11 February 2007

Heroes of the Republic

I'm still not in love with the new Octavian. I think that Max Perkis would have persisted in doing an admirable job as the (forgive the mixed timelines this next statement evokes) Machiavellian prodigy personae of Octavian pre-Augustus Caesar.

We finally get some clues as to timeline in this episode! Octavian is referred to as being 19, that puts us at around 44 B.C. - but wait, we have a problem! 44 B.C. was the year of the death of Julius Caesar! And didn't they have little Octy (Max Perkis' Octavian will hereby be referred to as "Octy" or "Octavian v. 1.0") ride off after getting bitchslapped by Antony? Here's where we start to decrypt the oddities of Roman political society in the 1st century B.C.

[Warning, history lesson content ahead!]

Gaius Julius Caesar (Octavian) was declared consul suffectus around 44 B.C., engaged in military and political skirmishes, Octavian pissed off a great many equites and senators when the triumverate started proscriptions that removed a great deal of their property and wealth. Whoops!

Fast forward to 31 B.C. Octavian marches on Rome after being successful against Cleopatra and Marc Antony in Egypt. There, he is appointed consul, but not given the role of dictator by the Senate... Yet. It takes Octavian another 4 years before he completes the transformation into Augustus Caesar, and even then, we're still not at the "Emperor Augustus" phase of the Roman world.

In 27 B.C., Octavian relinquishes control of Egypt and returns the reins of power in Rome to the Senate. In return, Octavian is granted the titles of Augustus and Princeps. Princeps means "first citizen," and is frequently attributed to the beginning of the Augustan Age of Rome (the first part of the Pax Romana), but it's still not quite to Emperor.

In the ultimate P.R. campaign, Octavian changes his name to Augustus to show himself as a benign and benevolent ruler, as opposed to the 17 years of warfare that he engaged upon in the belief that it was for the benefit of Rome.

[End History Lesson Content]

Another clue as to timestamp! We (come close to the) close of the episode with Atia (who, I suspect, was as devious as we are led to believe, though might not been a bedwarmer of Antony's) forcing Antony into a meeting with Octavian v. 2.0 (he's not Augustus, yet!). This gives a whiff of the beginning of the Second Triumverate (that little get-together boys' club of Marc Antony, Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, and Gaius Julius Caesar (Octavian) - this is a historical oddity that they don't point out, but rather refer to pre-Augustus Octavian as "Gaius Octavian Caesar" - bah!).

So, best I can tell, we're spanning 44 and 43 B.C. in this episode.

What about my opinions on Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo? Well, they were real people, but there wasn't a whole lot of "let's follow these people" by historians past the journals kept by Julius Caesar. In the British fashion of showing the dichotomy of society, we are treated to glimpses of the everyman as represented by Vorenus and Pullo. After the Gallic Wars, no one much followed the lives of Vorenus and Pullo, so this is all subjective fantasy. After all, it is ultimately a television show, and we have to have some level of grab to it - as wonderful as the Caesarian plot twists are, they're a bit out of grasp to follow for the entire hour.

Were the Bacchanalian festivals really like they were depicted? Hell if I know. Historically, we're limited to artwork to describe religious occasions, and those were generally showing the average (read: government sanctioned) festival, not necessarily those of the elite or the poor. I did, however, think Agrippa's "abduction" of Octavia was sweet, and his romantic sentiment towards Octavia just means that I feel so much worse for him when the harsh reality of Octavia's future kicks in. :(

Yeah, the latent romantic in me sighed contentedly when he said "I would tear down the sky for you if you asked me to." Really does make me feel sorry for him in the inevitable disappointment that he'll experience. The cynic in me rears her ugly head at this point and says, "but that is the typical way of it. If everyone had their interest returned, the entire frustration about relationships wouldn't exist as it does in humanity." Reality lies somewhere in the middle.

Things to look forward to in episodes to come, if they don't deviate from the historical rolls... Octavia is married off by Octavian to someone that makes today's dysfunctional families look downright sensible. There will be a political suicide here and there. Marriage, divorce, marriage, birth, divorce, marriage. (What, you thought Americans or modern day society had the lock on serial monogamy? Please. The Romans had this down to a science!) We're also going to (hopefully) get to see the true ruthlessness of my beloved Octavian Caesar.

[Fangirl Crank Upcoming]

I still maintain that they should have kept Max Perkis for the role of Octavian. There's something delightfully wrong about Perkis' characterization of Octavian - he has that je ne sais quoi about him, where you believe the intellect and the clinical aspects of his mind, but there's also that odd appeal where he's still insecure but he has the false confidence where it doesn't show through. This new actor, Woods, for Octavian shows a little too much nervousness. Octavian was stubborn, ruthless, idealistic, and calculating. This new actor wavers too much between insecurity and ruthless, but without that Machiavellian panache that Perkis brought to the role. Perkis' representation was angrier in a way that made sense for the character.

I'm also a fangirl for Perkis, but that's beside the point. I just don't believe Woods' characterization of Octavian.

[End Fangirl Crank]

I can't quite tell what timespan they're aiming for with this season of Rome. We ended Season 1 on 15 March 44 B.C. Five episodes in to Season 2 and we're at sometime in 43 B.C., I suspect we're around March again, as it's the end of the Warring Months (but I highly doubt that Antony or Octavian would respect those traditions). By this time of Season 1, we'd covered 49/48 B.C. to around 46 B.C. (I could be mistaken, I haven't been obsessively watching Season 1 recently.

Personally, I'd love to see them get to the beginning of the Augustan Era, but I suspect that they'll leave the climax with the conquest of Antony and Cleopatra in 31 B.C. That's a lot of time to cover in the next 7 episodes if they stick with the 12 episode season standard.

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