Monday, May 12, 2014

Naturally Rome gives us Romantic

I've been watching Rome on HBO, and it's driven me to bust out the Plutarch. The first season was great, the second season, not so much. I don't know if the writers changed or what happened, but my personal guess is that their decision to take Lucius Vorenus and run him through the two dimensional paladin -> anti-paladin -> redemption through love/family was a major contributing factor to the death of the show. Their choice to omit the suicide of Brutus and turn it into some "died just like Caesar but in the field and not the Senate" cheapened things tremendously as well, but that'd probably more to do with stupid American sensibilities. Titties, cocks, torture and death on screen are cool, but oh no, can't dabble with Roman views of suicide. There's 2000 years of Christianity standing in the way of being able to answer the question of "to whom does my life belong?" with any answer other than "God".


From some 1800s English translation of the relevant Plutarch:

The night was now far spent ; when Brutus, leaning his head towards his servant Clitus, whispered something in his ear. Clitus made no answer, but burst into tears. After that he took his armour-bearer Dardanus aside, and said something to him in private. At last, addressing himself to Volumnius in Greek, he entreated him, in memory of their common studies and exercises, to put his hand to his sword, and help him to give the thrust.

Volumnius, as well as several others, refused : and one of them observing that they must necessarily fly ; "We must fly, indeed," said Brutus, rising hastily, "but not with our feet, but with our hands." He then took each of them by the hand, and spoke with great appearance of cheerfulness, to the following purpose. "It is an infinite satisfaction to me, that all my friends have been faithful. If I am angry with fortune, it is for the sake of my country. Myself I esteem more happy than the conquerors ; not only in respect to the past, but in my present situation. I shall leave behind me that reputation for virtue, which they, with all their wealth and power will never acquire. For posterity will not scruple to believe and declare, that they were an abandoned set of men, who destroyed the virtuous for the sake of that empire to which they had no right."

After this he entreated them severally to provide for their own safety ; and withdrew with only two or three of his most intimate friends. One of these was Strato, with whom he first became acquainted when he studied rhetoric. This friend he placed next to himself, and laying hold of the hilt of his sword with both hands, he fell upon the point and died.

Plutarch also says that: When Antony found the body of Brutus, he ordered it to be covered with the richest robe he had ; and that bring stolen he put the thief to death.

There's just something utterly, I don't know, magical? that happened around the time where the West swapped its calendar from BC to AD. I mean, here we are, 2000 years later and two months of the year are named after powerful people from this time period. Honestly, it's all just terribly romantic.

Once upon a time Rome was ruled by kings, but the kings were killed and a republic that lasted five hundred years began. The last king of the romans was slain by a group of noblemen led by Lucius Junius Brutus a *direct* forefather of the Brutus who threw himself on a sword several paragraphs ago. As you near the end of the republic and the rise of Julius Caesar you have this fucked up situation where tremendous amounts of wealth are controlled in the hands of a very narrow few, and not just monetary wealth, but land as well. So up comes Caesar who wins the love of the mob and the hatred of these ultra rich. He becomes emperor, but not before fucking the sun-god queen of a land of ancient splendor, magic and ruin. She bears his child.

Caesar consolidates power, and the wealthy kill the tyrant in broad daylight on the floor of the senate in a group led(?) by Marcus of the house Brutus - the kingslayers. And then, as if this wasn't all romantic enough, you get this whole second Triumvirate that pits Caesar's previous second in command Marc Antony against his son-by-law Octavian (who's like 18 at the time). There's that huge technicolor love affair and suicide between Antony and that queen of the ancient lands who bore Caesar's bastard. Octavian crushes them both, consolidates his power, gains the title of "The Illustrious One", establishes an empire at the age of 36 that would run for 500 years, and get's a month named after him that we remember 2000 years later.

Then you get this whole "year 0", and a potential son-god.

And here everyone's all like "oooo that dude in the black turtle neck put a ding in the world."

 History's awesome.

1 comment:

  1. As a Classicist, I totally agree with you here. I also agree with the assessment of the show in pretty much every detail. I think a lot of what went wrong with Season 2 was that they knew they weren't getting a third season, so they decided to cram in everything they could to get to the logical stopping point of Augustus being named Princeps. Still, what they did to the wonderfully nuanced characters and relationships of Vorenus and Pullo was a real shame.