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Rome 1.01 - "The Stolen Eagle"

I doubt any Roman drama will ever be able to surpass I, Claudius in quality and audaciousness, but Rome promises to be an engrossing, entertaining ride. The stylish opening titles set the tone: bold and painterly; and was that a nod to the snake in I, Claudius's own credits near the end?

Given the number of characters introduced (and my own lack of familiarity with Roman history) it was difficult to keep track of who was who, but by episode's end the main players - and, presumably the central battle lines - had been clearly drawn: Pompey, of common stock and co-proconsul with - and by episode's end, against - noble Julius Caesar; Caesar's niece Atia (in the fine tradition of scheming Roman women); the almost caricaturish soldier Titus, and the Centurian Lucius Vorenus. Floating among these are names familiar to me from history classes, Shakespeare plays and issues of The Sandman: Brutus, Mark Antony and Octavian (whom I picked as the future emperor only because the Gaiman story "August" recounted how the young Augustus travelled to see Julius Caesar in Gaul, as he does in this episode).

Sex, violence and politics seem to be the order of the day. My favourite part was when Octavian displayed his insight and hinted at the greatness to come by figuring out why exactly Caesar sent Titus and Vorenus to retrieve the stolen eagle standard. (Though the actor playing Octavian doesn't seem wholly comfortable in the role yet.) While his reasoning was undoubtedly accurate (in terms of the show's plot, not necessarily history), there was another twist in the machinations, instigated by Pompey. Hopefully this "layer upon layer" approach to the story telling wil continue.


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