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an historical evaluation of Season 1

ANALYSIS: Episode 2
How Titus Pullo Brought Down the Republic

The Second Episode of the Rome series entitled, “How Titus Pullo Brought Down the Republic,” contains a significant amount of important political details leading up to Caesar’s crossing of the Rubicon. Intertwined within the historical decision making is the story of the two fictional characters, Vorenus and Pullo. Based on two of Caesar’s centurions whom we know very little about, the men take the spotlight throughout the episode with both their humor and their portrayal of a soldier’s life. The plot of the episode as a whole is fictionalized based on known historical facts about Rome and accurate conversations based on primary sources that are sprinkled in.

Although he is the main focus of the entire episode, Caesar himself only appears at the beginning and ending scenes. This contrast between the first and final scene artistically frame the material within. Each of these scenes have a fair amount of accurate evidence seeing as Caesar was truly located at Ravenna awaiting a response to his demands and there are also numerous accounts of his crossing the Rubicon. Caesar’s character seems to fit the actual accounts of him from sources such as Plutarch and Suetonius as a smart and persuasive general who was loved by the people and his soldiers.

The episode relies on casual conversation and private meetings to reveal the background information for the political actions and decisions being made. Vorenus and Pullo’s meal at the house of Atia is purely fictional entertainment but reveals to the audience that some important political issues have arisen. Namely, the fact that Caesar may march on Rome in attempt to restore the republic makes opportunity for a fruitful political argument. The private meeting at the house of Atia also holds conversation that most likely did not take place there but adds to the dramatic effect of the episode. The proposal that Antony brings to the table was probably read and discussed in the senate and the consuls Lentulus and Marcellus would have had say in the matter. The major politicians involved with decisions are Pompey, Cato, and Cicero. This may be due to the fact that there is more primary evidence about the lives of these men than some of the other influential figures of the period.

Atia herself has a particularly interesting role in this episode. Other than the fact that she was the mother of Ocatavian, there is very little known of her life and personality. It can be assumed that she was a respectable Roman woman of noble blood but the episode treats her as an outrageous gossiper with very little self respect. The quarreling between Atia and her daughter, Octavia, adds some comic relief to the episode but also casts a very dark light upon the two female relatives of Augustus himself. Atia’s scandalous relationship with Antony may have been added to show Antony’s promiscuous side which is documented in the histories of his life.

Amidst the building tension between Caesar and Pompey, there is the developing relationship between the centurions Vorenus and Pullo. There is no doubt that these two take most of the focus of the episode with their return to Rome. The episode portrays a nice contrast between two very different plebian lives. While Vorenus is the family man who struggles to settle back in with his wife and children, Pullo finds nightly activities such as prostitutes and gambling to keep him occupied. The scenes with these men are completely fictional, but serve to give the audience a picture of the point of view from Caesar’s soldiers and also of Roman life in general. The crowded and narrow streets of the Roman subura with their gambling and brothels fit the description that primary sources give. Also, the neighborhood, house, and furniture of the Vorenus family seem to be accurate depictions of family life in an insula at Rome. The set and series of events that make up the Vorenus and Pullo scenes truly add to the episode and help to break up the heavy political conversation.

The plan that Pompey purposes to have Antony veto Scipio’s proposal which would make Caesar public enemy is an interesting version of the actual account. It is true that there were great disagreements concerning this motion in the senate, but Antony’s veto was not ignored due to a brawl. The consul Lentulus discredited the voice of the tribunes in the senate in order to “protect them.” The dramatic escort of Antony back toward the senate house before the attack of the angry gambler is a thrilling and creative way to depict the tribune’s voice being crushed. The scene takes the accuracy that Caesar was declared public enemy, and puts a unique spin on the situation tying it back to Pullo’s misconduct.

“How Titus Pullo Brought Down the Republic,” is altogether full of important material that leads up Caesar’s major decision to cross the Rubicon river and begin civil war with Pompey. The episode artistically adds important information from primary sources such as histories and letters into a creative plot. Although the actual scenes are primarily fictional, they appear to be authentic and capture how it really could have been like to take part in the politics of the age of Caesar.