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My sister has just been telling me about an upcoming TV series which is certainly of interest to me, and I believe will be to others on my friends list. Entitled simply 'Rome', it is a co-production between HBO and the BBC, and is coming to the latter on Wednesday November 2nd at 9pm.

Judging from the webpages, it's not likely to be overflowing with historical accuracy. (Historical events, maybe, but that is not the same thing). I think what we have here is epic costume drama, with plenty of sex and violence: 'I, Claudius' with a big budget, perhaps, or maybe something more along the lines of other recent American mini-series such as Cleopatra (1999), Julius Caesar (2002) or Imperium: Augustus (2003) (which, coincidentally, I've just finally managed to win on Ebay - rah!).

But it does look like a feast for those keen on Classical Receptions issues. Why, even from the BBC website alone, I note that it is already inserting itself firmly into the epic tradition with statements such as: "Rome boasts the largest standing film set in the world, comprising five acres of backlot and six soundstages at the world-famous Cinecittà Studios" (has there yet been a Classical epic which didn't?) and "Rome used a peak of 40 horses in one scene, and on the largest day of shooting, 750 actors/extras were used for the scene of Caesar's triumph." (Cast of Thousands! See it with your whole family!). You can also already buy T-shirts and baseball caps with the series logo on them. How long will it be before there are Cleopatra perfumes and Nero boxer-shorts to add to the Christmas list?

My sister seemed to know on the phone that three series are planned in all, and also not only that the first series would be about Julius Caesar and his conflict with Pompey (which is clear from the website), but also that the second would be about Octavian's struggle with Antony (which I can't find online support for, but I'm sure she wouldn't have said without good reason). Presumably the third will be about the actual reign of Augustus, then. In that case, pity they didn't start screening it all earlier, as I could advise my Augustus students to watch the second and third series, and also cover them in the last two lectures of their course, which will be about Augustus in film. Ah well. I, Claudius and Imperium: Augustus should suffice between them.


( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 24th, 2005 09:33 pm (UTC)
O fortunatam natam...
I've read about this.

I think an apt description would be Rome: Total Shag.
Oct. 24th, 2005 09:37 pm (UTC)
Re: O fortunatam natam...
Hehehehe! Yes, that sounds about the measure of it. Which description of course fits I, Claudius and Cleopatra very aptly too. A big fuss was made at the time about views of Billy Zane's bum in the latter.
Oct. 24th, 2005 09:55 pm (UTC)
I think my Literature teacher summed it up quite well:

"Well...since you're studying Antony & Cleopatra, you have an excuse to watch a few hours of lurid Roman debauchery. Maybe it would lead you to more enjoyment of the play than sporadic references to figs and eunuchs...

...In fact, watch it with your parents. The thought of that amuses me."
Oct. 24th, 2005 10:06 pm (UTC)
*chuckles heartily*

Respect to your Literature teacher!
Oct. 24th, 2005 10:53 pm (UTC)
Is this the one I was talking about to a few people some weeks back, starring Ciaran Hinds (I think he's playing Julius Caesar)? I saw the trailers ages ago on BBC and it looks fab. Strangely, and perhaps I'm just going mad, but I think Mr Hinds looks a teensy bit like the lovely Mr Rickman, but without the 'sexeh' voice.

Or maybe I really have gone nuts :P
Oct. 25th, 2005 08:07 am (UTC)
Yep, that's it. There's a cast list with pictures here. Not sure about the resemblence to Mr. Rickman from that picture, but I'll bear your theory in mind when I'm watching the actual series!

I think my QUB students may actually have said something about this series shortly before I left Belfast, but they were so vague about what it actually consisted of that I couldn't find anything out about it at the time. I thought they were just talking about some kind of documentary or something.
Oct. 25th, 2005 01:00 am (UTC)
It's all go here in the States, where it started the Sunday after I arrived. I haven't seen a single episode (aminly due to not having a television), but the professor teaching my Women in Antiquity class bought it up a few times at the start of the semester - apparently it does a rather good historical probably-accurate reconstruction of quite a few bits of pieces, has Pompeian-style graffiti accurate in the scenes, that sort of thing.

There was an article on the BBC website which covers the ideas of continuing the series, although it doesn't say into what. I think it's going to be jolly exciting!
Oct. 25th, 2005 08:15 am (UTC)
Ah, that sounds quite promising then (about the graffiti, etc.) It's usually the social history aspect that these sorts of things get wrong, I think mainly because the evidence for it is more dispersed, difficult to work with or indeed utterly non-existent than the evidence for big battles and so on. But it sounds from what you say as though they've tried, at least.

Thanks also for the link - interesting in itself, even if it doesn't have all that much info on the next series.
Oct. 25th, 2005 09:12 am (UTC)
The Sunday Times did a big article on it this week, stating that The Sopranos was actually a much more accurate portrayal of relationships and power plays in ancient Rome than 'Rome' is. Apparently they've got the sex all wrong or something.
anyway - nyer

Oct. 25th, 2005 09:26 am (UTC)
Wow, thanks for the link there - that's a really good article. If true, 'Rome' will only be the latest in a loooong line of films and TV series which have portrayed the Romans as sex-mad: an interesting assumption in itself, of course.

Hope to see you in early December - I'm in Belfast from the 2nd to the 5th, if you'd missed my post about it.
Oct. 25th, 2005 12:57 pm (UTC)
hurrah! looking forward to seeing you.
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )

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