18 October 2005 | HMDixon2
An excellent evocation of Ancient Rome and its people
One of the grand stories of history, Julius Ceasar and the beginnings of the Empire, told in a style which is both compelling and historically accurate. I am an art historian with a particular interest in Ancient Rome, and I find this to be the best evocation of Ancient Rome yet on screen.
Rome at the time of Julius Ceasar was the major power in Europe and northern Africa, but it was not yet the great city of the Emperors. For once the set designers have got it right. It is colorful (not the pure white city of Hollywood), squalid, profane, reverent, brutal, and alive with life. We know of the graffiti from ancient sources. We know the outlines of the history, which this series treats very accurately. What we cannot know is the souls of the major actors in this great drama. This mini-series gives us a glimpse into the motivations, both grand and petty, of the people who brought down the Republic but did not quite replace it with the Empire. Not quite yet.
Aside from the sets and set decoration, which is superb (first time a Roman insula or apartment building is accurately shown on film to the best of my knowledge), what this series does is give us a sense of the possible motivations behind the historical facts. Is this the way it really was? No one can say. It does fit the historical data we have. What this series does, beyond everything else, is remind us that these figures were people with all the complexity of motivation that we experience in people today. The producers, directors, and actors have admirably avoided the cardboard cut-out and pretentious posturing.
Be warned, this mini-series is just as casually brutal and profane as Ancient Rome was. I would not let young children watch it, at least not without serious guidance. I will say that it is just plain excellent and well worth your attention. You will be entertained and informed. It will make you think about characters that we know only distantly from books or from far more conventional Hollywood cardboard characterizations. Unequivocally a great production.