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Rome: Triumph

“The Republic was old and infirm. Death can be merciful in such cases.”

This episode opens among the nobles with unhappy Brutus and Cicero mourning end of the Republic. In general, the senators are glum as Julius Caesar takes his position on the curule chair, while the other chair is removed from the dais. The Roman Republic was always presided over by two consuls, to prevent tyranny. Cicero then moves for Caesar to be made dictator of Rome for ten years. As dictatorships were previously limited to terms of six months, this is also significant.

Caesar is now at the pinnacle of his career, and beginning to take himself seriously as a god. A Triumph has been granted to him by the Senate, the procession where he celebrates himself and his victories. These parades were important for the people, providing entertainment and spectacle (we’ve still got about a hundred years to go before they erect the Coliseum). They were even more important to Roman generals, who yearned for the glory of a Triumph above anything else. To be admired in Rome was what they all desired.

Atia goes to Servilia to gloat; that is, to triumph over her. Octavia is at a remote temple cutting herself – Octavian comes to fetch her – and compels her to return to her family.

Quintus, the invented natural son of Pompey, is at the nadir and goes to Brutus’ house and shouts outside. He is invited in and he and Servilia compose pieces accusing Caesar of tyranny. To Brutus’ dismay, they sign his name to these pamphlets (rather like blogs with fake authors). Brutus is horrified as this could lead to his death.

The episode shows lots of ritual and preparation but this is needed. The Triumph was considered sacred, and it was also an enormous affair.

Posca assists Lucius Vorenus through a candidacy by Posca – as is Niobe, who is warned to behave in a ladylike manner. We soon learn that the elections are fixed. Someone objects. Posca signals, another moves in front of him so he cannot be seen while a pair of thugs remove the protester, and I appreciate how smoothly this was done. Vorenus is disappointed when he realizes the elections are unfair.

Pullo has been pretty lost since his return and decides what he needs to be happy and to find peace is to marry Eirene. However, he never bothered to check with her about her feelings, so that goes wrong. He kills her young lover and Vorenus tells Pullo never to darken their home again. At the end of the episode he is discovered by Erastes, the local mafia don.

Title musings. This is the last of the single word titles in the first season. Some people – Caesar and his allies - are clearly at the pinnacle of power. Others, such as Vercingetorix, the King of the Gauls, are completely rock bottom. But from the top there is nowhere to go but down, and from the bottom – unless you are dead like the King of the Gauls – things can only get better. Even the King of the Gauls’ fate improves a little at the end, as his corpse is taken from the rubbish heap and honored by his friends with a funeral pyre.

Bits and pieces

Caesar wishes to suggest purple without actually wearing purple as that color was reserved for kings.

Imagine giving an elephant an emetic. No, don’t.

Cicero and Octavia, the most sensitive, look away when Vercingetorix is executed, but most look on. Executions were considered entertainment.

Cassius was actually the brother-in-law of Brutus, but in Rome the writers have ignored his three sisters.


Brutus: My dear friend, we have no honor. If we had honor, we would be with Cato and Scipio in the afterlife.

Brutus: He has shown himself to be as wise and merciful in victory as he was invincible in battle. Let this be an end to division and civil strife.

Caesar: Oppose me and Rome will not forgive you a second time. Senators, the war is over.

Octavian: You are not a worm, you are a daughter of the Julii.

Atia: My poor little grump. Oh, I did not realize until now how much I missed your gloomy presence around the place.

Posca: The Roman people are not crying out for clean elections. They are crying out for jobs.

Brutus: You do understand, he might have me killed for this.

Servilia: Rome has fallen into the hands of a corrupt monster. You – direct descendant of the father of the Republic – what do you do?

Vorenus: You do this violence before my children?

Pullo: Never demoted, never flogged, never locked up. Straight to the top.

Caesar: Of course I believe you. Besides, why would you put your name to a thing – and then deny it?

Caesar: Brutus, I have never doubted your friendship or fidelity. Even when we were enemies.

Pullo: I’m a soldier not a murderer.
Erastes: These days, Pullo – is there really any difference?

Overall rating

I liked this episode better than some other episodes - perhaps there were fewer naked bodies, which to me often feels like filler - even though the plot was fairly straightforward. The characterization was solid and Caesar's belief that he was a god is good and creepy. I liked how even at the bottom some acted anyway, instead of giving up entirely, as Servilia, Cassius and Quintus start their form of insidious blogging. The music was terrific and the triumph itself spectacular. A solid three spears out of four.

Victoria Grossack loves birds, math, Greek mythology, Jane Austen and great storytelling in many forms.

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