lesbiassparrow: (Default)
[personal profile] lesbiassparrow
One thing which interests me about Rome (apart from the question of why everything in the titles is animated but not the penis) is how its focus dovetails with trends in scholarship on ancient Rome. I think it intrigues me that it is such a melange of both older and highly conservative takes on the fall of the Republic and more modern ones.



1. What is very modern is, I think, the understanding of the mob and the power of the crowd in Rome. We've had it before but no one has ever bother to try and figure (or represent) how the influence of the mob permeated everything in Roman politics (well, maybe Gladiator is the exception to this, so perhaps this is why Rome leads this way). The Aventine *is* important and its violence profoundly unsettling to a Roman consul - who cannot solve it by sending in a (non-existent) police force. (Anyone interested in this topic should probably read Miller's 'The Crowd in Rome in the Late Republic.' It's not the most scintillating read, but it really is interesting.)

2. Religion. I think that the current take is that religion was much more important to Romans - of all levels of society - when in the past everyone was 'oh, the plebs were all religious but the rich were basically atheists.' The show has a little of that (the manipulation of augury) but it still put religion in a central place in Roman life and people are really disturbed when it is publicly flouted.

3. What is very old fashioned is the portrayal of women. Really, it's right out of I, Claudius and histories of the 1950s. Ambitious women are ruled by their physical desires and creatures of excess and lust - and not terribly politically asute when politics clashes with their sex-drive. Atia was smart and canny, but her first political mistake - siding with Antony over Octavian - comes because she is worried about losing her man to Cleopatra. In Rome, ambitious women are not ambitious because they want to be politics or have power but because they have been unlucky in love. I love Atia and Servilia and the actresses are wonderful, but they really are a throwback in how they are written and I think it's the weak link of the show, but a weak link which is disguised by the acting.

4. Slavery. Ah, all those dedicated slaves of Livy and Valerius Maximus. Right. The interesting thing is that the show doesn't disguise the violence of slavery and cruelty of Roman masters and mistresses, but it more or less has slaves as completely passive or dedicated to their master. And it has no interest in how they act when they're not in their owners' presence. In fact, slaves are shown as the Romans would have wanted: extensions of their masters with no desires of their own and no interest in even passive resistance. Keith Bradley would probably roll his eyes.

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lesbiassparrow

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