sevilia road  
an historical evaluation of Season 1
 
   
 

ANALYSIS: Episode 3
An Owl in a Thornbush


This episode, An Owl in the Thornbush, is not especially historically based and probably receives about two eagles; however, the episode had potential to be historically accurate. The episode did have historical sentiments though. Further, some of the changes to the episode appear to be for entertainment purposes. There are three main historical portions that overarch the entire episode: Pompey’s retreat from Rome, the treasury, and Caesar’s advancement towards Rome; however, none of these are portrayed as anything other than the general structure for the episode. The episode is not just a combination of sort-of-accurate historical events; instead, there is the theme of class between many different people which allows the series to use these tensions later in the series.

Pompey’s retreat is glamorized by HBO. There are several themes that are shown in this retreat that are thread throughout the series. The first, Pompey appears to be sort of aloof to the proceedings of Rome. He often talks about his previous military battles rather than the present schism. The show depicts the uncertainty of Pompey’s leadership. The second theme is that Pompey and his followers are completely unorganized. This is shown in the scenes in which Pompey describes the retreat to the others because the others are not listening to Pompey. There seems to be a discussion instead of one person completely leading. The last theme is that the followers of Pompey appear to be following Pompey for the sake of keeping the Republic instead of having faith in Pompey. These themes are partly accurate and party an artistic interpretation but they are woven throughout the rest of the episode and series.

The scene of the treasury has been completely made up; however, the scene is made up to better display the themes. The treasury appears to be an afterthought to Pompey in his retreat. He asks his officer as he is leaving town. This is an example of Pompey’s distance from the severity of the proceedings. The officer that is in charge of taking the gold does not really seem to be efficient at taking the treasure. Further, the lower officers appear to be taking arbitrary amounts of gold. This scene exemplifies the unorganized manor in which HBO has presented the followers of Pompey. Lastly, the very fact that the soldiers turned and killed the army official shows how disloyal his subjects were. This scene sets up later plot lines for other characters.

Caesar’s advancement towards Rome through Lucius and Pullo is completely made up; however, the reason that those characters are more fully develops allows there to be a stark contrast between Caesar’s army and that of Pompey. These characters are the last development of the themes. Pompey’s aloofness that allowed Rome to be completely unguarded, which is the way these characters found Rome. Secondly, Lucius and Pullo run into the lack of organization because any force they encounter end up running away. Lastly, Lucius and Pullo meet the apathetic soldiers that stole the treasury. There is a big contrast between the loyal supporters of the Republic and the rest of the army that is simply serving a duty. Lucius is simply serving a duty and leaves when he finishes his assignment; whereas, the soldiers of the treasury made their own assignment. This is a jarring contrast.

As for other themes in this episode, there is an excessive emphasis placed on class tensions in particular the class between Vorenus and Pullo, Atia and Timon. Pullo is from a much lesser class then Vorenus. Pullo even mentions at one point that his father had been a slave. Thus, he is as low socially as one can be without being a slave; however, Vorenus is comfortably middle class. He does not have a high rank; yet, he is not a lower class citizen. Thus, the entire trip allows for an interesting cultural exchange. Take for example the scene in which Vorenus and Pullo are talking about philosophy. Pullo would have no formal education; while, Vorenus, historically, probably had some education. Pullo’s belief of the stars comes out as naïve and unsophisticated while Vorenus attempts to gently explain the real thought behind the stars; yet, Pullo then pokes holes in Vorenus’ argument. This appears to portray that an education is only useful in certain ways. There are things and actions which are beyond anyone’s comprehension; thus, the class system is really only a rigid entity that seemed to matter very little.

Historically, clearly, this view is not the case. The class system was the fundamental aspect of Roman society; further, the government ran off of the class system. In Rome, there probably would not have been a mingling between these classes. Further, the position in which Vorenus has been given by Caesar would not be followed by Pullo. There would have been other people surrounding Vorenus. Further, later in the series the two characters find their way to having tremendous power in the changing dynamics of the government. Historically, this would not have been allowed to happen. Even though there was political unrest this did not completely undo or rid Rome of social standings.

The other characters, Atia and Timon, also portray a class struggle. Timon is Atia’s slave; however, in this episode, Rome is at such unrest Timon appears to overstep some of his boundaries as a slave. Sure, Atia is still clearly Timon’s master; yet, the example to Timon demanding sexual compensation for his deeds displays a sort of confidence or authority. Further, later in the episode, Atia ends up having relations with Timon. Now, it remains slightly vague within the episode whether Atia desired this relationship. Even still, a slave has not right or authority to demand something from his master; thus, it would appear that the director is developing another theme, human nature is inclined to equality not to social status.

There is not any historical accuracy in this scene, this is purely fiction. Further, in regards to the class system, the slave whom has no rights would not be able to speak to his master in such an open way. Now, sure, the Roman system treated slaves with much higher regard; however, they were still slaves. This action would have never taken place and if the action did take place the response would not have been so nonchalant. Now, one could argue that Atia brings about these advances by her behavior; however, for the sake of argument, we will leave Atia’s behavior as another topic.

Thus, the main theme presented in this episode is that the class system in the Roman society was rigid; however, at this time in history and ultimately in the vastness of the unknown, the class system dissolves. This is a completely theatrical theme which has no historical evidence or implications.

This episode appears to be changed for the sake of exemplifying themes that can be shown throughout the entire season. The historical exaggerations which take place are meant to increase the drama and the storylines for certain characters. These can be called historical exaggerations because the directors appear to take sentiments found in historical evidence and then build storylines around these.