May 17, 2008 – 1:12 pm by John

Last night I finished watching the first season of the HBO historical drama Rome, on DVD. It was absolutely fantastic and I highly recommend it to anyone and everyone. The DVD set is worth almost any price they are likely to charge. They only made two seasons and won't make any more, I think: the first was about the end of the Roman republic and the rise and fall of Julius Caesar, and the second was about Octavian's ascent to emperor.

The only sort-of bad thing about watching Rome is that you know how it ends, and it doesn't end well. You know who the bad guys are and how bad they were for the history of Rome—for the history of the world. If this were fiction and I didn't know how things turned out and I didn't know what harm he inflicted later, Octavian would have been my favorite character. He is precocious, smart, quick, wise, and very full of common sense. Probably made it very easy to rationalize all the murder and theft he committed later.

Given the fact that we know who the bad guys were and you know how things turned out for the major characters of that period of Roman history, I think I won't be giving away any spoilers by stating that the best scene of the entire 12-hour series came towards the very end: the murder of Julius Caesar. Despite the fact that he was depicted as a sensible, if calculating, man who truly thought he was doing what was best for Rome and wanted to make allies of his enemies rather than kill them, it was clear that Caesar was not such a good man, and he was not doing such good things for his people or his country. The assassination was not depicted in the most dramatic, climactic way you might imagine, but one thing they did capture perfectly was the turmoil and self-disgust with which Marcus Brutus participated in the murder. He was a great friend of Caesar and his family once, though nearly always at odds politically. It tore at his conscience to even be involved in this conspiracy, let alone stab Julius Caesar on the Senate floor. Still, he is a better man for having helped plan and execute the assassination, despite the condemnations from that idiot Dante Alighieri.

The episode reminded me of Charles Johnson's post on Tyrannicide Day 2008, the Ides of March. It was excellent. Pretty much everything he writes is.

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