Tuesday, February 20, 2007


The only television program I watch is HBO's Rome. It is far from perfect (and has some gross inaccuracies): the worst aspect is HBO's insistence on proving how far they can push the limits of taste. Having said that, it is immensely enjoyable. Set in pre-Christian Rome, the series starts with the rise of Gaius Julias Ceasar and is currently looking at the early career of
Gaius Octavius (Octavian or Ceasar Augustus, as you like). The first season performance of Ciaran Hinds was absolutely masterful. I have seen Hinds mostly recently as an assassin in Munich, but I believe he took his craft to a new level in Rome. In fact many of the actors in the first season cast, including Tobias Menzies, James Purefoy, Kevin McKidd, Lindsay Duncan, and Max Pirkis, provide standout performances.

The series also deals with religion as a facet of culture. It is at first shocking then sobering to see the sincerity the Romans paid to the religions that we now call myths. After watching a recent episode which features the rise of (I believe) a Zealot group, I wound up revisiting Norman Cohn's fascinating book on ancient religions. If the series prompts people to actually study the ancient world in a thoughtful way, its overt shortcomings certainly deserve to be overlooked.

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