How Accurate Is: Rome S1E1 (TV Show, HBO, 2005-7) Part 2

Marcus Licinius Crassus
Marcus Licinius Crassus

Hello everyone! Today’s post is part 2 of my post on Rome Episode 1. The topic of this post will be the Fact-Based Omissions in this episode of Rome. Although these were fairly common in this episode, they were much less common than the errors covered in the previous post.

One of the most important errors was the fact that Caesar was not consul when he and Pompey split, as depicted in the episode; rather, though he had been consul in 59 BCE, Pompey had just been elected as “consul without a colleague” for the first time in Roman history in 53 BCE.[1] This omission is fairly significant. It is possible that the writers of the show had wanted the alliance between Pompey and Caesar to be obvious without having to explain the circumstances of the First Triumvirate (which would also explain the complete absence of Crassus, who despite having died the same year this episode took place goes unmentioned[2]), and decided that the co-consulship was the easiest way to accomplish this.

For more, continue past the link.

One invention of the show was nearly the entire storyline involving the kidnapping of Octavian. It is interesting to note that Octavian was born in 63 BCE, and so would only have been 10 during the time period the episode takes place; the actor who plays him was 14-15 during filming.[3] This was perhaps necessary to ensure that he would be an interesting character to follow, but it remains a factual error, and will mean that he is significantly older when he accepts his uncle’s legacy than historically (historically, he was only 18). Similarly, the kidnapping appears to have been entirely invented; once again, though it certainly made for a more interesting episode than would otherwise have been possible, it is an invention of the show. It should also be noted that the father of Octavian, who was briefly mentioned in the previous post, died in 59 BCE; therefore, he will not make an appearance in the show.[4]

Pompeius Magnus
Pompeius Magnus

There were countless other small factual errors in this episode, but the abovementioned were the most important. It should also be noted that I do not point out these errors, the majority of the time, because I feel they are inexcusable; rather, I feel that they have a chance to mislead viewers regarding historical events. Most of the time, these small errors and inventions do not harm the quality of the show, but they need to be addressed lest they become the established historical narrative. The risk is all too real that a small error in a popular program such as Rome could change the perception of history by the public. Thank you for reading this post, and I hope you have a nice day.

References:

1 Rhodes College. “Julius Caesar: Historical Background.” Last modified March 2011.

http://vroma.rhodes.edu/~bmcmanus/caesar.html

2 University of Chicago. “Plutarch, The Parallel Lives, The Life of Pompey.” Last modified January 2013.

http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Plutarch/Lives/Pompey*.html

3 San José State University. “The Timeline of the Life of Octavian, Caesar Augustus.” n.d.

http://www.sjsu.edu/faculty/watkins/caesaraugustus.htm

4 San José State University. “The Timeline of the Life of Octavian, Caesar Augustus.” n.d.

http://www.sjsu.edu/faculty/watkins/caesaraugustus.htm

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