: Rome Season 1
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Rome, HBO's ambitious, and expensive, series revolving around the events leading up to the assassination of Julius Caesar (Ciaran Hinds), is a sight to behold. Created and filmed by a plethora of talented individuals (including legendary film maverick John Milius), Rome is brought to life with a fantastic set design that must be seen to be believed; it's as if the city is breathing. The story follows two of Caesar's soldiers (Ray Stevenson and Trainspotting's Kevin McKidd) who find themselves throughout many events in Roman history, beginning with inadvertantly rescuing Octavian (Max Pirkis), being lost at sea, assisting Cleopatra (in more than one way, this episode will leave you laughing) and Caesar's struggle with Pompey Magnus (Kenneth Cranham). Despite some historical inaccuracies, Rome is everything you'd come to expect from an HBO series: rich characterizations, an engrossing story, and a superbly assembled, large cast (including James Purefoy as Marc Antony, Kerry Condon, and Polly Walker as the scheming Atia), Rome is compulsively addictive viewing, made even more so by the climax and of the season finale, which will have you begging for more.
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on June 1, 2006
I suppose that the only other series on Ancient Rome which comes to mind was the superb I Claudius with Derek Jacobi as the club footed Emperor. Rome is different from I Claudius. I Claudius was concerned only the workings of the Imperial family and never stepped outside of the world of the Rome elite. It is true that in Rome many of the main figures are also from an earlier elite, Caesar, Cato, Brutus Pompey etc but we also see what life was like for those at the bottom and in the middle of Roman society. This is done through the two retired Roman soldiers played by Kevin McKidd and Ray Stevenson, both of who struggle to come to terms with the cut throat world of late republican Rome. It this case the term cut throat means just that, make a mistake in business or in life and you did end up with your throat cut.

What this series shows, which I have never seen before, is how the spendour of the offical Rome sat along side the ramshackleness of ordinary Roman life.

The show may be full of violence but so were the ancient Romans. Brutus, Caesar, Cato, Pompey, Anthony and Cicero did in fact all meet violent deaths. We may see the splendour that was Rome but we must remember that it was based on one of the most bloody and brutal systems of government which ever existed. A system whose power came from the power of the Army to not only defend the borders of the Empire but also crush any sign of discontent at home. A society based on slavery which threw criminals to wild animals and where men fought each other to the death for the entertainment of the crowd. At the top of the pile not many Emperors died in the beds.

Ciaran Hinds is great a Caesar, as is Kenneth Cranham as Pompey, who he plays as a man passed his best. Ten years earlier you get the idea that he would have given Caesar a better run for his money.

As for the Sex, look at the murals at Pompei and read the writings of the time to see what a large part it played in Roman life. As we say in the UK 'they were at it like rabbits.'

All in all a good drama and as far as I can tell a pretty accurate picture of Rome as it moved from a Republic to an Empire.
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"Lucius Vorenus: It makes no sense. We should have been stopped by now. Why is Rome not defended?
Titus Pullo: Our boys scared 'em off, eh?
Lucius Vorenus: Soldiers of the Republic do not run, so it must be a stratagem, a trick.
Titus Pullo: It's a good trick.
Lucius Vorenus: Unless the gods have abandoned Rome... If Mars were watching, he would not allow such a disgrace.
Titus Pullo: Maybe he was havin' a crap and missed it."

Sex, dancing girls, severed heads, gallows humour, four-letter words, strong women, and power displays are all to the fore in this marvelous series. "Rome" came on like a lamb, stole our hearts and minds and went out like a Lion. A series like no other. This is a story about a great man, Julius Caesar, played by Ciaaran Hinds, glorious and handsome man. We came to praise him and we do. We come to like Julius Caesar and we know what is to come. He is a benevolent leader and mixes with the local soldier group. The standout characters are two of Caesar's soldiers, Lucius Vorenus played by Kevin McKidd and Titus Pullo played by Ray Stevenson. They are real people, have real hearts and minds and can suffer along with the rest of us.

"Rome" is a 100 million dollar HBO series. The scenes are glorious, depravity and lusty and dirty. We are privy to the real sex and feelings of the characters and what a group they are. We come to like most of them. The costuming is marvelous, 4,000 pieces of wardrobe were made or found. The scenery is fabulous- the olive trees in the Sacred Grove of the Forum set are over 200 years old. It is this kind of thing, maybe small in the realm of things, but this is what makes up the gloriousness of this series, "Rome". I absolutely loved it and was glued to the TV and watched each episode several times.

"Rome" has been nominated for several awards and justly deserves each one:

BAFTA Awards: BAFTA TV Award for Best Production Design, Best Visual Effects, Best Titles

Cinema Audio Society, USA: C.A.S. Award for Outstanding Achievement in Sound Mixing for Television Series

Emmy Awards: Emmy for Outstanding Main Title Theme Music, Outstanding Music Composition for a Series (Dramatic Underscore
Golden Globes, USA: Golden Globe for Best Television Series - Drama, Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series - Drama

Satellite Awards: Satellite Award for Outstanding Television Series, Drama, Outstanding Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television

Writers Guild of America, USA: WGA Award (TV) for New Series

"Rome" began as a mystery. We knew how it should end, but the in-between was such a joy to behold. The acting, the story, the scenery, the costumes, the brutality, the political intrigue, the characters who come to life, drag us in. You can't help it, you love these people, you don't want the series to end. It does, but it is only Part One. "Rome", Part Two is to come, and it is enough to keep us going, waiting. Sweetie and I will be waiting.

Lucius Vorenus: Do you think of *nothing* but women?
Titus Pullo: What else is there?
[he thinks]
Titus Pullo: Food, I s'pose.

Very Highly Recommended. prisrob 8-05-06
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on October 14, 2006
Many people here have talked about the quality of this series, which opinions I agree with. The show is sumptuous not only in its depiction of noble Rome, but also that of common Rome, the people whose lives and work made the Republic possible. The characters are well-drawn and excellently acted, and the production is top-notch, especially considering it as a TV production, which usually come off as less polished to me.

The theme I would like to talk about is the depiction of religion in Roman life. It is rare to see a pagan culture portrayed as well as this one is, and in as detailed a manner. Not that the religious aspects of the culture are harped on; they're not. But the gods are ever-present in just the way that gods are in any culture that is centered on its religious beliefs and practices. There are paintings, murals, mosaics and figures; shrines and priests and rituals; blessings exchanged between spouses and curses thrown between enemies; all of them with the ring of historical authenticity.

And it's not just the fact of their presence that impressed me, but also the attitude shown towards this part of Roman life by the filmmakers, one of complete, factually based acceptance. Unlike so many films, these people are not in the slightest way looked down on or demonized for believing as they do. There is no tinge of "poor deluded fools" or "godless heathens" here. On the contrary, everything about their religious life is taken just as seriously as one could hope for. (Or at least, as seriously as the characters themselves take it, which of course varies depending on whom one is watching, just as it would if the film were about modern people in a modern world.)

This theme becomes apparent from the very first moments, during the magnificently clever credit sequence. The gods and beliefs of Rome are literally brought to life in shots of the streets, walls, pillars, and passageways of the city, where the ever-present chalk and paint grafitti (yes, the name really IS that old) begin to dance to the haunting, sensual Mediterranean musical theme. (I certainly hope to see a soundtrack album soon!) It's an enchanting, slightly unnerving short film in and of itself, a little meditation on how the stories we believe in are constantly around, behind, above and beneath us, inspiring and supporting our daily lives. The snake painting slithering on the walls, the chalk lion roaring in the shadows, the hastily sketched Birth of Athena with its attendant bloody show, the quickly slashed outline of Priapus (Romans were very centered on the primacy of the phallus, a fact which is not ignored in this show), Medusa's serpent hair writhing and hissing from a mosaic - all of these charming and disquieting images flash past us and establish a world full of depth and mystery. And that's just the first manifestation of this theme in the series.

There are serious, weighty scenes of solemn ritual, private moments of prayer from individuals to their personal gods, the occasional philosophical exchange about the whims and possible intentions of the gods, and other such touches to the scripts, which seat the people and the culture squarely within the framework of a religious worldview, and that's something that I rarely find in films about bygone eras. Usually, if a culture isn't Christian, its religious realities are either ignored, glossed over, trivialized, or exaggerated in some grotesque, ignorant way to prop up the prejudices of our own day, that wish to believe our dominant religions are the only possible ones for "civilized" people. It's exceedingly rare to see this one handled in such a matter-of-fact way.

As an instance, I was especially pleased by the moment when Vorenus is bidding his wife goodbye before marching off to battle. They embrace, and Niobe murmurs, "Bellona protect you." To which Vorenus answers, "And Juno keep you." Bellona was the Roman goddess of war and bloodshed, and Juno was the matron goddess of wives and marriage. To hear those two names used in such a natural and tender scene, and used CORRECTLY, was quite touching and very satisfying. (The only other time I can remember a scene of pagan religion so well handled was in another film about Rome - Ridley Scott's "Gladiator", where the little scene of Russell Crowe's character praying in private to his household gods was played so naturally and so reverently that it literally brought tears to my eyes.) There are several moments like this little exchange between husband and wife, and other ways in which we learn how important religion was to Rome and its people, such as Caesar's sponsoring of Octavian to the College of Pontiffs.

Now, I don't want to give the impression that this is a major part of the show. The whole point to its effectiveness is that the religious themes are in the background, only sometimes at a level where they actually influence events. But in another way, they're influencing events constantly. Just like today, religion was woven throughout both politics and daily life in Rome, and this series helps us understand how and why. And again, the filmmaker's non-judgmental attitudes about the presence of such things really helps to give the film credibility in its portrayal of Roman life as a living, breathing reality, rather than some white marble stereotype, both sterile and stale. And for that they are to be commended, which I do most heartily.

Oh, and in reponse to the criticism below of the portrayal of Cleopatra and her court: the portrayal here is, in fact, quite accurate. Lots of people make the mistake of equating Cleopatra with Nefertiti, but the Ptolemies were not native Egyptians. They were of Greek stock, and took over the throne of Egypt rather than inheriting it. Cleopatra did NOT live in Pharaonic times; her family reigned centuries after the last of the Pharoahs had died. Historical accounts of the period describe her as a pale-skinned, red-haired woman with freckles, and there are images of her extant from the period, in which we can see she was no relation at all to the dusky, long-necked beauties of the Pharoahs' courts. It's true that the Ptolemies did try to revive the old Pharaonic styles, mostly in order to make the people accept them better (and, to be sure, partly because it was all very cool and made them feel powerful and godlike), but it was an attempt to bring back a time and culture that was gone, rather than a hereditary continuation of it.
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on July 27, 2006
I've been a student of ancient Roman history for many years, and have numerous web sites with biographies on Julius Caesar, Augustus, and others. Also, like many here, I grew up on I, Claudius. From the git-go, I knew that HBO's ROME was setting a new standard for historical drama (and thankfully, nothing like those awful sword-and-sandal epics of the past). In the first place, the script is surprising both because it's literate and because it's far more accurate than most, history-wise. Second, although I initially had doubts about the Vorenus and Pullo team - "Rome seen through two simple soldiers" - it turned out to be brilliant, illuminating the lives of the rich and famous like Caesar, Pompey, Cato, Cicero and Brutus, while grounding the whole series in the daily lives of Romans struggling through a titanic civil war. Third, from the touches of appropriate costuming to those unbelievable sets, it's a Rome as far from the in-studio, veddy upper-class British actors of I, Claudius as you can get. You can smell, taste, feel and touch this Rome, and it is dangerous, full of color, violent, sexual, gritty, vicious, and tangible. You'll never feel the same again about those posed all-white British temples and togas you've seen in the past.

The acting is uniformly excellent (I was particularly delighted with Antony, Octavian and Servilia, but there is no weak acting in the series). More importantly, you'll be drawn into one of history's most epochal stories on a level you never anticipated. Don't miss it!
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The best historical drama produced about the Roman Empire since "I, Claudius" and much more action driven "Rome" positively bristles with energy, a brilliant production design and stunning direction to compliment the strong scripts. "Rome" has every bit the look of a theatrical film with all the epic grandeur one could hope for. The first episode directed by Michael Apted and written by Bruno Heller ("Touching Evil" provides viewers with a context for the series. Set in 52 A.D. "Rome" chronicles the fall of Pompey (Kenneth Cranham)and the rise of Gaius Caesar (Ciarán Hinds) and how it impacts two "ordinary soldiers" Lucius Vorenus (Kevin McKidd from "Kingdom of Heaven") and Titus Pullo (Ray Stevenson "King Arthur" and the TV show "Waking the Dead"). Their lives are entwined with Caesar and the change of Rome from a Republic to an Empire that is ultimately ruled over by Octavian. As we first meet Caesar he has conquered the Gauls but at his victory Gaius receives devastating news; his daughter and Pompey's wife died during childbirth while he conquers the north. Suddenly the tenuous strands that bound these former allies and friends together have been cut. Pompey claims he won't betray a friend but makes plans behind the scenes to support his position. Many in the Roman Senate are concerned that Caesar's great victories will allow him to wrest control from Pompey. The nobles in the Senate convince Pompey to betray his friend Caesar and undermine his reputation before his return to prevent him from possibly taking control of the Republic.

Great performances, top notch production values and writing make this show as distinctive as "Deadwood" and "The Sopranos" in their prime.

The price is high so the packaging, extras and look of the show better be top notch. It is. Packaged in a hard box the packging appears pretty darn sturdy and when you open it there are images from the series. As usual HBO provides an exceptional transfer with bright vivid colors and deep, rich blacks. I didn't detect any major digital flaws and analog flaws are nonexistent. The 5.1 audio mix is marvelous filled with detail and flawless sounding.

We get eight commentary tracks including producer/writer and creator Bruno Heller along with a mix of actors and crew. Four also feature historical consultant Jonathan Stamp who also provides a historical text commentary that crops up from time to time with fascinating tidbits. If you think divorce is a problem in our culture wait until you find out how often the Roman's divorced. Both provide quite a bit of history and production trivia about shooting the series although there are long stretches of silence they more than make up for these with their lively discussion when they do talk. There are a number of terrific featurettes on Roman society and the production of the series but the best as far as I was concerned (outsome of the commentary track on the first episode, I haven't had a chance to listen to the others yet)is the text commentary with historical facts. When they pop up you can push enter on your remote and be taken to a page of further text and information on Roman society. These pop up quite often and provide both historical facts and also background about some of the events and things referred to in the dialog. My only complaint and it is that when you hit return after reading the page sometimes it will take you back to the beginning of the episode vs. returning you to the point you were at. Perhaps this is a flaw in the set I got or a problem with my DVD player (I actually watched it on my computer). I'm not sure.

We get five featurettes that are scattered throughout the set with the bulk of the special features on the sixth disc. First up is "Friends, Romans and Countrymen" which gives those unfamiliar with Roman history the background on the main characters and all the shenanigans they were up to without spoiling the plot.

Another great HBO series, "Rome" is both involving drama and also full of spectacular action sequences. The performances by the actors are all strong. Highly recommended. If you can't buy it rent it you'll enjoy it.
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on July 10, 2006
This is an outstanding FICTIONAL TELEVISION SERIES. Unlike certain movies pertaining to antiquity that have been out recently, this show does NOT claim to be the historical truth. It tells a riveting story based on historical events. Moreover, it shows more actual research on ancient Rome than most other fictional accounts. In fact, I'm hard pressed to think of a non-documentary movie or a show on antiquity that was as accurate as the previous reviewer expects this show to be.

The details on the culture of ancient Rome were amazingly well-researched, even more-so than some so-called documentaries. Even Pullo and Vorenus are names of men actually listed in Caesar's legions. Suetonius (who is not historical gospel by any means, but we're talking entertainment here) also mentions gossip about a relationship between Caesar and Augustus.

But more importantly, this is entertainment, and it is successful entertainment.

If you're expecting lots of blood and gore and battle scenes, then bewarned, this show focuses more on politics and intrigue (especially intrigue) than it does military battles. Frankly, I find that refreshing, as most movies of late dealing with antiquity focus mainly on battles and fighting. There is, however, a rather unlikely gladiator scene in one of the episodes.
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on July 1, 2006
Never, NEVER has there been a production which takes you back to the ancient world more effectively than ROME. I took Latin in school and am a history major, and to me everything rings true, from street level, to the legions, to the palaces, to the events. Only hard research could give us the wealth of accurate detail we see, from costumes to sets to dialog. There's not one piece of fiction in this historical fiction that isn't plausible. Not to diminish any others parts, which are all played to perfection, but watch these in particular: Ciarán Hinds is so magnificent as Julius Caesar that we wish history had been different. And Max Pirkis as Octavian, the future Caesar Augustus, makes it easy to see how this youngster will become the greatest despot who ever lived.

Back to the historical accuracy... Senate Republicans in fact wanted to preserve the republic not for the good of the nation but for the preservation of their property and privileges (sound familiar?). Elections were decided by who could buy the most votes and whose gang of street thugs prevailed. Graffiti was obscene, and sex was far more frank than today. The various English accents of the players parallel the class distinctions of the Romans. Julius Caesar's motives were ambivalent, leaning towards the cynical. And yes, the central characters Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo are historically documented. All of these are faithfuly portrayed by Rome. Of course much of the story must be conjectural, but the conjecture here is as solidly grounded as that of any historical fiction I've seen.

So, with Rome we are given a wonderfully woven history lesson and a rip-roaring spectacle at the same time. To put it crassly, we can see every bit of this production's $[...] million budget on the screen. From the magnificent sets to the magnificent portrayals, Rome is nothing less than monumental.
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on April 12, 2007
I love this show. It really is a shame that HBO could no longer afford to produce it after two seasons. They beautifully capture the turbulent mix of violence, love, honor, spite, war, brotherhood, lust, achievement, and mythology that embodied ancient Rome. Think of it as the History Channel meets The Sopranos, with a little bit of 'Days of Our Lives' thrown in for good measure. The first season starts with Caesar's conquest in Gaul and ends around the time of his assassination. All the great figures of this era are brought to life; Caesar, Brutus, Cicero, Mark Antony, Pompey, Cato, Octavian, Cleopatra, etc. There are also a slew of fictional characters added to the mix, namely Centurion Lucious Vorenus and Legionnaire Titus Pullo whose fates seem to be constantly intertwined with that of the leading figures of Rome. This makes for an interesting contrast between the aristocratic world of Rome's leaders and the lot of the common Roman.

The show is very realistic and I've read that they worked closely with historians during production. And while most of the events and characters are historically accurate, there are some fictional elements-besides the aforementioned characters-in the series. This is done not because the producers were ignorant of their history, but simply to enhance the entertainment factor of the show. For instance, in an interesting twist on reality, Caesarion, the son of Caesar and Cleopatra is really fathered by the aforementioned Titus Pullo-unbeknownst to Caesar of course-and this actually leads to a nice twist at the end of season two. I only say this because I can picture many a history professor watching and indignantly pointing out the many "historical inaccuracies."

I have to laugh at the reviewers that complain about the rampant violence, sex, and brutality portrayed here. If you don't feel comfortable seeing this sort of thing, stay away from this DVD, but this was the reality that was ancient Rome and portraying it as anything less would take away from the show's realistic appeal. This was 2000 years ago people, and the world was a much different place. It is assinine to view this show through the lens of a 21st century Judeo-Christian morality. So if you can appreciate the show for what it is, and respect the fact that these men and women were all products of their time, I would say that 'Rome' is some of the best TV ever produced.

PS- There is a great special feature on the DVD that, when turned on, flashes occasional blurbs at different points throughout the show. These blurbs explain certain facts and features of Roman society and as a history student I really enjoyed this.
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on November 28, 2006
Rome is simply the best thing that has happened to historical drama about the Roman Empire since "I Claudius". It's definitely not suitable for children though, having liberal sprinklings of bloodthirsty violence, sex and nudity.

Season 1 covers the period 52-44BC and as far as I could see, the historical events are almost totally accurate. Certainly some details have been left out or quickly glossed over but this is only what you would expect when trying to fit a period of eight years into a 12 hour mini-series.

What impressed me the most was the exquisite attention to detail in creating first century BC Rome and the Romans that inhabited it. So many epics show ancient Rome as a sterile marble metropolis inhabited by people wearing spotless white togas but the Rome in this series resembles a third world city with dirty, crowded and dangerous streets and this is the way it must have been. This is also one of the few Roman stories that gets the armor right. The Roman troops of this period wore suits of chain mail, not the lorica segmentata of a century later. I did spot a Roman cavalryman apparently wearing stirrups though. Stirrups did not come into vogue for several hundred years after this date but this is a minor transgression.

Culture and religion are treated exceptionally well too and the stupendous gap between rich and poor in ancient Rome comes out as it should. I should also say a word about the opening sequence to each episode where graffiti and wall paintings come to life and gyrate to a catchy rhythm that really sets the atmosphere for the story to follow.

The story follows the adventures of Lucius Vorenus (Kevin McKidd) and Titus Pullo (Ray Stevenson) who were two soldiers in Caesar's army as they are caught up in the tumultous events of the time. Soldiers of these names are actually mentioned in Caesar's "Gallic Wars" but their story depicted here is fictional. Vorenus and Pullo often wind up working as troubleshooters for Caesar doing such things as rescuing Octavian (the future emperor Augustus) and saving Cleopatra from death. Vorenus is the textbook stolid Roman while Pullo is just a rogue yet they become reluctant friends. As well as his involvement in the lofty events of the day, Vorenus has to contend with a difficult private life involving his young wife Niobe who eventually comes to a tragic end.

The acting is uniformly excellent and I couldn't find any fault here. Particularly outstanding are Kevin Mckidd as Vorenus, Polly Walker as the evil Atia, Caesars niece and Ray Stevenson as Pullo. Ciaran Hinds is also a very convincing Caesar.

The extras disk is fairly routine but does give some insight into the extensive research that went into making the show. Overall I thoroughly recommend Rome and I would give it six stars if I could. Needless to say, I can hardly wait for season 2.
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