Kalends of February
|"Kalends of February"|
|Episode no.||Season 1
|Directed by||Alan Taylor|
|Written by||Bruno Heller|
|Original air date||November 20, 2005 (HBO)
January 4, 2006 (BBC)
|Time frame||The end of February 44 BC to March 15, 44 BC|
As a result of their arena exploits, Pullo and Vorenus have become heroes to the Roman rank and file, causing Caesar to reward those he normally would punish. Pullo's unexpected return to Vorenus' household is not appreciated by his former slave Eirene. Caesar decides to overhaul the Senate by adding some unexpected new faces, to the chagrin of the old guard. And Servilia hurdles the final obstacle in her ambitious revenge scenario, at Niobe's expense.
In the wake of their escapade in the arena, Vorenus and Pullo have become heroes to the plebeians of Rome. Pullo, recovering from his injuries in an Avernum hospital, is thrilled to learn that plays, murals and other tributes to himself and Vorenus are all over the city. When one man comments that "there isn't a lady who wouldn't open her doors for the mighty Titus Pullo", he escapes from the hospital, steals a horse and heads for Rome to take advantage of his newfound fame.
At the same time, Vorenus and his family have gone out with the priests of Saturn to inspect and bless the new farmland that Caesar has given him; in private, Vorenus expresses to Niobe a worry that Caesar could exile him from Rome, or worse. Upon their return home, Vorenus learns of Pullo's escape; his old friend is inside, having been found unconscious by the Appian Gate. Vorenus dismisses Pullo's desire to enjoy their fame, commenting that even if he survives his injuries, Caesar will likely have them both thrown back in the arena; Vorenus explains he has a meeting with Caesar the following day to discuss what happened. That same night, Eirene (who has not forgiven Pullo for killing her lover) sneaks into his room and tries to kill him, only to find herself unable to; Niobe stops her before she can recover, stating everyone would know it was her. Once he has recovered sufficiently, Pullo goes out into Rome, looking to enjoy himself. However, upon returning with an eager companion, he glances at Eirene and relents. Shortly afterwards, Pullo goes to the shrine of Rusina to gain a measure of forgiveness; Eirene follows him.
At the Senate the next day, Caesar discusses his plans for Rome with Mark Antony and Cicero; Cicero is most perturbed about Caesar's plans to allow Gauls and Celts into the Roman Senate. Their meeting is interrupted by the arrival of Vorenus: Caesar is furious Vorenus disobeyed his order not to interfere with the execution, but remarks he cannot harm the pair without angering the people. Since he cannot simply ignore the deed, he decides he must reward Vorenus...by making him a Senator, astounding all present. Cicero is up in arms at the suggestion, but Caesar remarks that he wishes for the Senate "to be made up of the best men in Italy, not just the richest old men in Rome!". In private, Antony and Posca remark that Caesar's plans will make him a lot of enemies, but Caesar refuses their suggestion to double his guard. When they question this, Caesar replies that with the great hero Lucius Vorenus at his side, none will dare raise a hand against him. That night, Caesar's wife, Calpurnia has a nightmare of a flock of crows flying in the shape of a skull. She fears it is an omen, but Caesar dismisses it, remarking he has suffered similar dreams for years and no longer feels any need to fear them, and disregards Calpurnia's suggestion to leave Rome, insisting he has too much work to do.
At the Senate the next day, Brutus and Cassius, along with Cicero and Senators Casca and Cimber disgustedly watch as the Gallic and Celtic additions to the Senate enter with Caesar. At Servilia's house that evening, they remark they must act soon before, in their view, Caesar destroys the Republic; but Casca and Cimber fear the fact that they will likely have to slay Vorenus along with Caesar. Servilia counsels the group against harming Vorenus, since killing a hero of the people will likely turn them against the conspirators. Casca and Cimber, along with Quintus Pompey propose simply poisoning Caesar or killing him in his bed, but Brutus angrily yells that their intention is an honourable act and must be done honourably. However, none of the group can answer the question Quintus poses them with: "How?". However, that night, Servilia remembers that she has heard of Lucius Vorenus before (from Octavia) and tells Brutus they can use this information to remove the threat of Vorenus.
On the Ides of March, Servilia sends Atia a letter, seeking to meet and reaffirm their friendship. Atia is surprised by this, but accepts, taking Octavian with her. At the same time, Servilia's slave approaches Vorenus and tells him of Niobe's infidelity with her sister's husband and the fact the child Lucius is her son, not grandson. Furious, Vorenus storms off from the Forum as Caesar enters the Senate and returns to his house, where he angrily threatens Niobe and demands the truth. When she tells him, Vorenus reaches for a knife, but Niobe hurls herself from a balcony to her death before he can react to either attack or save her.
In the Senate, while Quintus and a number of other Senators delay Posca and Antony, the conspirators make their move; Cimber, under the pretence of asking Caesar to recall his brother's exile, signals the attack and he, Casca, Cassius and a number of other Senators surround and attack Caesar, stabbing him from all directions in a frenzy. Horrified at the sight, Brutus can only watch as the man he once considered a great friend is torn apart by the mob, dropping his blade in disgust. As the mortally wounded Caesar collapses, Cassius hands Brutus a knife and tells him to finish Caesar off. As the pair stare at each other, horrified at what they have come to, Brutus stabs Caesar to the heart, putting him out of his misery, then collapses from shock. Mark Antony enters just after Caesar has died; realising he is surrounded by enemies, Antony hatefully stares at Brutus for a moment, and then flees. Brutus sinks down weeping, distraught at what he has done.
At the same time, Servilia gleefully reveals to Atia and Octavian what has happened at the Senate, and promises Atia that she will hurt her as slowly and painfully as Atia had done to Servilia, then allows them to depart. Atia is dumbfounded by what has happened, but Octavian coldly glares at Servilia, contemplating what is to be done next.
In the midst of all the sorrow and death, the episode ends on something of a happy note, as at the shrine of Rusina, Eirene forgives Pullo for his past transgressions, and the pair walk off hand in hand.
Historical and cultural background
- Historically, Caesar's death has been dated on Ides of March, not on Kalends of February (name of this episode). It's because in this series' version of events, it's on the Kalends of February when Caesar announces he will be creating a hundred new senators, which proves to be the final straw for the conspirators.
- While inspecting their new farmland, the priests call out the names of agricultural deities. Niobe and Vorenus then lie on ground in the symbolic act of sexual intercourse. These rituals are to bless the land with fertility.
- As Vorenus is leaving to respond to a summons by Caesar, Niobe wraps a small bundle of ashes from the family shrine in cloth, and tucks it in Vorenus' toga whispering, "Juno protect you." Juno was the Roman incarnation of the Greek goddess Hera, goddess of marriage and family bonds. In a way, Niobe is calling on the power of their marriage to protect Vorenus. The gesture is also ironic and foretelling in the episode. Juno was a wife famously betrayed, again and again, by Jupiter, who had many lovers. Juno often exacted meticulous revenge upon the women and any of their offspring by Jupiter; for example, she was a lifelong enemy of Hercules, and punished Europa severely. When she said these words, Niobe had been unfaithful to Vorenus and had Lucius by another man, although she had fooled Vorenus into thinking it was Vorenus's own grandson. By invoking Juno, Niobe is in effect allowing Juno to have Vorenus informed of her disloyalty and offspring and is opening herself up to revenge. Later on, Vorenus is told of Niobe's treachery and returns, enraged, with every right under Roman law to slaughter her and her child, just as Juno would have done in his situation.
- As Caesar and Vorenus are making their way to the Senate, they are surrounded by Lictors with their fasces. All magistrates whose office was recognized to be imbued with imperium were publicly escorted by Lictors—the number of them signifying the importance of the magistrate. As Dictator, Caesar is entitled to 24 of these escorts. Whether we see all 24 or not, the fasces of the Lictors have not had their axes removed even though they are within the boundaries of the pomerium. This is historically accurate, and only the lictors of a Dictator had axes within their fasces at all times. In this scene the lictors are carrying their fasces on their right shoulder when they should have been carried on their left; this is an inaccuracy commented upon in the audio commentary on the DVD.
- Plutarch said this of the assassination in his Life of Caesar: "For it had been agreed they should each of them make a thrust at him, and flesh themselves with his blood; for which reason Brutus also gave him one stab in the groin. Some say that he fought and resisted all the rest, shifting his body to avoid the blows, and calling out for help, but that when he saw Brutus's sword drawn, he covered his face with his robe and submitted, letting himself fall, whether it were by chance or that he was pushed in that direction by his murderers, at the foot of the pedestal on which Pompeius's statue stood, and which was thus wetted with his blood."
- It is said by Plutarch that Caesar's last act was to cover his face with his toga that his enemies might not see his face in the moment of death. This is captured in the series, although in the show he is unsuccessful in covering his face.
- In the episode, Caesar doesn't say the phrase "Et tu, Brute?" ("You too, Brutus?"). This derives from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar (1599), where it actually forms the first half of a macaronic line: "Et tu, Brute? Then fall, Caesar." It has no basis in historical fact, and Shakespeare's use of Latin here is not from any assumption that Caesar would have been using the language, but because the phrase was already popular at the time the play was written. In a later episode, when Servilia suggests the murder of Antony, Brutus says "and you, mother?"
- Brutus's ancestor Lucius Junius Brutus drove out the Etruscan monarchy in 509 BC. As a result, he felt obligated to kill Caesar in order to preserve the republic.
- After Caesar's death, Cassius declares: "Thus ever for tyrants". This phrase in Latin (sic semper tyrannis) later became associated with the death of Caesar, and was famously shouted by John Wilkes Booth, who identified himself with Brutus, after he assassinated Abraham Lincoln in 1865.
- Stone, Jon R. (2005). The Routledge Dictionary of Latin Quotations. London: Routledge. p. 250. ISBN 0-415-96909-3.
- Morwood, James (1994). The Pocket Oxford Latin Dictionary (Latin-English). Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-860283-9.
- It appears, for example, in Richard Eedes's Latin play Caesar Interfectus of 1582 and The True Tragedie of Richarde Duke of Yorke &tc of 1595, Shakespeare's source work for other plays. Dyce, Alexander (1866). The Works of William Shakespeare. London: Chapman and Hall. p. 648.