Servilia of the Junii
|Servilia of the Junii|
Duncan as Servilia (2005)
|First appearance||"The Stolen Eagle"|
|Last appearance||"Death Mask"|
|Portrayed by||Lindsay Duncan|
|Family||Cato the Younger (half-brother)|
|Significant other||Julius Caesar|
Octavia of the Julii
|Children||Marcus Brutus (son)|
Servilia of the Junii is a character from the HBO/BBC/RAI original television series, Rome, played by Lindsay Duncan from 2005 to 2007. The mother of Marcus Junius Brutus, lover of the married Julius Caesar and enemy of Atia of the Julii, Servilia is depicted as a sophisticated and regal Roman matron who follows her heart to her detriment. Betrayed by love, and hungering for revenge, she slowly becomes as cruel as those she would destroy. Servilia is loosely based on the historical personage of Servilia, mother of Marcus Junius Brutus, and lover of Julius Caesar.
The HBO website provides the following character description:
The mother of Brutus, and the erstwhile lover of Caesar. Servilia of the Junii is a staunchly Republican aristocrat. Sophisticated, elegant, and subtle, she considers herself several rungs above Atia in the social hierarchy, a fact that chafes Atia.
An elegant, refined and proper patrician lady, Servilia initially follows her heart and her love for Caesar, rather than the political ideals held by her son Brutus. It is a choice that costs her dearly when Caesar – for political reasons set in motion by social rival Atia – rejects her.
Servilia's anger, pain and desire for vengeance unleash a dark side which proves her to be as cunning and malevolent a manipulator as Atia herself. Blindly loyal to the Roman Republic and now relieved of all sentiment for Caesar, Servilia doesn't hesitate in offering up her son to be used as a political tool against those who would threaten the Republic. She soon becomes the driving force behind the plot (with Cassius and Brutus) to assassinate the dictator Caesar.
Servilia is devoted to Caesar as he rises to power, despite Brutus' protestations that Caesar threatens the Republic. But Atia takes her rivalry with Servilia to a new level in The Ram has Touched the Wall when she pays to have graphic sexual depictions of Servilia and Caesar drawn on every street corner, humiliating Caesar's wife Calpurnia. Caesar ends the affair coldly; Servilia curses both him and Atia, and begins to scheme against them for vengeance.
Servilia makes use of the friction between Atia and her daughter Octavia to gain Octavia's confidence, eventually beginning a sexual relationship with Octavia in the episode Pharsalus. Desperate to find out the nature of Caesar's mysterious "affliction" in Utica, Servilia suggests that Octavia seduce her own brother Octavian, Caesar's confidant, to get the truth out of him. A hesitant Octavia goes through with the plan when Servilia reveals that Atia was responsible for the murder of Octavia's estranged husband.
After discovering her children's incestuous encounter and Servilia's involvement, Atia takes revenge on Servilia by having her publicly humiliated: Servilia is pulled from her litter, stripped and beaten in the forum, and her hair cut.
When Caesar is finally assassinated by the Senate, Servilia invites Atia to her villa to tell her the news in person. Worried what Servilia may be planning, Atia insists her son accompany her. Atia is devastated by the news, and somewhat shaken by Servilia's vow to make Atia suffer, "Slowly and deeply, as you made me suffer." Octavian remains composed and calm, eyeing Servilia coldly.
Mark Antony manages to broker a peace between Caesar's supporters and the conspirators, ensuring the safety of himself and Atia's family. When an attempt by Servilia to poison Atia fails, Atia has her rival kidnapped, raped, and tortured horribly. Atia's freedman Timon, disgusted by Atia's cruelty, takes pity on Servilia and sets her free.
In Death Mask, both Brutus and Cassius have been killed in the Battle of Philippi. Broken and alone, a dishevelled Servilia kneels in front of Atia's house, repeatedly chanting "Atia of the Julii, I call for justice" while her servant Eleni throws the cremated remains of Brutus over her. After two days of this, Atia finally emerges, and Servilia curses her rival before publicly killing herself; Eleni follows suit. Despite their animosity, Atia is clearly unnerved by Servilia's death.
After she is rejected by Caesar and publicly humiliated by Atia, Servilia begins a path of revenge. Her first act is to invoke curses onto both Caesar and Atia by a call upon her family gods, the di indigetes.
Servilia's curse upon Caesar:
"Gods of the Junii, with this offering I ask you to summon Tyche, Megaera, and Nemesis so that they may witness this curse. By the spirits of my ancestors I curse Gaius Julius Caesar. Let his penis wither. Let his bones crack. Let him see his legions drown in their own blood. Gods of the Inferno, I offer to you his limbs, his mouth, his breath, his speech, his hands, his liver, his heart, his stomach. Gods of the Inferno, let me see him suffer deeply, and I will rejoice and sacrifice to you."
Servilia's curse upon Atia:
"By the spirits of my ancestors I curse Atia of the Julii. Let dogs rape her. Let her children die and her houses burn. Let her live a long life of bitter misery and shame. Gods of the Inferno, I offer you her limbs, her head, her mouth, her breath, her speech, her heart, her liver, her stomach. Gods of the Inferno, let me see her suffer deeply, and I will rejoice and sacrifice to you."
Both of these curses are invoked as she carves them into scrolls of lead. The scrolls are then rolled up and given to her duenna (slave), who then takes the scrolls to hide them within the cracks of the homes of Servilia's intended victims.
Her final curse comes just before her suicide in front of Atia's front door:
"Gods below, I am Servilia,
of the most ancient and sacred Junii, of whose bones the seven hills of Rome are built. I summon you to listen. Curse this woman! Send her bitterness and despair for all of her life. Let her taste nothing but ashes and iron. Gods of the Underworld, all that I have left I give to you in sacrifice
if you will make it so."
Comparison with Servilia
Servilia was the half-sister of Cato, Caesar's most dedicated political opponent in real life and in the series; this relationship to Cato is never noted in Rome. In 63 BC, during the crisis caused by Catiline's conspiracy to overthrow the state, Caesar was passed a note in the Senate. Cato, believing Caesar was sympathetic to Catiline, accused him of corresponding with the conspirators and seized the letter, only to discover, to his great embarrassment, that it was a love letter from Servilia.
Servilia had two husbands, Marcus Junius Brutus, the famous Brutus's father, and Decimus Junius Silanus, to whom she bore three daughters, all called Junia (and none mentioned in the series). Her affair with Caesar continued into the Civil War, and he gave her discounts when auctioning off the estates of defeated enemies. There is no reference in the historical sources to their affair ending, although she was rumoured to have given him her youngest daughter, Junia Tertia, when his interest in her began to wane. Junia Tertia was the wife of Caesar's assassin Cassius, and was also rumoured to be Caesar's natural daughter. Plutarch reports the suspicion that Caesar was also Brutus's biological father, although as he was only fifteen when Brutus was born this is unlikely.
There is no historical evidence to suggest that Servilia and Atia Balba Caesonia (basis for the character Atia of the Julii) were such vicious rivals, or that Servilia and Octavia the Younger had a sexual relationship, as is dramatised in the series. There is also no direct evidence that Servilia persuaded her son to assassinate Caesar; a majority of modern historians agree that it was most likely Brutus' wife Porcia Catonis (who is not present in the series) who may have persuaded him to participate in the assassination. Although the rift between Brutus and Servilia a year prior to the assassination is true, it was over his marriage to Porcia rather than her disapproval of his accepting favours from Caesar. However, the conspirators did meet at Servilia's house after the assassination, and she was involved in their discussions on how to proceed. Servilia appears to have had some influence in the Senate: Mark Antony was trying to sideline Cassius by offering him a position as grain commissioner in Sicily, but Servilia promised to get this removed from the Senate's decree. She also objected strongly when Cicero criticised Brutus and Cassius' strategy.
Although Servilia is seen in some episodes to pray at a household shrine to the Roman Isis, there is no indication as to what the original Servilia's religious preferences were.
The episode Death Mask depicts Servilia committing suicide; Servilia in fact outlived most of the main characters left alive in the series, and died of natural causes at the country estate of Titus Pomponius Atticus, a close friend of Cicero.
Although the dramatised Servilia expresses great pride in the Junii, Servilia would have been considered a member of the Servilii Caepiones, as blood ties were considered to be of greater importance than marital ties in Roman society. Servilia would not have identified herself as being a member of the Junii despite being married to Marcus Junius Brutus and Decimus Junius Silanus.