Heidi Wicks gives us the goods on HBO’s hidden gem ‘Rome’

*Note: If you’re totally in the dark with Roman history, this review contains SPOILERS!*

Heads roll, limbs fly and blood spurts in ancient Rome, at the height of the Roman Empire’s rise and fall, when Gaius Julius Caesar was at the height of his dictatorship.

This is a world where heads are sliced in one fell swoop and carried through the streets or jabbed atop a metal stake, just to show who’s boss. A world where nobles fornicate as their slaves watch creepily from the shadows, just in case the man or the lady needs a little ‘primer’, or to hand off a cup of honey water when they’re done. And what’s a mistress to do when, say, a certain political tyrant ends their affair? Curse him to the gods, obviously.

Case-in-point, here’s a bile-soaked taste of what the ladies spew in Rome:

“By the spirits of my ancestors I curse (fill-in-the-blank). Let his penis shrink. Let his bones crack. Let him see his legionnaires drown in their own blood. Gods of the Junii, I offer to you his limbs, his mouth, his breath, his speech, his hands, his heart, his stomach. Gods of the Inferno, let me see him suffer deeply, and I will rejoice and sacrifice to you.”

Ha! That’ll show him and his too-short bowl cut!

This HBO nugget ran from 2005-07, and depicts from the end of the Gallic Wars until Caesar’s and Marc Antony’s deaths. With stunning and expensive production value, Rome was only meant to be one season, ending with the death of Caesar. But due to popular demand the network created one more 10-episode season.

The storyline unfolds through the points of view of both the noble leaders and their families (Julius Caesar and his adopted successor Octavian Augustus, and his Queen bitch mama, Atia of the Julii), political allies and adversaries, as well as through the eyes of ordinary Romans (notably two soldiers Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pollo). We also get to hang with Cleopatra, as she wheels and deals and seduces to remain protected under the Roman Empire.

The series is blocked with Roman column-sized fun, with excessive blood, nudity, and scandal. If you’re not watching an incestuous romp, you can enjoy a good old-fashioned decapitation, ruthlessly repetitive stabbing, gut-wrenching suicide and the like. And all their rituals, which seem so silly to all of us sensible folk, give us a deliciously vibrant sneak-peek into a world that was slaughtered long ago.

Rome is available on DVD at all major rental outlets. 7/10 microwave donuts.

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