The Ram has Touched the Wall

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"The Ram Has Touched the Wall"
Rome episode
Episode no. Season 1
Episode 5
Directed by Allen Coulter
Written by Bruno Heller
Original air date September 25, 2005 (HBO)
November 23, 2005 (BBC)
Setting Rome and Italia
Time frame Between January 10 – February 30, 49 BC
Episode chronology
← Previous
"Stealing from Saturn"
Next →
"Egeria"

"The Ram Has Touched the Wall" is the fifth episode of the first season of the television series Rome.

Pompey must stall for time, and his supporters urge for peace with Caesar. Caesar and Antony must balance that which is expedient with how their actions will appear to the people. Atia's jealousy of Servilia will lead to actions that spell humiliation for Caesar, and despair for Servilia. A sudden reversal of fortune forces Vorenus to choose whether it is to the Legions or the underworld of Rome that he will sell his integrity. Servilia's rage turns her into dark paths of revenge. Niobe faces the possibility of having to lose her son, and has her secret fall into the hands of those who do not know what to do with it. Pullo is retained to educate Octavian, but it is questionable as to who will teach and who will learn.

Plot summary[edit]

Pompey receives Julius Caesar's offer of a truce. To general surprise, he accepts. This presents Caesar with a dilemma, since he confidently expected Pompey to refuse, but now needs a suitable pretext to reject a truce. Caesar uses Pompey's refusal to meet with him face-to-face, calling it a mortal insult.

Atia announces that she has retained Titus Pullo to tutor her son Octavian in the "masculine arts" — how to fight, copulate, skin animals and so forth. Octavian proves to be an indifferent swordsman, but takes a liking to Pullo, and the soldier takes the boy into his confidence, confessing that he has suspicions about Niobe and her brother-in-law, Evander. The two make a pact to find out the truth, without telling Lucius Vorenus.

Meanwhile, Vorenus's financial difficulties are mounting. He inspects his share of the slaves taken in Gaul, and finds that nearly all of them have died of disease, on top of which he still has to pay the bill for their transport and feeding. He asks Erastes Fulmen for a loan, but the crafty gangster demurs, and instead maneuvers Lucius into accepting a lucrative position as his enforcer.

Having captured the city, Caesar seems to be in no hurry to pursue Pompey to the coast, instead spending his evenings dallying with Servilia. Jealous of her influence over Caesar, Atia hires Timon to paint rude graffiti depicting Caesar and Servilia's relationship all over the city. Mortified, Caesar's wife Calpurnia threatens to divorce him unless he breaks off relations with Servilia. Since he still needs her family's political and financial support, Caesar does so, and Servilia is livid. Caesar prepares to march on Pompey without further ado, and appoints Mark Antony prefect of the city in his absence, despite the latter's protests ("I'm a soldier, not a peacekeeper").

Late at night, Pullo kidnaps Evander, with Octavian tagging along, and they interrogate him in an underground walkway beside one of the sewers. Octavian, to Pullo's surprise, directs Pullo to torture Evander when he refuses to talk with surprising blood lust and cruelty. After losing both thumbs and being beaten severely, Evander admits that he and Niobe had become lovers after Vorenus was mistakenly pronounced dead in Gaul, and that Niobe's "grandson" is in fact her son by him. Outraged, Pullo kills Evander and dumps his body into the sewer. Octavian warns him that Vorenus can never learn what has happened.

Vorenus reports for duty as Erastes's "bodyguard," but quits as soon as he sees what is expected of him: torturing, and then killing, a business client of Fulmen's who considered himself cheated in a recent deal.

Despite his political opposition to Caesar, Vorenus has no choice but to approach Antony, pleading for a renewal of Antony's prior offer. Antony does not usually believe in second chances, but he needs good men around him in his new, unfamiliar role as city protector. Vorenus is reinstated into the army as Evocati prefect (with a cut in his promised signing bonus).

In the most solemn terms, Servilia inscribes curse tablets against both Caesar and Atia, and a slave deposits them in their respective houses. She is now committed to destroying both of them.

Caesar and his army reach the coast to find that they are too late: Pompey has escaped to Greece, no doubt to raise a new army against Caesar.

Historical and cultural background[edit]

  • The title of the episode is a phrase used by Mark Antony advocating "no mercy" toward Pompey and the Optimates. The phrase is English translation of the Latin "Murum aries attigit" (see De Bello Gallico, Book II, Chapter XXXII). It refers to the policy of not allowing any mercy or surrender to the occupants of a fortification once the battering ram begins the assault on the gates. This policy was to act as a deterrent against resistance to those about to be besieged. It was an incentive for anyone who was not absolutely sure that they could withstand the assault to surrender immediately, rather than face the possibility of total destruction.
  • Posca mentions that Caesar cannot allow his wife to divorce him—her family's influence is critical. Calpurnia was Calpurnia, daughter of Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus. That would make her father an ex-consul of Rome, as well as an ex-proconsul of Macedonia—clearly a man of political experience and influence. It is also interesting to note that Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus was instrumental in having Marcus Tullius Cicero exiled from Rome for a period in 58 BC and 57 BC. This fact may explain part of the animosity Marcus Tullius Cicero bears towards Caesar and his family.
  • Towards the end of the episode, Lucius Vorenus re-enlists with the 13th Legion, and is inducted into the ranks of the evocati, who were "career" soldiers who had re-enlisted in the legions after their original "term of service" was up—usually at the request of their commander. The evocati tended to occupy the higher-ranking positions within the Legion, were released from some of the more menial duties, and were awarded a certain level of respect and higher pay.
  • A displeased Mark Antony reduces Lucius Vorenus's signing bonus to 9,000 sestertii—or 2,250 denarii—when Vorenus returns to him. The value of the Denarius is discussed in How Titus Pullo Brought Down the Republic, but 2,250 denarii would be roughly equal to USD $225,000. (The significance of the reduction may be that this is Antony's final offer—Vorenus's last chance.)
  • Mark Antony promotes Lucius Vorenus to the rank of "Prefect, of the first grade". It is not clear what rank is being awarded here. The rank of Prefect within the legion was roughly that of a Lieutenant Colonel—they occupied positions of authority over a particular aspect of the entire Legion (Praefectus castrorum = camp commandant, Praefectus fabrum = officer in charge of engineers and artisans, Praefectus legionis = equestrian legionary commander, etc.). Regardless of his specific area of responsibility upon re-enlisting in the 13th, Vorenus's new rank is a three-grade promotion.
  • As part of his induction into the evocati, Vorenus—in full dress armor—sits a vigil in the temple of Mars, Roman god of War.

Episode characters[edit]

Main cast[edit]

External links[edit]