Lucius Vorenus (Rome character)
|First appearance||"The Stolen Eagle"|
|Portrayed by||Kevin McKidd|
Vorena the Elder (daughter)
Vorena the Younger (daughter)
Lucius (Adopted son)
Lucius Vorenus is a semi-fictional character in the British-Italian-American historical drama television series Rome, a show about the fall of the Roman Republic and the rise of the Roman Empire. Played by Scottish actor Kevin McKidd in the series, Lucius Vorenus is introduced as a main character in the pilot episode, "The Stolen Eagle". He is depicted as a staunch, traditional, Roman soldier, who struggles to balance his personal beliefs, his duty to his superiors, and the needs of his family and friends.
The basis for this character is the historical Roman soldier of the same name, who is briefly mentioned in Julius Caesar's Commentarii de Bello Gallico. The two fictionalised characters Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo manage to witness and often influence many of the historical events presented in the series.
Role in Rome
Aside from the fact that he was born into the plebeian class of Roman society, little is known of the early life of Lucius Vorenus. In the pilot episode, he says that his mother's people raised horses in Mutina, and in the third episode of the first season, when sacrificing at the altar of Venus, he identifies himself as of the tribe of Stellatina. Given this information, it seems likely that his distaff forebears were small landowners and that his paternal line came from the tribes in the area of Etruria, thus making him of the non-urban Cives romani. We infer that his family was not rich, but they seem to have had sufficient means to give Lucius an education. (At one point, we see him trying to explain aspects of Roman Natural philosophy to Titus Pullo in "An Owl in a Thornbush"). We know that Lucius married Niobe when she was "young", by "special dispensation" from the Legion but Lucius does not seem to be much older than she is. Given the age of their elder daughter (Vorena the Elder) when Lucius returns to his family in "How Titus Pullo Brought Down the Republic", we can infer Lucius and Niobe previously shared some years together as a married couple.
When Julius Caesar begins his Gallic Wars, Lucius is forced to leave his family to serve in the 13th Legion (Legio XIII Gemina); he does not see his wife and daughters again for another eight years. Lucius reveals that he is a competent and respected soldier and rises through the ranks. When the series begins, we see him as a centurion (centurio secundi pili), at the Siege of Alesia, fighting in the front lines with his men, including Titus Pullo. Events do not bode well for the relationship between the two men, as in that battle, a drunk and crazed Pullo charges into the ranks of the Nervii, in violation of orders and military discipline. Despite the fact that Vorenus leads the men to retrieve the encircled Pullo – an action during which Pullo decks Vorenus with a right hook – Vorenus is furious, and has Pullo flogged and condemned to death. (Note: This scene has parallels with the chapter in Julius Caesar's De Bello Gallico, in which the story of Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo is told, but it is not a direct re-enactment of historical events.)
When "blue Spaniards" (actually agents of Pompey) steal Caesar's battle standard (or Aquila, the eagle of "The Stolen Eagle"), Mark Antony details Vorenus to find and retrieve it. Vorenus grants Pullo a reprieve to aid him, reasoning that he should only take doomed men with him as the mission was already doomed failure.
Despite their differences, and setbacks, they surprisingly succeed not only in retrieving the standard, but in rescuing Octavian, nephew of Caesar, who had been captured by Gauls while traveling to visit his uncle with the gift of a magnificent white stallion. Favored by Caesar, Vorenus, now promoted to primus pilus (literally "first file", a senior centurion), and Pullo are detailed to accompany Mark Antony back to Rome, where Antony is to be invested as a Tribune of the People (tribunus plebis) – giving Vorenus the opportunity to see his wife for the first time in nearly eight years. When Vorenus first sees Niobe he is angered to see her holding a baby, which he assumes is hers, though Niobe insists it is his own grandson, child of his elder daughter. Vorenus grudgingly accepts the lie. Vorenus is promoted to praefectus evocatorum (ep. 1–5) before being asked to stand for election as a civic "minor" magistrate by Julius Caesar (ep. 1–10). In episode 12, he is promoted to senator by Caesar, both due to his newfound popularity resulting from his rescue of Titus Pullo from the arena and as a bodyguard for Caesar. This story arc completes Vorenus' compromising of his strong Republican principles in Caesar's service.
On the Ides of March, Vorenus is told the truth about Niobe and his "grandson" as part of the conspiracy against Caesar; the information is intended to make him leave Caesar's side and go home, so as to leave Caesar vulnerable to the ambush awaiting him in the Senate house. This truth is that his grandson is really Niobe's illegitimate son, born of an affair while Vorenus was in Gaul. (Due to a clerical error, Niobe had been informed that Vorenus was dead). Along with Mark Antony's delay outside the Senate, the fact that Vorenus does dash home gives the conspirators their chance to assassinate Caesar. When Vorenus arrives to confront Niobe, she commits suicide, throwing herself off their second story balcony.
Enraged by his discovery, Vorenus curses his family and storms off in a bewildered rage, leaving his children behind to prepare their deceased mother for her funeral. Before Vorenus can return, Erastes Fulmen abducts the children as "repayment for [Vorenus'] many slights" against him. Not long after returning, Vorenus learns of the abduction and tracks down the gangster, confronting him about the abducted relatives. Erastes claims that he's raped and killed them all, which results in Vorenus decapitating him. Lucius keeps the head because it pleases him to look at. After Lucius refuses to get out of bed for several weeks, Pullo is able to convince Mark Antony to visit. On Antony's orders, Vorenus assumes Erastes' position as head of the Aventine and becomes a ruthless and cold gangster. This leads to a falling out with Pullo, who leaves with Eirene and comes back after three months, finding that Vorenus has gone north with Mark Antony when his alliance with Octavian went sour. Pullo, while in Rome, discovers that Vorenus' children are alive. Pullo tracks Vorenus down in the aftermath of the Battle of Mutina, and together they rescue Vorenus' children from a slave camp.
Vorenus resumes a more enlightened control of the Aventine on his return but leaves for Egypt with Antony when he learns of his children's hatred of him for causing their mother's death and cursing them. In Egypt he serves as captain of the guard at Anthony and Cleopatra's court, commanding African mercenaries rather than Roman legionaries. Mentioned as being one of only two persons with direct access to Anthony, he also appears to be the only courtier who does not descend into the debauchery and vice seemingly ubiquitous in the Egyptian court. His life is simple (if empty) in devotion to his duty to serving Antony. Later, he assists Antony in committing suicide after Cleopatra fakes her own. In the aftermath of Octavian's victory, he flees Egypt with Caesarion (whom Octavian wished to murder) and meets up with Pullo (who in the story is Caesarion's real father). Octavian had dispatched Pullo to find them and to kill Caesarion, which he has no intention of doing. Vorenus is badly wounded while fighting Octavian's soldiers with Pullo at a military checkpoint. Pullo brings him home to his children, who tearfully reconcile with him on his death bed. Pullo later states to Octavian that Vorenus "didn't make it." Ostensibly, Vorenus dies off-screen shortly after reuniting with his family, though his fate is intentionally left ambiguous to allow for his return in possible future seasons of the series or a movie sequel.
Characterization and relationships
The hard essence of a professional Roman soldier, proper in the Roman sense, Vorenus is honourable and severe, a staunch traditionalist, and unforgiving and pitiless when crossed. A dour and pragmatic man, with a tendency towards self-laceration, he can appear to be cold and unfeeling in public. Privately, however, Vorenus feels deeply and passionately, especially in matters concerning his family. He also shows evidence of a temper, though he seldom allows it to get the better of him. Vorenus struggles to balance the needs of family and friends, what he thinks is right, and the demands of his military/political superiors. Naturally, this leads to internal conflict, but he demonstrates that the needs of his family come first – although not without personal cost. Lucius is an educated man and is of high rank within his legion. Strongly religious (Roman pagan), he does not have promiscuous sex, protests lying and refuses to live in a manner he judges to be dishonorable. He is described as being a Catonian.
Brian Lowry from Variety magazine commented on Kevin McKidd's acting and said "stands out" when comparing him to the other actors in the series. In a Chicago Tribune article, Vorenus and Titus Pullo were named "Rome's' enduring odd couple."
- Julius Caesar. Commentarii de Bello Gallico. p. 5.44.
- Heller looking for movie version of 'Rome' retrieved on 2008-01-12
- "Lucius Vorenus". HBO. Retrieved 26 March 2009.
- "Rome – this autumn on BBC TWO". BBC. 2005. Retrieved 26 March 2009.
- Brian Lowry (11 January 2007). "Rome". Variety Magazine. Retrieved 26 March 2009.
- "Vorenus and Pullo: 'Rome's' enduring odd couple". Chichago Tribune. 7 January 2007. Retrieved 26 March 2009.