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How Titus Pullo Brought Down the Republic

"How Titus Pullo Brought Down the Republic" is the second episode of the first season of the television series Rome.

With growing political tensions at home, Caesar needs a voice within the Senate, and Mark Antony is not above accepting the gift of a bought office. Escorting the new "Tribune of the People" to Rome, Vorenus and Pullo return to their homes for the first time in years: Vorenus to his family, and Pullo to his vices. Atia rewards those who return her lost son to her. In the back rooms of Rome powerful men strike bargains to strip Caesar of his growing power, and in growing political tensions of Rome the actions of the basest of men will shake the foundations of the city.

Plot summary

Vorenus, now a first spear centurion (centurio primi pili), and Pullo return to Rome. After dropping off Gaius Octavian, Vorenus returns to his wife, whom he hasn't seen in eight years since he left for Gaul, only to find her holding a fairly new baby in her arms. When Vorenus asks her whose child it is, she tells him it is his grandson by his eldest daughter who has just newly turned 14. Meanwhile, Pullo returns to prostitution and gambling. He's already lost most of his money in a gambling den full of Pompey's supporters when he discovers that he is being cheated by one of his opponents. He stabs the man through the throat, but is injured in the fight that breaks out. Pullo manages to drag himself to Vorenus's home, where he receives expensive medical care (courtesy of Vorenus) from a Greek doctor.

Caesar's political enemies, led by Pompey, plan to pass a motion in the Senate that would set an ultimatum for Caesar to surrender his command, or be declared a public enemy. Pompey enlists the help of Cato, Scipio (Pompey's new father-in-law), and of the reluctant Cicero. Pompey wants the motion to pass by a large majority, so that Caesar would see that he is isolated and has no political supporters. On the other hand, Pompey also expects the motion to be vetoed by Caesar's ally Mark Antony, in which case the blame for any subsequent escalation would rest with Caesar. However, a brawl erupts on the Senate floor and Mark Antony's veto is not recorded, nor is the session formally adjourned. Pompey is taken by surprise, and arranges for the Senate session to be continued the next day so that the tribune's veto can be recorded. He also gives orders that Mark Antony must not be harmed in any way.

Not knowing of Pompey's orders and feeling threatened because of his association with Caesar, Mark Antony calls on the soldiers from Caesar's 13th Legion (Legio XIII), including Vorenus and Pullo, for protection. With Vorenus and Pullo walking beside him, Mark Antony makes his way to the Forum in order to properly record his veto in the Senate. Just as they are marching through a throng of Pompey's supporters, a friend of the gambler Pullo killed in the gambling den fight lunges from the crowd with a knife and attacks Pullo. Though the assailant is swiftly killed, both sides believe that it was Mark Antony who was the intended victim and a bloody fight erupts between the two mobs, just as Pompey emerges from the Senate House. Vorenus and Pullo escape with Antony, though the former is wounded and barely survives the return to Caesar's 13th Legion in Cisalpine Gaul (northern Italy).

Upon hearing the news, Caesar marches his army south toward Rome, marking the beginning of the civil war. Caesar crosses the Rubicon River with the remainder of his army in January of 49 BC. As the news is cried throughout the city, Niobe suckles the baby, indicating that it is really hers.

Historical/Cultural background

  • Caesar's proconsulship in Gaul was about to expire, which would mean a loss of immunity against prosecution by his political enemies. He had faced the same situation five years prior, but at that time his command had been extended with the help of his allies Pompey Magnus and Marcus Crassus. This time, however, Pompey was against him, and Crassus had been killed in 53 BC. Caesar instead has to rely on Mark Antony for his political maneuvering: newly elected to the office of Tribune of the Plebs (tribunus plebis).
  • As part of his investiture as tribunus plebis, Antony sits a (very impatient) vigil in the temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus. Given that this was the God of Laws, Social Order, and Rome itself, it seems an appropriate God to appeal for favor to when one is becoming a high government official.
  • This was the year that Caesar finally moved openly against Rome, crossing the Rubicon in January of 49 BC, at the head of the 13th Legion (Legio XIII Gemina). It is here he is said to have made the comment "alea iacta est" ("The die is cast"). There are some variations on what he actually said. Suetonius wrote that the comment was "Iacta alea est" and Plutarch wrote that he said in Greek, "anerriphtho kubos" ("The die must be cast" - Latin trans. "jacta alea esto"), a quote from a play by Menander . Appian, too, gives "Ho kubos anerriphtho. This alleged quotation is left out of the series.
  • After a rather bloody bit of surgery on Titus Pullo, the doctor recommends a sacrifice to Spes, Goddess of Hope.
  • It should be noted that the surgery performed on Pullo (trepanation) was based on surviving descriptions of actual surgical techniques in implementation during that period, including the circular bone saw and the metal plate used to replace the section of Pullo's shattered skull. Pullo's demise from what essentially was open cranial surgery without the availability of antibiotics to prevent and/or control infections would not have been totally unexpected during that pre-sterilized era. Survivability would have been far more dependent upon the body's natural ability to heal itself without chemical assistance than it would in more modern times.
  • Lucius Vorenus tells Niobe that his "official spoils" should clear "10,000 Denarii". It is extremely difficult to estimate the exact value of the Denarius, as it changed with the times (as do most currencies), and was part of an economy totally alien to us; however, the "classical rule of thumb" is that a Denarius was the daily wage of a skilled worker. This would mean that about 350 Denarii would be a "middle class" working wage. Lucius Vorenus has brought home approximately 25 years' wages of someone living at their standard of living.
  • Regarding the monetary units frequently mentioned in the series, one Denarius (a silver coin) was equal to four sesterces (a bronze coin). The gold piece mentioned occasionally was worth 25 Denarii.

Inaccuracies and errors

  • Mark Antony is shown arriving in the Roman forum with armed bodyguards. In reality, it was a strict law that no weapons were allowed within the pomerium (the "sacred border" of the city) except for the axes within the fasces of the lictors attending a Dictator (and there was no Dictator over Rome at this time).
  • The people's tribune did not fail to veto the optimates' motion declaring Caesar an enemy of Rome. When it came to the vote, the motion was passed and then vetoed. The Senate then overruled the veto by the use of the senatus consultum de re publica defendenda, the decree for the defence of the Republic, in effect declaring a state of emergency.
  • Caesar's main term for laying down his command of Gaul was to be allowed to stand for Consul (and reacquire magisterial immunity) without returning in person to Rome to campaign. Romans assumed he would easily have been elected by the people, which is why the Senate prevented it.
  • The name Octavian is incorrect, and should be Gaius Octavius instead. In Latin the suffix '-ianus' indicates the original family name after an adoption, as a result of which the adoptive son received the full name of the adoptive father. Accordingly, C. Octavius changed his name to C. Iulius Caesar Octavianus after being adopted and made sole heir in his grand uncle's will (44 BC). As a matter of fact, the future emperor did not like and never himself used the epithet Octavianus, which pointed at his not being born a patrician.
  • Vorenus's rank is referred to as "First Spear Centurion". This designation is a common mistranslation of the Latin phrase centuriō prīmī pīlī, which is really "First Rank Centurion".
  • Caesar crossed the Rubicon on January 10 of the official calendar, but it was hardly the dead of winter. The official calendar drifted so far away from the seasons had that it was actually mid-autumn. (Later, as Dictator, Caesar ordered a long year of about 15 months to realign the official months with the true seasons.) Thus, it was likely that the snows had not yet accumulated in the Alpine passes, permitting a much earlier passage of the Gallic legions into Italy. In fact, two of Caesar's Gallic legions were able to join him in Italy within two months. As well, the Rubicon marked the southern border of Cisalpine Gaul, far south of the Alps, and was crossed on the coastal plain near Ravenna.
  • Several classical sources stress that the flight of Antony from Rome (along with his fellow tribune Quintus Cassius Longinus, the future conspirator's brother or cousin) was voluntary, because they feared violence. When Caesar exhibited Antony to his army, he emphasized the impious violation of the sacred inviolability of the tribunes, not necessarily their actual beatings.
  • In Life of Julius Caesar by Suetonius the crossing of Rubicon is made on a bridge, not on a ford, as the series depicts it.

Character notes

  • Vorenus shows himself as a stoic, traditionalist, and haughty specimen of Roman citizen. He is himself a plebeian, although obviously coming from a family of some means and having received an unusually fine education. When he meets Crito, the boy Niobe named as Little Lucius' father and Vorena the elder's lover, someone who comes from a rather moneyed, if low caste family, he calls the boy "an ill-favored prole", as though the Voreni clan were of Patrician blood, and he belonged to the Optimate party.

Plot notes

  • Vorenus' official spoils from the Gallic Wars have all been 'invested' in slaves, presumably captive Gauls. It would seem likely that he has made some sort of financial arrangement with the slave dealers seen buying up the captive Gauls in The Stolen Eagle. Putting his fortune in slaves will have consequences later (see Erastes Fulmen for details).

Episode characters

possibly incomplete
See also: Character appearances in Rome

Main cast

Atia of the Julii Cato the Younger Gaius Julius Caesar
Gaius Octavian Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus Lucius Vorenus
Marcus Junius Brutus Marcus Tullius Cicero Mark Antony
Niobe Octavia of the Julii Posca
Scipio Titus Pullo Vorena the Elder
Vorena the Younger

Guest stars

Curial Magistrate
played by John Boswell-Actor.
Milo
played by Leslie Csuth.
Rubio
played by Alessio Di Cesare.
Stilicho
played by Sergio Di Pinto.
Clarissa
played by Anna Francolini.
Courier
played by Alessandro Inchiappa.
Otho
played by Sean Madden.
Newsreader
played by Ian McNeice.
Priest
played by Maura Orefici.
Durio
played by Matt Patresi.
Slave Dealer
played by Francesco Pini.
Tarquin
played by Alessandro Prete.
Vorena the Younger
played by Anna Fausta Primiano.
Glabius
played by Roberto Purvis.
Antony's Tribune
played by Bart Ruspoli.
Ubian #1
played by Massimiliano Ubaldi.

Notes and References

External links

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