It seems ancient history takes the fancy, nowadays – at least, this is the impression you get by browsing Netflix’s offer. I can’t complain – I love history and *good* historical fiction, so I’m more than happy to watch (and review) anything I can find. Rome (BCC Series, 2005-2007) is the latest one.
In its two seasons, the series features some crucial events of Roman history, from Julius Caesar’s war first in Gaul and then in Rome against the Roman Senate (the Optimates) to his rise and fall as Rome’s dictator, and the mayhem that ensues. Interestingly, the show’s two MCs, Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo, soldiers of the XIII Legion, are based on Caesar’s real records from De Bello Gallico. Names apart, all the rest is fictional but historically plausible, and this is one of the series’ merit.
The other is the cast – and you’ll recognise many actors. Just to name a few – Pullo is Ray Stevenson (a lot of good roles, one of Dexter’s villains among others), Caesar is Ciaran Hinds (There will be Blood), Octavian as a young boy is Max Pirkis (Master and Commanders) and Niobe (Vorenus’s fictional wife) is GoT’s Ellaria Sand (and she’s amazing all the same).
Said that, there are a lot of things that don’t stand, at least historically – and it’s a pity, because Roman history is so rich and outrageous in its own right that fiction has nothing to add, just the opposite.
I’m aware that Rome was a success for HBO and the BBC, and the series has received a lot of media coverage and awards. Well deserved, no doubts. To me, while I have certainly enjoyed watching it and I was keen on a sequel, it looks like a lost opportunity.