sevilia road  
an historical evaluation of Season 1
 
   
 

ANALYSIS: Episode 6
Egeria


The title of this episode refers not only to the fictitious young girl who popped Octavian’s cherry, but also to the goddess of childbirth and women’s counsel who Niobe prays to after Pullo tells Lydie that her husband (and Niobe’s lover) has been killed. The episode is certainly an entertaining one, packed with superfluous sex scenes, some girl on girl sword fighting and even a ship tossed about on the sea. Some humorous highlights include when Mark Antony tells Poppea, the wife of Publius Servilius, that she should marry him if anything unfortunate were to happen to her husband and when Atia of the Julii asks Octavian if he has penetrated anyone lately. The creators of the series have remarked that they were aiming more for authenticity then actual accuracy. This episode, in some parts, seems almost frighteningly like the viewer is transported back to Ancient Rome. In other parts, it feels contrived.

One of the more realistic parts of the episode is the scene of Caesar writing his letter to Mark Antony to send the troops to Greece. The letter is exactly something that Caesar would have written. The tone and grammatical structures alike resemble his writings in the Bellum Gallicum. Some other interesting realistic facts would be the diminished number of senators left in the senate when Caesar and Pompey are out warring. We know for a fact that, according to Cicero, many of Pompey’s supporters fled the city when they heard that Caesar was in Rome, and would have stayed out of the city under his dictatorship. Also, many of the more influential members of the Optimates party would have been either with Pompey raising troops, or in the East. The costuming of the show is also very accurate. The military dress is completely accurate, down to the under-tunic worn by Pullo. Niobe and Lydie’s dresses are made of thin wool, which is accurate for a plebian woman’s dress. Octavian, Atia, and Octavia all wear garments in sumptuous fabrics, and are typical of higher class individuals. Atia and Octavia even buy jewelry in one scene. We know that wealthy woman would have adorned themselves with gold and bone jewelry to show their status. Other aspects that hint at the authenticity of the episode include the slang used by the characters, the role of Publius Servilius, and the brothel. At one point in the episode, Mark Antony is upset and yells “Sons of Dis!” This would have been a common exclamation, comparable to our “Damn it!” At one point, in bed after she insults him, Mark Antony calls Atia “an old harpie.” Their subtle nods to mythology add to the authentic feel of the show. Publius Servilius Rullus was a real Roman senator who proposed a real bill to the senate. He acts appropriately in the show as a man who has been threatened into action, as many men in the senate were. At the brothel, Octavian is offered male and female partners. The girl he chooses, Egeria (which is ironic because her name means beginning or start), tells him that she was taken at a young age from her family, which is also a very authentic detail.

As for portions of the show that remain superfluous, such as the lesbian “tension” between Octavia and Servilia and the sex scenes, while they make for good television they had nothing to do with ancient Rome. While it cannot be ignored that there were homoerotic occasions, there is no fact whatsoever to point to the fact that Octavia ever had recourse with Servilia. Also, the other sex scenes in the show, while they make for some steamy after hours viewing, they add nothing historical to the show. Some other inaccuracies would be the mention of Antony’s mistress as “Cynthia.” There is no historical record to point to the fact that Antony ever had a lover named Cynthia. The other character, who was, assumedly, added to show for humor, was Cato the Dwarf. It would have been quite hilarious had Antony actually had a dwarf named Cato. The look on the real Cato’s face would have been a sight to behold. As he is the cause of all evil in the world, Cato deserves it.

Overall, the episode and the series as a whole point to a background well versed in authentic history. While some events have been left out for sheer sequence or plot, and others due to their complexity and deviation from story lines, the show manages to stay true to its roots. Even though the characters of Pullo and Vorenus may never have done any of the things that they are depicted to do, they act like true Romans, and that is what counts.