Do As The Romans Do

A rather significant new cable television series premieres Sunday, August 28th on HBO. The show is called ‘Rome’ and is based in ancient Rome circa 52BC during the rise of Gaius Julius Caesar. Since I don’t have cable I fear I will have to wait for the DVD. My faithful readers will have to let me know how good (and historically faithful) it is. It is rare to have a series set in a non-Christian setting and a quote from one of the co-creators has made me a little nervous that they will portray Rome as some sort of godless secular city of sin.

“…the great thing about the Romans, from a dramatic perspective, is that they’re a people with the fetters taken completely off. They had no prosaic God telling them right from wrong and how to behave. It was a strictly personal morality, and whether or not an action is wrong would depend on whether people more powerful than you would approve. You were allowed to murder your neighbor or covet his wife if it didn’t piss off the wrong person. Mercy was a weakness, cruelty a virtue, and all that mattered was personal honor, loyalty to yourself and your family.”Bruno Heller

This doesn’t sound like a very reasoned view of Rome of that period. I wonder what Roman historians would say about the “mercy as weakness/cruelty as virtue” dynamic the creators of the show have in mind. I’m also wondering how the treatment of religion will be handled, I will be deeply disappointed if they portray pre-Christian Rome as entirely secular.

Jason Pitzl-Waters