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Rome is an Americanmarker-Britishmarker-Italianmarker historical drama television series created by Bruno Heller, John Milius, and William J. MacDonald. The show's first season originally aired on HBO in the United States between August 28 and November 20, 2005, subsequently being broadcast on the United Kingdom's BBC Two between November 2, 2005, and January 4, 2006, and on Rai Due in Italy between March 17, 2006, and April 28, 2006. The second season aired on HBO in the U.S. from January 14, 2007, to March 25, 2007.

Rome is set during Ancient Rome's transition from Republic to Empire, from Caesar's invasion of Gaul to the death of Mark Antony and the rise of the first Emperor Augustus. The series follows the two main characters, soldiers Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo, who find their lives intertwined with the key events.

The series was a ratings success for HBO and the BBC. The show received much media attention from the start, and Rome was honored with numerous awards and nominations in its two-season run. Co-creator Heller stated in December 2008 that a Rome movie is in development. The series was filmed in various locations, but most notably in the Cinecittà studiosmarker in Italy.

Plot overview

The series primarily chronicles the lives and deeds of the rich, powerful, and "historically significant," yet it also focuses on the lives, fortunes, families, and acquaintances of two common men: Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo, two Roman soldiers mentioned historically in Caesar's Commentarii de Bello Gallico. The fictionalized Vorenus and Pullo manage to witness and often influence many of the historical events presented in the series.

Season 1 depicts Julius Caesar's civil war of 49 BC against the traditionalist conservative faction in the Roman Senate, his subsequent rise to absolute dictatorship over Rome, and his eventual fall, spanning the time period from the end of his Gallic Wars (52 BC or 701 ab urbe condita) until his assassination on 15 March 44 BC (the infamous Ides of March). Against the backdrop of these cataclysmic events, we also see the early years of the young Octavian, who is destined to become the first Emperor of Rome, Augustus. Season 2 chronicles the power struggle between Octavian and Mark Antony following Caesar's assassination, spanning the period from Caesar's death in 44 BC to Octavian's final victory over Antony at Actiummarker in 31 BC.


  • Kevin McKidd as Lucius Vorenus (Season 1 and 2) – Is depicted as a staunch, traditional, Roman soldier, who struggles to balance his personal beliefs, his duty to his superiors, and the needs of his family and friends. The basis for this character is the historical Roman soldier of the same name, who is briefly mentioned in Julius Caesar's De Bello Gallico.
  • Ray Stevenson as Titus Pullo (Season 1 and 2) – A friendly, upbeat, devil-may-care soldier with the morals of a pirate, the appetites of a hedonist, and a total lack of personal responsibility, who discovers hidden ideals and integrity within himself. The basis for this character also comes from the books by Julius Caesar named De Bello Gallico and Commentarii de Bello Civili.
  • Ciarán Hinds as Julius Caesar (Season 1 main, 2 recurring) bears a strong resemblance to his real life counterpart – Caesar is ambitious and unscrupulous. His aims and motives are often kept ambiguous to further complicate the plot and test the personal loyalties of the other characters. He advertises himself as a reformer who sides with the Plebians, even though he is himself a Patrician. He is also merciful to his beaten enemies, genuinely distressed by their deaths and relieved at their willingness to make peace where a more vindictive individual would have simply killed them.
  • Kenneth Cranham as Pompey Magnus (Season 1) – A legendary general, past the days of his prime, who tries to recapture the glories of his youth as well as to do what is right for the Republic. The real Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus was a Roman general and politician who was as ambitious as Caesar, and just as unorthodox in his youth. He chose to ally himself with the optimates in opposing Caesar and supporting the traditional Roman Republic.
  • Polly Walker as Atia of the Julii (Season 1 and 2) – The niece of Julius Caesar and mother of Octavian/Augustus and Octavia. She is depicted as a cheerfully amoral and opportunistic manipulator. Her family connections and sexual liaisons have brought her into contact with some of the most powerful individuals in Rome, making her a highly influential figure in Roman society. Atia is very loosely based on the historical figure Atia Balba Caesonia about whom little detail is known. Rome Historical Consultant Jonathan Stamp identifies the historical figure Clodia as the primary basis for the character of Atia.
  • James Purefoy as Mark Antony (Season 1 and 2) – A Roman general and politician and a close supporter of Julius Caesar in season 1. In season 2, he fights for power in the Roman Republic against Octavian and eventually loses.
  • Tobias Menzies as Marcus Junius Brutus (Season 1 and 2) – Portrayed as a young man torn between what he believes is right, and his loyalty and love of a man who has been like a father to him. The real Marcus Junius Brutus was the most famous of Julius Caesar's assassins, and one of the key figures in the civil wars that followed the assassination.
  • Lindsay Duncan as Servilia of the Junii (Season 1 and 2) – The mother of Marcus Junius Brutus, lover of the married Julius Caesar, and enemy of Atia of the Julii. Servilia is depicted as a sophisticated and regal Roman matron who follows her heart to her detriment, betrayed by love, and hungering for revenge. She slowly becomes as cruel as those whom she would destroy. Servilia is loosely based on the historical personage of Servilia Caepionis, mother of Marcus Junius Brutus, and famous lover of Julius Caesar.
  • Indira Varma as Niobe (Season 1 main, 2 recurring) – A beautiful woman devoted to her family. Niobe is a proud Plebeian from a large clan. After marrying Lucius Vorenus and giving birth to their two daughters, she functioned as a single parent when Lucius went off to war.
  • Max Pirkis (season 1 and early 2) and Simon Woods (season 2) as Gaius Octavian – Portrayed as a shrewd, if somewhat cold, young man, with an understanding of the world, people, philosophy, and politics that go well beyond his years. The basis for this character is the early life of Augustus, the first Roman Emperor.
  • Nicholas Woodeson as Posca (Season 1 and 2) – A slave of Julius Caesar, yet also his friend, aide-de-camp, and confidante in most things personal and professional. As a slave, he will seldom receive credit, but it appears that many of the more simple and elegant solutions to Caesar's problems come from the mind of Posca. Posca is freed and given a stipend in Caesar's will at the start of the second season. He throws his support behind Antony in later episodes, but later strategically defects to Octavian.
  • Kerry Condon as Octavia of the Julii (Season 1 and 2) – The character is based on the Roman matron Octavia Thurina Minor, sister of Roman Emperor Augustus, born to one of the most powerful families in Rome, the Julii. Octavia is the only daughter and elder child of Atia of the Julii, who is the niece of Gaius Julius Caesar.
  • Rick Warden as Quintus Pompey (Season 1 and 2) – The son of Pompey. The basis for this character is unclear. There is no historical mention of a Quintus Valerius Pompey, but the character may be meant to represent both of Pompey's historical sons Sextus Pompeius and Gnaeus Pompeius.
  • Karl Johnson as Porcius Cato (Season 1) – An extreme traditionalist, against political and social decay, and a staunch defender of the Roman Republic. The real Cato the Younger was a Roman orator, author, and politician.
  • David Bamber as Marcus Tullius Cicero (Season 1 and 2) – A moderate politician and scholar, who is challenged with trying to save the traditional Republic from the ambitions of the various characters on the show. The real Cicero was a Roman politician, writer, and orator.
  • Lee Boardman as Timon (Season 1 and 2) – A Roman-Jew, depicted as a "hired sword" — from bodyguard to assassin — for Atia of the Julii, from whom he is quite willing to take her body in lieu of coin.



The series was begun after William J. MacDonald and John Milius pitched the idea to HBO as a mini series. HBO then added a writer, after reading three one-hour scripts. The network made it a full-fledged series. In 2002, HBO and the BBC agreed to co-produce a new series based on the events of the "Roman Revolution". Towards that end, the two networks committed a $100-110 million (£62.7 million) budget to the production of twelve 1-hour episodes, with HBO contributing $85 million, and the BBC contributing $15 million. BBC contributed with £800,000 pounds to every episode of Rome in its first season. The last major collaboration effort before Rome, was the Emmy awarded series, Band of Brothers. Rome was and still is the biggest co-produced series with the American film market in BBC's history. The series also marked the first co-produced series with HBO and BBC, while both companies had worked together in earlier series', the last being Band of Brothers and The Gathering Storm.

When Bruno Heller met with HBO executive producer Anne Thomopoulos, he wanted to pitch an idea about "white-trash America," Thomopoulos then replied if he wanted to pitch an idea about "white-trash Rome". Heller replied: "Love ancient Rome," after a while they started talking about their "love" for I, Claudius a BBC series about ancient Rome released in the mid 1970s. By coincidence both the HBO and the BBC were working on a series involving Ancient Rome. When Heller visited Los Angelesmarker a year later, he was given a script for the upcoming series which would later been known as Rome. Says Tranter from the BBC has said this about the development of Rome: "it felt like something that could have been developed by us and HBO felt like natural partners for the BBC." On the 20 April, 2006 Carolyn Strauss, president of the HBO announced the development of a second season for Rome.


Between March 2004 and May 2005, Rome was filmed, in co-production with RAImarker, in the Italian countryside, on six sound stages at Rome's Cinecittàmarker studios, and in a collection of massive sets in Cinecittà studios' back lots of outdoor sets which comprised an elaborate "period reconstruction" of sections of ancient Rome. It was a huge undertaking, with an international crew of 350, and more than 50 local Italian interns.

The production is regarded as one of the most expensive in the history of TV series. Funding was generously employed to recreate an impressively detailed set featuring a number of Roman Villas, the forum and a vast slum area of the ancient city of Rome. A significant part of this set was later destroyed by a fire that burned down a portion of the Cinecittà Studios on 10 August 2007. According to the HBO, the fire started after they had finished filming the second season of Rome. A portion of the set was also used in late 2007 by the crew of the long-running BBC sci-fi drama series Doctor Who, for the fourth season episode "The Fires of Pompeii".

Audio commentary on the Season 1 DVD indicates that many of the background performers used in the series were also their true professional counterparts. One example is that the actor shown in the series working as a butcher on the streets of Rome was in fact a real-life butcher.


In a separate move, the BBC also decided to re-edit the first three episodes (all directed by Michael Apted) into two episodes. BBC claimed that this was because the British audience were more familiar with the history of Rome than their American counterparts and so much of the history was unnecessary; however, Apted claims that the purpose was to boost the ratings by increasing the prominence of the scenes of sex and violence. In an interview with The Times, Michael Apted was quoted saying:

"I'm really pissed off with the BBC for bringing down my first three episodes to two and, in doing so, taking out much of the vital politics. What also makes me very grumpy is that I was told that the cuts had been introduced by the BBC because they thought British viewers already knew the historical background. But all that's happened as far as the viewer is concerned is that it has made 'Rome' hard to follow."

Apted also said that he only found out about the cuts by accident claiming: "I only found out by chance a couple of weeks ago when one of the actors told me." However, the original uncut versions of Season 1 episodes have since been shown in the UK on UKTV Drama, the channel having aired two episodes every Saturday, with only the title credits cut from the second episode shown every week. This run coincided with the UK screenings of Season 2 on BBC Two.

The Italian broadcasting of the series was also marred by controversy. Strong language was removed in the Italian dubbing process; as for the more explicit sex scenes and disturbing violence, they were replaced by "safe" alternative versions shot during production especially for the Italian broadcast. Rai 4 started showing the original version of the series on the Italian TV on 7 September 2009 .


Jeff Beal got involved with the project later known as Rome after finishing his work on another HBO series, entitled Carnivàle. The producers of Rome invited Beal for an audition because they were having problems with choosing a composer for the series. The Rome producers sent a short cut of episode seven; Beal then started writing a demo score for the Rome staff. According to Beal himself "quite a few themes and ideas from that first pass made it into the show." Beal described the period working with the Rome staff as a "very interesting process." Beal spent much time working on the first three episodes. Beal used his first week to write and record the different instruments used on the soundtrack. He would then start working on the producer notes, orchestrate and record other live instruments used on the soundtrack in the second week. Head writer Bruno Heller wanted to "spice up" the soundtrack by using a more traditional approach for the soundtrack score. Heller was also against heavy use of orchestrated instruments.

Broadcast and DVD releases

International syndication

The series was launched in the United Statesmarker on 24 August 2005, at Wadsworth Theatre in Los Angeles, Californiamarker. HBO broadcast the series pilot "The Stolen Eagle" four days later on 28 August 2005. According to the Nielsen ratings system, the pilot was seen by 3.8 million viewers, ultimately attracting more than 8.9 million viewers over eleven broadcasts, and achieved a 9.1 household rating for Sunday primetime. After the broadcast of only three first season episodes, HBO announced plans to produce a second season of Rome in 2006, for release in March 2007. By the end of the first season, the series had accumulated more than seven million viewers a week in the U.S. The second season premiered 14 January 2007, with the first episode attracting 7.5 million viewers. The final episode aired on 25 March 2007 in the U.S.

In total, HBO used around $10 million dollars to promote Rome. HBO enlisted the internet browser, Mozilla Firefox in its marketing campaign for the series. The company behind Mozilla and HBO made a downloadable skin to Firefox as a custom theme for the series.

BBC Two premiered Rome in the United Kingdom on 2 November 2005, attracting 6.6 million viewers (27%); viewing figures declined in future episodes, with the season finale only attracting 3 million viewers (13%). The first episode of the second season aired on BBC Two on 20 June 2007.

A "sanitized" version of Rome — with toned-down nudity and violence — aired on Rai Due in Italymarker, garnering only a 10% audience share. The Italian newspaper, Corriere della Sera called it a "prime example of historical misinformation," and called actor Ciaran Hinds (Julius Caesar) a "parody." The paper also called the relationship between Atia of the Julii (Polly Walker) and Mark Antony (James Purefoy) "ridiculous." RAI also commented that many Italians did not approve of Anglo-Saxon actors portraying Roman characters.

Cancellation and future

HBO Chairman Chris Albrecht announced in a July 2006 news conference that season two of Rome would be its last, citing the fact that the series (called "notoriously expensive" by Broadcasting & Cable) had been developed under a two-year contract with the BBC that would have been difficult for the BBC to extend due to the series' cost. Of the storyline, co-creator Heller said:

In a 27 February 2008 interview with, actor Ray Stevenson stated that a Rome film was in development, with Heller working on a script. Heller later confirmed in December 2008 that there was "talk of doing a movie version," adding that "It's moving along. It's not there until it is there. I would love to round that show off."

Home release

The entire first season of Rome was released as a six-disc Region 1 DVD box set in the USAmarker on 15 August 2006. It was distributed by HBO Home Video. Featuring all 12 episodes, it also includes several extra DVD features like episode commentaries, behind-the-scenes footage and making-of features. The same set (bar the episodic previews and recaps) was released on 24 July 2006 in Region 2, also entitled Rome: The Complete First Season.

Season 2 was released in North America on 7 August 2007 and, again under the same name as the R1 release, in Region 2 on 10 September 2007.

Rome: The Complete Series was released on Blu-Ray in North America on 17 November 2009.


Critical reception

Rome has garnered much media attention with mostly positive reviews. Alessandra Stanley from The New York Times said: "But behind all that gritty squalor the glory that was Rome gets lost," while reviewing season 2. Lisa Schwarzbaum from Entertainment Weekly gave season 2 a B and commented on the "spectacular" clothing design. Sean Woods from Rolling Stone Magazine called the series "masterful" and "epic" and gave the series 3.5 out of 4. Michael Ventre from Variety Magazine was positive towards the series and was intrigued by the "complex" character of Atia of the Julii. James Poniewozik from Time Magazine commented on the "slow start," but further stated that the series "draws you" to the ancient city of Romemarker. Empire Magazine reviewer Helen O'Hara said: "Not as good-looking as Gladiator, perhaps, but richer in (reasonably accurate) history and texture," and gave season 1 of Rome four out of five stars. Robert Bianco from USA Today called season 2 "the fall of Rome"," commenting that season 2 was not as good as season 1. Linda Stasi from the The New York Post called herself a "slave". Melanie McFarland from Seattle Post-Intelligencer called season 2 "at top of its form" and said it was as good as the former season. An unnamed reviewer from The Guardian called the series "splendidly ambitious." Eric Neigher from Slant Magazine called season 1 of Rome "good art." Robert Abele from LA Weekly called it the "most lavish dramatic series yet" released by HBO.

Awards and nominations

Capping its successful first season, Rome won four Emmy Awards out of eight nominations in 2006, for the episodes "Caesarion", "Triumph", "Kalends of February" and "Stealing from Saturn". The series also won an Art Directors Guild (ADG) in the category "Excellence in Production Design - Single-Camera Television Series" for the pilot episode "The Stolen Eagle." Michael Apted won the Directors Guild of Americamarker (DGA) in the category "Outstanding Directing - Drama Series, Night" for "Stolen Eagle." The series itself was nominated for a Golden Globe Award in the category "Outstanding Television Series - Drama," and Polly Walker who portrayed Atia of the Julii was nominated in the category "Outstanding Supporting Actress - Series, Miniseries or Television Film." The series has also been nominated for three Satellite Awards, two for season 1 and the last for season 2. The pilot episode "The Stolen Eagle" won an Visual Effects Society (VES) award in the category "Outstanding Visual Effects - Broadcast Series." Writers Guild of America (WGA) nominated the series for the category "Best Writing - New Television Series" in 2005. The series was also nominated for four British Academy Television Awards (BAFTA Television Awards), three in season 1 (2006) and one in season 2 (2008). In 2005, the series was nominated for an Cinema Audio Society Award (CAS) in the category "Outstanding Achievement in Sound Mixing for Television Series" for the episode "The Spoils". The Britishmarker award ceremony nominated the series for the Royal Television Society (RTS) award in the category "Best Visual Effects - Digital Effects".

Historical deviations

There are numerous inaccuracies in the series' representation of various historical events and personages. Co-creator Bruno Heller has said that "We try to balance between what people expect from previous portrayals and a naturalistic approach ... This series is much more about how the psychology of the characters affects history than simply following the history as we know it." The series' Historical Consultant Jonathan Stamp also notes that the show aims for "authenticity" rather than "accuracy." The film-makers stressed that they wanted to portray a more accurate picture of Rome, a gritty and realistic city as opposed to what they call the "HollyRome" that appears in films like Gladiator.

Although Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo are historical figures mentioned briefly in Caesar's Commentarii de Bello Gallico, their adventures and involvement in key events in the series are fictionalized. Rome also typically ignores the existence of certain extended family members of people featured as main characters, such as relatives of Julius Caesar, Mark Antony and Atia Balba Caesonia. The most significant dramatic licence taken in the series is the manipulation of the historical timeline for storytelling purposes.

Some important events are not mentioned in Rome, including the whole year spent before the Battle of Pharsalus in which Caesar drove Pompeius's supporters out of Greecemarker, and the Battle of Dyrrhachium in which Pompeius defeated Caesar. Many significant members of the Optimates, the traditionalist faction of Brutus and Cato, are also missing from the series. They include Marcus Calpurnius Bibulus, Titus Labienus, Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus, Lucius Cornelius Lentulus Crus, and Publius Cornelius Lentulus Spinther, the latter having failed to empty Rome's treasury before the optimates' departure, resulting in a severe lack of funds to support their war effort.



  1. (2005) DVD: Rome: The Complete First Season (Released 2006).
  2. TimesOnline UK ~ "They sexed up my Roman orgy, says director"
  3. Rome: Second Season DVD -
  4. Garber, Marjorie. The Medusa Reader, 24 February 2003, Introduction, pg. 2, ISBN 0-415-90099-9.
  5. ~ Rome News 8 January 2007
  6. DVD: Rome: The Complete First Season, When In Rome featurette.
  7. ~ Jonathan Stamp quotes

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