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|Episode no.||Season 1
|Directed by||Alan Poul|
|Written by||John Milius
|Original air date||October 2, 2005 (HBO)
November 30, 2005 (BBC)
|Setting||Rome and Greece (near Dyrrachium)|
|Time frame||Late spring/early summer, 48 BC|
While Caesar is engaging Pompey's forces in Greece, Antony is administering Rome and pushing through laws on his behalf. Among his demands are that the consul-elect for the coming year nominate Caesar as his consular colleague, and then endorse a law that, henceforth, at least a third of Rome's agricultural workforce shall be freeborn, and not slaves. The consul-elect protests at the expense of such a law. "Only to those few rich men that own all the land," Antony replies breezily, "and they will have the consolation of doing something eminently patriotic."
In the home of Lucius Vorenus, all is not well. His wife, Niobe, has taken in her sister, Lyde, since the disappearance of her husband, Evander, and her constant presence grates on Vorenus's nerves. Pullo (who secretly tortured and killed Evander), tells Lyde that he's heard rumors that Evander was killed over gambling debts by some Greek men, and will definitely not be coming back. Pullo urges Lyde to forget the past and get on with her life, looking instead to the people that love her, adding a stern "isn't that right?" in Niobe's direction.
After Pullo leaves, Niobe tries to comfort Lyde, but Lyde will have none of it, calling her sister a thief and a whore. Niobe protests that Evander came to her, and wouldn't have if Lyde has been a better wife - which Lyde takes to mean, if she'd given him a child. Lyde hisses, "by grace of the Furies, I curse you!" She promises to keep the secret for the sake of the child, but insists that Niobe never speak to her again.
Atia, still preoccupied with making a man of her son, suggests that he join Caesar's army to "get some real Pompeian blood on your sword." She also insists that Pullo help him to lose his virginity. Pullo takes him to one of the higher-end brothels in town, where Octavian is presented with an assortment of attractive women and teenage boys. He chooses an "adequate" young woman, and after hearing the sad tale of her murdered family, instructs her to get on her hands and knees implying indifference to her fate. When Octavian emerges from the chamber Pullo asks how it went, but the response is one of awkward indifference.
That evening, Vorenus returns home, to see that Lyde is gone, and Niobe has dutifully prepared a meal for him. He invites her to sit with him, and they share a rare moment of contentment, before she invites him to couple with her, since "the calendar is correct."
Caesar sends an urgent dispatch to Rome, informing Antony that, after Caesar arrived in Greece, Pompey consistently refused battle, evading Caesar's army and gathering the East's legions together. Now, his army outnumbers Caesar's ten to one, and Caesar is retreating. He orders Antony to set sail for Greece with the 13th Legion as quickly as possible.
Soon after hearing this news, Antony receives a visit from one of Pompey's emissaries, who encourages him to betray Caesar and remain in Rome. He reasons that if Antony goes, he will be doomed anyway, but if he stays, Pompey will give him a province to govern and "money enough to preserve your dignity." Caught, Antony says he needs a day to think on it.
At home, Vorenus is troubled by Antony's consideration of such a dishonorable course. Laughing softly, Niobe chides him for his rigid moralizing, and reminds him that she'd much rather he stay in Rome with her.
Atia also makes a plea for Antony to reconsider his allegiances, and after a night of passion she suggests the two of them get married. If Caesar is defeated, she will need Antony's protection, and he will need "coin and nobility enough" to make himself a king —and her a queen. "If I were to desert a friend. A man of your own blood?" he says, suddenly bristling. Seeing his own shamelessness reflected in hers, he turns on her. "I had not realized until now what a wicked old harpy you really are." With this Atia slaps him, and he slaps back, and she screams at him to get out.
After collapsing into a fit of sobs, Atia shifts her focus towards making amends with Servilia, who she will need "when Caesar is defeated." She buys Servilia a set of lavish gifts, including a well-endowed male slave, a gold tortoise, and six barrels of ice. She enlists her daughter Octavia to convey the gifts to Servilia, who greets the gifts coldly, but assures Octavia that despite "what others might do," she knows that the girl has a good soul, and encourages her to visit again.
As for Octavian, now that he is a man, Atia has decided to send him to an academy in Mediolanum, outside of Rome, as the city is "not safe for men of the Julii."
Antony prepares to depart for Greece without further delay. Vorenus and Niobe's brief spell of married contentment is halted when the 13th Legion is mobilized. As he is leaving, Pompey's envoy demands his answer, and Antony gives it with a solid punch to the jaw.
The 13th sails for Greece during heavy rains and stormy seas. Pullo complains about being wet, and Vorenus reminds him that a favorable offering was made to Triton before they sailed, and so they should be perfectly safe. Pullo responds with a blasphemous comment, and, as if in retaliation, the storm intensifies and the ships go down at sea.
Historical and cultural background
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- Publius Servilius appears confused when ordered to nominate Caesar as his consular colleague for the coming year, pointing out that, as Dictator, Caesar already has full authority and imperium. Caesar's dictatorship was technically unconstitutional, hence Antony's desire to strengthen the pretext of legitimacy to Caesar's office.
- In trying to create new jobs, Antony orders (on behalf of Caesar), that Italian farms must convert their workforces to be at least one-third freeborn. At the time of the late republic, most farming in the Italian countryside was done on large, slave-worked plantations (latifundia), owned by the upper class, including the senators. Being forced to hire freeborn workers for wages instead of relying on slave labor would be a severe financial blow to these owners.
- As Vorenus and Pullo are leaving Antony's audience chamber, Vorenus fumes about Antony's casual way of receiving clients - with a prostitute and dwarf in attendance on him. He mentions the names of some historic heroes of the republic: Cincinnatus, Gaius Marius, and Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus. All of these men were regarded as popular heroes. Caesar, in particular, was Marius's nephew, and likewise cast himself in the role of a champion for the common people, against the aristocracy.
- Though it is not mentioned in the episode, Caesar's reversal of fortunes in Greece came after the Battle of Dyrrhachium in 48 BC. The line in Caesar's letter, "now the cat barks at the dog, and Pompey is chasing me," may be an indirect reference to the aftermath of Dyrrhachium, when Caesar was retreating towards Thessaly.
- Niobe prays before a woman painted red, in a shrine to Bona Dea, the good goddess, the goddess of the household and friend to wives. Octavia also exclaims "Bona Dea!" as a minor oath, when she sees her mother examining the naked slave she plans to give Servilia.
- Egeria is a figure of Roman mythology — a water nymph and sympathetic spirit to women. The eponymous nymph was famous and revered for having given wise counsel to ancient king Numa Pompilius; the name is still commonly used in French to mean the female inspirator of a political man. Ironically, Egeria is also the name of the young "lady of the evening" to whom Octavian loses his virginity.
- The price charged for Egeria's services is given as "one thousand." It is unclear what denomination of coin the madam is referring to, but as most prices in the series seem to be rendered in denarii, it is a reasonable assumption that 1,000 denarii is the fee. The value of the Denarius is discussed in How Titus Pullo Brought Down the Republic, but 1,000 denarii is, roughly, USD $20,000. Even if the "madam" is speaking of 1,000 sestertii, this amount is still approximately USD $5,000. Titus Pullo's amazed reaction seems warranted. Note that this is one third the amount Atia pays for two necklaces earlier in the episode.
- In agreeing to pay the brothel's extravagant price, Pullo warns the madam that Octavian's girl better be like "Helen of Troy." In Rome, Helen was commonly thought of as a promiscuous whore, because her adulterous relationship with Paris was regarded as the cause of the Trojan War.
- Niobe tells Vorenus that "the calendar is right" for having sex with him. Fertility was seen as a paramount virtue in ancient Roman women, and producing children was a wife's sacred duty.
- Octavian tells Egeria to assume a position on her hands and knees before he has sex with her; according to the audio commentary for Episode I, "The Stolen Eagle," this position (called "doggy style" in modern slang), was called "The Lioness," in Ancient Rome, and was very popular.
- When Antony slaps Atia, Merula draws a knife and advances on their bed. In addition to all other duties, slaves were expected to safeguard their masters; those who failed to prevent an attack on them could legally be put to death.
- Pullo comments on the cleanliness of the upscale brothel; most brothels were notoriously dirty, smelly, and violent.
- Slaves were priced differently according to their looks, ages, and, depending on what sort of work they were needed for, their physical attributes and/or their intelligence and abilities with writing and arithmetic. Slaves bought for sexual purposes, such as the one Atia buys for Servilia, were among the highest-priced.
- Along with the stud-slave and crown, Atia instructs her major-domo to send Servilia six barrels of ice. Ice was the ultimate luxury good in Ancient Rome. Since the Romans had no means of refrigeration, ice was gathered from snowpeaks on mountaintops, then brought down in specially insulated barrels and stored in specially insulated holes, to keep it from melting.
- Vorenus assures Pullo that "a very favorable offerering was made to Triton". In ancient times, it was standard practice to make offerings to gods of the sea before a voyage to gain favor and thus be assured that one would have a safe journey.