Sure, the show's called Rome, but it begins in Gaul. Julius Caesar, having come, seen, and conquered, is basically a rock star back home. Which makes some folks nervous -- specifically the Roman aristocracy, as well as Caesar's homie and partner in rule, one Pompey Magnus. Pompey's lost his wife in childbirth, a wife who just happened to be Caesar's daughter. So a woman named Atia of the Julii plots a double-suck-up: she offers her daughter as Pompey's new wife, and sends her son Octavian to Gaul with a white stallion as a gift to Caesar. Meanwhile, in Gaul, some guys sneak into Caesar's camp and steal the golden eagle that his army uses as a standard. A couple of hapless soldiers are assigned the impossible task of finding it. Luckily, they stumble upon the band of ruffians who have not only taken the eagle, but have also kidnapped Octavian. Who helpfully explains the significance of all the machinations going on between Caesar and Pompey, so I'm glad he didn't get killed, or I'd be totally confused. There are some other people, too: Timon, who likes to have sex in front of the help; Cato and Cicero, a couple of windy senators; Mark Antony, who likes being a bad-ass; and Marcus Junius Brutus (he of the famous "et tu"), who's uptight and snobbish even when drunk. Anyway, it turns out that the standard-thieves were working for Pompey, who was hoping to weaken Caesar (and who also declines to marry Atia's daughter after shtupping her). So Caesar sends back word that he and his army are on their way back to Rome. What's Latin for "it is on"? Also, there are lots of boobies.
Welcome, citizens, to the Rome recaps. This is the IIIrd show on which I've been the regular recapper, and the Ist I've covered from the beginning. I'm pretty excited, but I just hope that after IV months of covering XXIV, followed almost immediately by XII weeks of VI Feet Under, and then coming right into this without a break, that I don't end up exhausted in the hospital with a 4 in my arm. Sometimes it's hard to be 1000 Giant.
(I'll give you a second to think about that.)
The opening credits are set against shots of busy Roman streets, where faceless citizens stroll past, taking no notice of the fact that the bloody and bawdy graffiti on the walls is moving. And the final image is that of the word ROME appearing in black caps on a red wall. The font? Times New Roman, of course.
Hey, it's a map of Middle-Earth! No, it's actually Southern Europe -- Italy and the Adriatic Sea. A plummy-voiced narrator begins, "Four hundred years after the last king was driven from the city, the Republic of Rome rules many nations, but cannot rule itself." Fade to a guy crouched over a flat stone, drawing a crude picture of two guys fighting. The narrator continues, "The city is constantly roiled by conflict between the common people and the nobility." And yet this doofus can still find a peaceful spot to do his little drawrings. "Power is shared and order maintained by two soldiers: old friends Gnaeus Pompey Magnus, and Gaius Julius Caesar." Shot of a big, middle-aged, dark-haired guy -- Caesar -- embracing a shorter, stouter, older guy and kissing him on the cheek while both wear laurel crowns and flower petals rain down upon them. It's so romantic. "Once, Pompey was acknowledged by all to be the greater man." Pompey -- the shorter, older guy -- stands in a red-trimmed white toga. "But for the last eight years, while Pompey has kept the peace in Rome [aside from all the roiling, I take it], Caesar has waged a war of conquest in Gaul that has made him ever more rich and popular." Dissolve to a close-up of Caesar, looking serious over images of battle. "The balance of power is shifting. And the nobility have grown fearful." A laurel-crowned Caesar casts his eyes humbly skyward. "Though of noble blood himself, Caesar stands with the common people. A man like that, an aristocrat with soldiers, money, and the love of the people, might make himself King." So we're all up to speed, right? Good. Fade to -- black? Weird!