Sunday, October 23, 2005

Great TV Wasn't Built In One Day

Say what you want about James Lileks (and we do), but the man knows his TV. From the beginning, Lileks has raved about HBO's Rome and he is quite right. The show is fabulous. It details the historical storyline of how Julius Caesar won the civil war against Pompey circa 50 B.C. Meanwhile, there is a fictionallized account of two warriors in Caesar's army, which provides insight into what life was like for the citizens outside of the ruling class.

The most interesting thing about Rome are the little 5 minute videos that HBO prepares with Executive Producer Bruno Heller and Historical Consultant Johnathan Stamp. Stamp basically explains all of the anachronisms and inaccuracies of the show, then Heller provides excuses. An example from episode 3:

Stamp points out:
  • Caesar wouldn't have ridden at the front of his army
  • Romans didn't use saddles and stirrups on their horses
  • The two soldiers actually existed but their storylines are fictional

Heller responds:

  • There wouldn't be a camera angle unless Caesar rode in front
  • The insurance risk to the production company would have been greater without stirrups and saddles
  • The fictionalized accounts of the soldiers allows insight into the everyday life of Romans

Don't take Rome as pure history, there are inaccuracies and conjecture involved. However, the history of the civil war is mostly correct and it makes for fascinating television. It is especially interesting to speculate on what the most powerful ruler in the history of the world would have been like as a teenage boy. Octavian, who later took the name Augustus Caesar, plays a prominent role as Julius Caesar's grand nephew and heir. After Caesar's death he fought a civil war, consolidated his power and ruled the western world for over forty years.


Blogger Just Me said...

Sounds interesting, but I only watch shows where groups like the Huns, the Visigoths and Germanic hill tribes kick the living daylights out of the Romans.

"Ah, the Luftwafe..the Washington Generals of the History Channel"
- Homer

8:51 AM  

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