Triumph (Rome)

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"Triumph"
Rome episode
Episode no. Season 1 (2005)
Episode 10 (HBO; see BBC editing)
Directed by Alan Taylor
Written by Adrian Hodges
Original air date November 6, 2005 (HBO)
December 28, 2005 (BBC)
Setting Rome
Time frame April of 45 BC ( April 12 being the date of Julius Caesar's famous "Gallic Triumph")
Link HBO episode summary
Episode chronology
← Previous
"Utica"
Next →
"The Spoils"

"Triumph" is the tenth episode of the first season of the television series Rome.

Unanimously proclaimed Dictator by the Senate, Caesar pronounces the war over, and proclaims a "triumph", five days of military pomp, feasting, and games honoring his victories. No longer an enlisted soldier, Pullo eyes a pastoral future with Eirene; Vorenus runs for municipal magistrate, with Posca's help; Octavian retrieves Octavia from her self-imposed exile; and Servilia invites a revenge-minded Quintus Pompey into her home, to Brutus' dismay.

Plot summary[edit]

As the senate gathers to sanction Caesar as dictator, Cicero and Brutus put honor aside and stand in support the man they once fought, urging their fellow senators to follow them. "He has shown himself to be as wise and merciful in victory as he was invincible in battle," says Brutus. "Let this be an end to division and civil strife." After a unanimous vote in his favor, Caesar declares the war over and announces five days of feasts and games honoring his 'triumph.'

In the working-class neighborhood of Aventine, days before municipal elections are to be held, a nervous Vorenus makes his first campaign speech - Niobe standing demurely by his side as Posca coaches him from the wings. "The dark times are behind us..." he says to a mostly indifferent crowd, forcing a politician's smile. "Caesar has put an end to patrician tyranny and will ensure that the voice of the common people be heard." With this statement a crowd begins to gather. But when a heckler denounces the rhetoric as 'cac,' an angered Vorenus suddenly seems to embrace his own words. "I wouldn't be standing here on Caesar's slate if I didn't believe, if I didn't know, that Caesar has only the Republic's best interests at heart." Posca also dispatches a number of nearby thugs to drag the heckler off: without further interruptions, Vorenus soon has the crowd hanging on his every word.

Atia pays a visit to a fragile Servilia, who appears catatonic since her brutal attack. She declines Atia's invitation to sit with her family during the celebrations, her steely reserve still intact. She changes the subject to Octavia. "She is staying at a cousin's villa," Atia gloats, "mooning over some young fool of a poet."

In fact, Octavia has taken a self-imposed exile at the Temple of Cybele, where she prays fervently each day and cuts herself with a knife, an offering to 'the Great Mother.' When her brother comes to take her home (her running away reflects badly on the family, he tells her), she steadfastly refuses. "I want to be cleansed of my weakness and filth. I want to be reborn as a pure servant of the Great Mother." After catching a glimpse of her sliced arms, Octavian takes her by force with help from the temple eunuchs.

No longer an enlisted soldier, Pullo becomes enraged when he's told he cannot march with the XIII Legion in the celebrations. He heads to the only home he has, the darkened drinking taverns, where a drunken Quintus, son of Pompey, is denouncing Caesar to anyone who will listen. When Quintus staggers his way to Brutus' villa to berate him for taking Caesar's mercy, he instead finds a kindred spirit in Servilia.

To prepare for the elaborate pageantry, Caesar is anointed by Octavian, who paints his uncle's face red with ox blood. For his first ceremony, the new master of Rome presides over the public execution of his former adversary, Vercingetorix, the King of the Gauls, who has been kept alive - just barely - in the dungeons of the city since the end of the Gallic Wars.

When Vorenus learns that the elections are rigged - he is running against straw men - he reconsiders the deal he has struck. "The people are not crying out for clean elections," Posca tries to assure him. "They're crying out for stability and peace. They're crying out for jobs and food and clean water...You can do great things for your people."

Pullo, with nothing left to lose, makes an appeal to Vorenus to free Eirene; he plans to marry her and start a family in the country. "I love her...I've never been so sure of anything in my life." When Eirene gets the news, she's overjoyed, throwing her arms around her savior and kissing him. Moments later, Niobe's slave Oedipus emerges to thank Pullo himself: "We had thought to take the Vorenus name as our own when we became freed men, but Eirene says it must be under your name that she becomes my wife, so I hope you'll agree."

Barely grasping this news, Pullo flies into a jealous rage, pummeling the young boy against a column until he is lifeless. With this act, Vorenus reaches the end of his rope with his friend. "You do this violence before my children?!" As Eirene shrieks and wails over her dead lover, words between Vorenus and Pullo escalate. "You're a damned fool! The disrespect! The stupidity! I'm a candidate for magistrate, I can't have killings in my yard!"

Pullo's retort cuts Vorenus to the bone. "And here you are, with your nice clean white toga...stays clean no matter how deep you wade in filth... Time was, you said Caesar was a rebel and a traitor. Now today, he tosses you a little coin and some farmland, and he's savior of the Republic." Lost for words in his own defense, Vorenus tries to fight him, but Pullo refuses. Furious and clearly distressed, Vorenus tells Pullo to leave and never come back.

Across town, Brutus learns that his mother and Quintus have been distributing pamphlets in his name, a "defense of Republican principles against the forces of tyranny." When he tells his mother he might be killed for her act, she does not seem entirely opposed to the idea. "You are looking to your own comfort. I am looking to history," she tells her son, before suggesting he do what his father would have done - run Caesar out of Rome. However, Brutus won't have any part of her 'insanity.' Instead he goes to Caesar to set the record straight. Having adopted a more imperious tone since his anointment, Caesar tells Brutus he believes him, though he still seems suspicious. "I wonder who it was wrote this," he intones. Brutus shakes his head. "I wish I knew."

Lost in drunken oblivion, Pullo takes refuge in the taverns again, too poor to even encourage the prostitutes. He is approached by Erastes Fulmen, who offers him a job. "I'm a soldier, not a murderer," Pullo responds, barely alert. "In times like these Pullo, is there really any difference?" the crime lord responds, and tells Pullo to come find him when he's sobered up. Pullo appears to mull his offer before passing out.

In the woods outside Rome, the body of Vercingetorix, rescued from a trash heap in the city, burns atop a bonfire. Dozens of Gauls have gathered for a clandestine ceremony to pay reverence to their fallen chieftain.

Historical and cultural background[edit]

April 12, 45 BC was the date of Caesar's famous "Gallic Triumph". The Battle of Munda, which occurred March 17, 45 BC in Hispania, would have occurred between episodes #10 and #11, although it is not mentioned in the series. It was the last military action in "Caesar's Civil War", and the end of the Optimates military opposition to Caesar. The only other man to be granted such sweeping powers over Rome – at least while it was still a Republic – was Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix, who used the power to turn the Republic into a bloodbath. This might explain why there has been so much resistance to Caesar gaining such power. Ironically, a young Julius Caesar himself had to flee the city while it was in Sulla's power, and Sulla himself commented in his memoirs that he regretted sparing Caesar's life because of the young man's notorious ambition.

Vercingetorix, "King Of The Gauls", is supposed to depict Vercingetorix, ruler of the Arverni and leader of the Gallic armies during the later phase of the Gallic Wars. After Vercingetorix was defeated at the Battle of Alesia in 52 BC, he was taken to Rome as prisoner. He was indeed paraded through Rome as part of Caesar's triumph in 46 BC, and was executed afterwards, though probably not publicly. The almost total lack of regard for human life demonstrated towards slaves is probably accurate (see slavery in ancient Rome). Though later emperors increasingly protected the rights of slaves (under Nero, slaves were given the right to complain against their masters in court), such laws were not introduced until later.

Pullo's comment about Vorenus' "nice, clean, white toga" is not only a reference to the fact that he was not permitted to touch the material. Vorenus is, of course, a candidate, and the English word comes from the Latin adjective 'candidus, -a, -um.' The word references a particularly bright shade of white that political candidates wore to mark their stations.

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