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an historical evaluation of Season 1
 
   
 

ANALYSIS: Episode 9
Utica


Episode Nine of the HBO Series “Rome” begins with a loose historical basis, but quickly devolves into simple plot intrigue. The first scene is meant to be the Battle of Thapsus, but considering that the actual battle is not shown, there is little left to be shown. What is shown, though, is not completely accurate as they have replaced Juba with Cato in the episode. The death of Cato is only somewhat accurate, as he is pictured here stabbing himself. In his actual death, though, Cato is not with Scipio and fails at his first attempt at death. The death of Scipio which follows the death of Cato was in fact not at the funeral pyre of Cato, but took place on a boat, being done by his own hand and not that of his aide. There is little other significant historical basis in this episode. In a dinner party scene, Caesar mentions the need for a triumph and asks Octavian to be pontiff, both events which did occur within the historical record.

Despite that much of the historical basis has been skewed in the first half of the episode, there does not appear to be any historical basis to the second half of the episode. The question remains as to why the scenes were chosen and why specific facts were included. It seems as though much of the scenes were added in order to create more of an emotional story line than would have existed if the ancient texts were strictly adhered to. The history is of course wrought with politics and military action. Since this does not necessarily interest the general public, those responsible for the plot of “Rome” added things which would gain the attention of a wider audience. This was done largely by including scenes which could be considered to be more controversial. This is clear in the scenes which include incest and lesbianism. Though these things did not happen according to the historical record, they are attention-grabbing and the average person who is not familiar with the details of the fall of the Republic would not necessarily know the difference. In this episode, the extra scenarios do not affect the history, but rather only the characters directly involved. Historical inaccuracies might be noted by viewers, but those inaccuracies present in the more historical scenes are not due to the false subplots present.

Finally, those who made the series have stated that the aim was for a feeling of authenticity rather than achieving absolute accuracy. When considering the episode in that light, there is more favor for the decisions made. The historical scenes, though they were not entirely accurate, did feel authentic in their presentation. The elements which really helped with the authenticity, though, were the added plot elements. The added scenes helped to bring the story to life in a new way and in a way that entirely historically accurate depictions of events would have had trouble doing. The fact of the matter is that the series is intended to be fictional, not a literal retelling of events. For this reason, it seems to add to the authenticity of the show to include the every day lives of the characters involved. Though there was no direct record of people’s feelings, families, or relationships, it is obvious that all these things would have existed. It would therefore take away from the authentic feel of the show to leave out these types of background stories and the home lives of the characters.

Amanda Wood