I think that's the sound of Augustus spinning in his grave...
I wasn't sure what to expect from this one, but it's not what I'd call "good"--or even all that educational. However, it didn't actually make my head explode the way Troy and King Arthur did--probably because it doesn't seem to be taking itself as seriously. Either that, or I've grown immune.
Even in the first few minutes, I couldn't understand why Octavius was flirting with a Vestal or why (as someone on the Classics-L list pointed out) said Vestal was praying to a nude statue of Minerva (Edit: It's been confirmed that the statue was actually a nude statue of Venus, not Minerva--still incorrect but not quite as horrifying). It's probably best that my TV screen was too fuzzy to notice most of the visual details. The introduction itself has some nonsense about how "the age of the republic has died" and now it's the "age of the gladiator." The gladiator? Please. There were many things wrong with Gladiator, but that was actually a good movie. I'm not quite sure why ABC is picking this late date to hark back to that movie.
Which brings me to my other question--why gladiators and Vestals? I suppose it's some sort of "mass appeal" tactic, but I didn't realise Vestals were popular these days.
Other token "WTF?!" lines include:
--"Not since Alexander the Great has such a burden been placed on one so young." -- I'm not sure I need to explain why that particular line had me bashing my head on the wall.
--"Whoever thought a god would hold so much blood?" -- Clearly, they made some effort not to evoke the Roman Shakespeare plays, but I'm not sure Cassius (I think it was Cassius who said this line, not 100% sure) should be channeling Lady Macbeth in her insanity.
They also had issues with "who" vs "whom," which really only annoyed me this time because they're supposed to be Romans--and Romans who can't decline their nouns make me sad.
On the other hand, there were exactly two good moments (for me) in this show, and they have more to do with dramatic value than history:
1) The assassination of Caesar--I think they pulled this off decently with a nice, if clichéd, contrast with Tyrannus' fight for his son.
2) Camane's story about when she was called to become a Vestal--Perhaps I just like the Vestals too much myself, but I thought it was a good moment and done well.
There is so much else wrong with the show, though, that I won't bother going into it. The other major thing that struck me as odd was its overall message. On the one hand, you have Caesar proclaiming the good of the People, but on the other, you have a story which is, frankly, about imperialism. It is, of course, the same contradiction that the Romans faced at this time, but this miniseries sides strongly with imperialism. And they've put neon lights on this point by naming their co-protagonist Russell Crowe-wannabe "Tyrannus." It completely makes a mockery of every other point they tried to make about the "People."
Anyway, I shall now return to my regularly scheduled Latin. Vergil tells me he's glad that he's been left out of this travesty.