Rome: Season 1 (2005)

SEASON:

Season 1
Rome

Critics Consensus

Rome builds slowly, but a laborious start delivers rich rewards in the form of decadent sets, delicious drama and a surprising amount of intimacy.

83%

TOMATOMETER

Critic Ratings: 36

96%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 228

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Episodes

As HBO's Rome opens, Gaius Julius Caesar (Ciarán Hinds) is reaching the end of his war against Gaul, and his popularity in the republic has reached a new high, arousing the concern of Pompey Magnus (Kenneth Cranham) and others in the senate that he will attempt to seize power. During the ultimate battle, a Centurion, Lucius Vorenus (Kevin McKidd), upbraids one of his men, Titus Pullo (Ray Stevenson), for breaking ranks. Pullo is later flogged and jailed for his disobedience, and misses out on some sacking. Caesar gets word that his daughter, married to Pompey, has died during childbirth. Both Pompey and Caesar see this as a further threat to their longstanding alliance. Caesar sends word to his conniving niece, Atia (Polly Walker) to offer Pompey a new bride on Caesar's behalf. Atia chooses her own daughter, Octavia (Kerry Condon), despite the fact that Octavia is already happily married. Atia convinces her to divorce, and offer herself to Pompey. Meanwhile, in Gaul, Caesar's standard, a golden eagle, is stolen, and he tasks Mark Antony (James Purefoy) with its recovery. Caesar also manipulates his young friend, Brutus (Tobias Menzies), the son of Servilia (Lindsay Duncan), his erstwhile lover, to report back to Rome that the eagle's been stolen, so that his enemies there will think Caesar is weak. Atia sends her son, young Octavian (Max Pirkis), to Gaul to deliver a white horse to Caesar, before the great man arrives back in Rome and everyone is giving him gifts. Octavian's party is assaulted, the horse stolen, and the boy abducted. Vorenus, assigned by Antony to the seemingly futile task of tracking down Caesar's standard, selects Pullo to assist him. The two have a stroke of amazing luck when they come across the party that captured Octavian.

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Air date: Sep 4, 2005

Caesar (Ciarán Hinds) sends the gruff Mark Antony (James Purefoy), back to Rome to serve as People's Tribune. Vorenus (Kevin McKidd) and Pullo (Ray Stevenson) accompany him, and are charged with returning Octavian (Max Pirkis) to his mother, Atia (Polly Walker). Invited to dine at Atia's home, Vorenus expresses his strong belief in the divinity of the Republic, while, prompted by Octavian's astute appraisal of Caesar's mindset and the state of the empire, Titus proclaims that he would follow Caesar if he rebelled against the Republic. Vorenus returns home to his wife, Niobe (Indira Varma), whom he has not seen in more than eight years. He finds her cradling an infant, and immediately assumes the worst. She tells him that the baby is his grandson by his eldest daughter, who is now 13. Pullo spends his first day in Rome whoring and gambling, and runs into some trouble deep in Pompeian territory. Pullo murders a man who cheats him at dice and is critically injured in the ensuing melee. He makes his way to Vorenus' home, and Vorenus brings in a doctor who performs a gruesome operation on Pullo's skull. As he recovers, Niobe confides in Pullo, telling him how much she's missed her husband, but bemoaning the lack of affection Vorenus has shown his family since his return. Antony meets with Pompey (Kenneth Cranham) and members of the Senate at Atia's house, and insults them with Caesar's demands, according to the general's plans. Pompey decides to issue an ultimatum to Caesar in the Senate, and enlists the reluctant Cicero (David Bamber) in his cause. Caesar is ordered to surrender or be declared an enemy of the Republic. The senators are counting on Antony's veto, but pandemonium erupts before Antony can say his piece. Caesar decides to march on Rome.

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Air date: Feb 20, 2006

Caesar (Ciarán Hinds) crosses the Rubicon into Italy with a single legion, which the overconfident Pompey (Kenneth Cranham) sees as a suicidal act. Vorenus (Kevin McKidd) and Pullo (Ray Stevenson) are sent ahead to Rome, to post Caesar's proclamation on the Senate door, but are told to return if they meet resistance. While the distraught Vorenus asks Pullo for marital advice, the father of Niobe's (Indira Varma) child, her brother-in-law, Evander (Enzo Cilenti), goes to see his son, and Niobe tearfully throws him out. Vorenus and Pullo surprise some of Pompey's troops, who run away. Pompey and his allies are panicked when they realize how quickly Caesar is advancing on the city. Pompey needs four days to amass enough men to fight him off, and Caesar is only two days away. Pompey tells Cato (Karl Johnson) and the rest of the senators that they'll have to retreat, gather strength, and then take the city back from Caesar. A proclamation is made that any noblemen staying in the city are allying themselves with Caesar and will be considered enemies of Rome. This causes a conflict for some. Brutus (Tobias Menzies) and his mother, Servilia (Lindsay Duncan), hide out in Atia's (Polly Walker) home while mobs loyal to Pompey run rampant in the streets. But Brutus decides that despite his friendship with Caesar, he must obey the proclamation and leave the city, while Servilia chooses to wait for her erstwhile lover. Atia, irritated by Octavia's (Kerry Condon) continuing relationship with her ex-husband, Glabius (Roberto Purvis), decides to take drastic action. Vorenus and Pullo intercept a group of Roman soldiers dressed in civilian garb who are fleeing the city with a very important wagon.

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Air date: Sep 18, 2005

Pompey (Kenneth Cranham) and the senators who fled Rome get dreadful news about their war chest, and Pompey sends his son Quintus (Rick Warden) out to find the scouts who found the gold. Back in Rome, Caesar (Ciarán Hinds) is short on funds, and has instituted martial law in order to keep the peace. Atia (Polly Walker) is holding a dinner in his honor, and is unhappy to see Servilia (Lindsay Duncan) on Caesar's guest list. Vorenus (Kevin McKidd) prepares an expensive feast in honor of the god Janus to inaugurate his merchant business. He rejects Mark Antony's (James Purefoy) generous offer to make him a prefect, preferring civilian life to participation in Caesar's campaign, which Vorenus sees as blasphemous. But things get rocky at the feast when his sister-in-law, Lyde (Esther Hall), arrives with her husband, Evander (Enzo Cilenti). Lyde, jealous over her husband's apparent continued passion for Niobe (Indira Varma), gets drunk and makes an embarrassing scene. At Atia's dinner, Caesar, who has asked for an augury at Jupiter's temple, to show Rome's citizen's that the gods favor his actions, takes the opportunity to offer the chief augur (Roger Hammond) a bribe in the guise of a late birthday gift for his wife. Back at Vorenus' home, things get worse after the party when Quintus shows up with some men, threatening Vorenus and Niobe and demanding to know where the stolen gold is. Vorenus has no idea what he's talking about until Pullo (Ray Stevenson) arrives, throwing money around, and the two get the better of Quintus. Vorenus finds out about the cart full of gold and orders Pullo to deliver it to Caesar. Caesar, meanwhile, sends Pompey and the Senate an offer of truce.

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Air date: Sep 25, 2005

Pompey (Kenneth Cranham) and the senators send word to Caesar (Ciarán Hinds), disappointing him by accepting his offer of truce. But Caesar decides that Pompey's vain refusal to meet with him face-to-face is excuse enough to reject the truce. Mark Antony (James Purefoy) is pleased, and ready to go after Pompey, but he soon realizes that Caesar is biding his time. Antony suggests to his lover, Atia (Polly Walker), that Caesar won't go after Pompey because he refuses to leave Servilia (Lindsay Duncan) again. This spurs the jealous Atia to find an anonymous way to humiliate Caesar into breaking off his affair. Vorenus (Kevin McKidd), meanwhile, learns that nearly all of his slaves have fallen ill and died on the way from Gaul. With his nascent merchant business already in ruins, Vorenus is forced to work as a bodyguard, which he quickly learns is not for him. Desperate, he turns to Antony, hoping to rejoin the 13th Legion as a prefect and a member of the Evocati. Meanwhile, Atia has hired Pullo (Ray Stevenson) to teach Octavian (Max Pirkis) the "masculine arts," but Octavian admits that he was not cut out for fighting. "It's not the killing," he explains. "It's the waving about of swords I find tedious." Impressed with Octavian's intellect, Pullo asks him for advice. He suspects that Niobe (Indira Varma) has been unfaithful to his comrade Vorenus, but he has no proof. Octavian recommends that Pullo hold his tongue until he's certain, and the two kidnap Evander (Enzo Cilenti) in hopes of forcing him to confess.

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Air date: Oct 2, 2005

Mark Antony (James Purefoy) is running things in Rome while Caesar (Ciarán Hinds) chases down Pompey (Kenneth Cranham) and his allies in Greece. But soon, word reaches Antony that the battle has turned against Caesar, who orders Antony and whatever troops he can muster to join him in Greece in what seems a hopeless cause. Pompey sends a messenger to Antony (living in Pompey's house) to let him know that Pompey will reward him if he sits out the battle, while Atia (Polly Walker) tries to convince Antony to marry her and seize power in Rome. Antony bides his time reaching a decision. Meanwhile, Vorenus (Kevin McKidd) is having problems at home. Lyde (Esther Hall), Niobe's (Indira Varma) sister, is worried over her missing husband, and has moved in with the couple. Niobe seems more concerned about her well-being than the state of her marriage. After listening to the frustrated, lovelorn, drunken Vorenus complaining through the night, Pullo (Ray Stevenson) tells Lyde that he's heard that her husband was murdered, and pointedly tells her, in front of Niobe, to get on with her life. Pullo, assigned with schooling Octavian (Max Pirkis) in the "manly arts," takes the young man to an upscale brothel. Atia, concerned that she'll be on the losing side of the battles in Greece, gets Ocatvian out of town, and sends Octavia (Kerry Condon) to Servilia (Lindsay Duncan) with some "gifts" as a gesture of friendship. Servilia sees through the ploy, but treats Octavia kindly, telling the girl she's blameless for what her mother has done.

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Air date: Oct 9, 2005

This episode of Rome examines the events surrounding the historic battle of Pharsalus. Things look grim for Caesar (Ciarán Hinds) by the time Mark Antony (James Purefoy) joins him in Greece, and to make matters worse, he's lost thousands of men at sea in the journey over. Pompey (Kenneth Cranham) is prepared to wait Caesar out, but Cato (Karl Johnson) and the other senators urge him to crush Caesar, once and for all. He masses his troops for battle. Caesar is massively outnumbered, but he knows his men will put up a fight. "We must fight or die," he tells Antony. "Pompey's men have other options." Back in Rome, a worried Atia (Polly Walker) sends Octavia (Kerry Condon) to Servilia (Lindsay Duncan) again, this time to request some men to guard her home. Servilia graciously agrees, but later gets word of Caesar's startling victory on the battlefield. Uncertain as to the fate of her son, Brutus (Tobias Menzies), Servilia breaks down, and is comforted by Octavia, but the two soon find themselves in a more intimate embrace. The disgraced Pompey suggests his confederates flee to Egypt, where he has friends. Cato and Scipio (Paul Jesson) decide to leave on their own, while Brutus and Cicero (David Bamber) decide to surrender to Caesar. Pompey is left alone with his family, a few slaves and soldiers, and some Greek mercenaries. Meanwhile, Vorenus (Kevin McKidd) and Pullo (Ray Stevenson) survive a shipwreck, and find themselves alone on a desert island with no food or water. Eventually, Vorenus gets the idea to make a raft from the corpses that washed up on the island with them. They make their way to the mainland, and happen to wash up onshore just as Pompey's party reaches the coast.

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Air date: Oct 16, 2005

Caesar (Ciarán Hinds) goes to Egypt, and goes to the court of the boy king, Ptolemy XIII (Shaka Bunsie), to demand that he turn over Pompey. Instead, Pompey's head is produced, and Caesar is not grateful, but enraged. He in turn demands that Ptolemy turn over the man who killed Pompey. The Egyptians have their own political strife, with Ptolemy's sister, Cleopatra (Lyndsey Marshal), having claimed the throne. Caesar decides to stay in Egypt and mediate the dispute in order to insure Egypt's grain supply to Rome isn't affected. But he sends Mark Antony (James Purefoy) and most of his men back to Rome. Vorenus (Kevin McKidd) and Pullo (Ray Stevenson) are sent to find Cleopatra, before Ptolemy's advisors have her killed. They rescue her, and she immediately plans to seduce Caesar, but on the road back to Alexandria, Cleopatra decides that since she is "between the tides" she must conceive a child immediately, before she reaches Caesar, and pass the child off as Caesar's own. She makes a surprising choice for the father. Upon returning to Alexandria, Cleopatra and Caesar have Ptolemy's advisors executed, which causes a massive public uproar, and Caesar ends up under siege in Alexandria for many months. Back in Rome, Brutus (Tobias Menzies) receives a cold welcome from Servilia (Lindsay Duncan) due to his capitulation. Antony keeps a sharp eye on Brutus and Cicero (David Bamber) while Caesar is away.

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Air date: Oct 30, 2005

Cato (Karl Johnson) and Scipio (Paul Jesson) have just suffered a devastating defeat at the Battle of Thapsus in Africa. They retreat to Utica, where Cato quietly commits suicide. After the funeral ceremony, Scipio has a soldier take his life as well. Caesar (Ciarán Hinds) returns home and begins preparing a celebration of his triumph. Vorenus (Kevin McKidd) and Pullo (Ray Stevenson) retire from soldiering. On his return, Pullo is delighted to find that the slave girl he rescued, Eirene (Chiara Mastalli), now speaks his language. Soon, at a loss for how to earn a living, the two former soldiers join Niobe (Indira Varma) and her sister in the butcher business. Vorenus breaks up a confrontation in the street, and a ruffian mocks his military service to Rome, for which he gets slapped. The thug makes it known that he works for Erastes (Lorcan Cranitch), who runs the neighborhood, and makes quick work of his enemies. (Erastes is the man for whom Vorenus briefly and unhappily worked as a bodyguard.) Erastes later goes to Vorenus' home and threatens to rape and kill his wife and daughters if Vorenus does not publicly apologize and kiss his feet. Vorenus and Pullo send the children away and prepare for a fight, but Caesar arrives before Erastes can get there, and asks Vorenus to run for the local magistrate position. Meanwhile, bent on revenge against Atia (Polly Walker) and Caesar, Servilia (Lindsay Duncan) tells Octavia (Kerry Condon) that Atia had Glabius killed, and convinces her to seduce her own brother, Octavian (Max Pirkis), in order to get information about Caesar's mysterious affliction.

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Air date: Nov 6, 2005

In the Senate, Cicero (David Bamber), feeling that he has no choice, calls for Caesar (Ciarán Hinds) to be made emperor. Brutus (Tobias Menzies), also under tremendous pressure, speaks passionately in favor of the motion, and it passes unanimously. Caesar exhorts the senators, "Join with me in building a new Rome, that offers justice, peace, and land to all its citizens." Posca (Nicholas Woodeson), Caesar's slave, coaches Vorenus (Kevin McKidd) as he campaigns to be magistrate of the Aventine district. When Vorenus grows weary of studying laws and such, and wonders if they should wait and see if he's elected first, Posca lets him know that his opponents in the election are "straw men." Pullo (Ray Stevenson) wants to march in Caesar's Triumph, but is told that he can't because he's no longer a soldier. At a loss, he impulsively decides to free Eirene (Chiara Mastalli) so that he can marry her and move to the country. Vorenus agrees to help him, but his plans go badly off-course. An innocent man is murdered in a moment of passion, and a severe rift develops between Pullo and Vorenus. Octavia (Kerry Condon) has run away and sought shelter with a religious order, but Octavian (Max Pirkis) goes to retrieve her in time for the Triumph. Octavia still believes (and rightly) that Atia (Polly Walker) was responsible for Glabius' death. Servilia (Lindsay Duncan) gains a new ally against Caesar when Quintus (Rick Warden) arrives on her doorstep, looking for Brutus. With help from Quintus and Cassius (Guy Henry), Servilia composes a screed against Caesar's tyranny, to which she puts Brutus' name.

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Tv Season Info

The Roman Empire's rise gets a royal treatment in this sprawling drama, which begins in 52 B.C., when Julius Caesar finally conquers Gaul, after years of war. Back in Rome, however, the Senate seeks to undermine Caesar's power, setting the stage for inevitable civil war. The HBO-BBC co-production took more than a year to make on acres of sets at Italy's legendary Cinecitta studios.

Cast

Ciarán Hinds
as Gaius Julius Caesar
Kevin Mckidd
as Lucius Vorenus
Ray Stevenson
as Titus Pullo
Polly Walker
as Atia of the Julii
James Purefoy
as Mark Antony
Kenneth Cranham
as Pompey Magnus
Tobias Menzies
as Marcus Junius Brutus
Max Pirkis
as Gaius Octavian
Kerry Condon
as Octavia of the Julii
Anna Patrick
as Cornelia
David Kennedy
as Lucius Septimius
Lindsay Duncan
as Servilia of the Julii
Eliza Darby
as Daughter of Pompey
Ian McNeice
as Newsreader
Haydn Gwynne
as Calpurnia
Michele Pettini
as Son of Pompey
Coral Amiga
as Vorena the Elder
Vincenzo Nicoli
as Lysandros
Paolo Risi
as Cato the Dwarf
Rick Warden
as Quintus Pompey
Guy Henry
as Cassius
Anna Fausta Primiano
as Vorena the Younger
Scott Chisholm
as Ptolemy XIII
Ewan Bailey
as Pertinax
Bruce MacKinnon
as Priscus Maevius
Oreste Rotundo
as Aufidius Dento
Helen Stirling
as Old Weaver
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Critic Reviews for Rome Season 1

All Critics (36) | Top Critics (20)

For all the naked bodies and flashy physical displays, Rome thwarts almost every form of desire. Unlike Deadwood, it offers no pause for deliciously dirty and brainy language, nor the relish that adds zest to motive.

Apr 16, 2019 | Full Review…

The first six episodes generate more intrigue than aggravation with the weaving in and out of competing story lines.

Jun 6, 2018 | Full Review…

It's a heady mix of history and fictional characters in a sprawling epic that not only respects but challenges the intelligence of the audience.

Jun 6, 2018 | Full Review…

An addictive piece of costume soap opera rich in atmospheric realism... but it's not psychologically complex.

Jun 4, 2018 | Full Review…

The production values are extraordinary, from the show's magnificent sets to its elaborate wardrobe. But the writing is the richest component. It gives the actors full-blooded characters to play and crisp, appropriate dialogue to speak.

Jun 4, 2018 | Full Review…

Of the six episodes that were released for press review, half a dozen put me to sleep by the end of the hour.

Nov 28, 2017 | Full Review…
Top Critic

"Rome" is detail-orientated and historically accurate, which are just two of the many reasons why the series is one of the best on TV.

Mar 31, 2020 | Rating: 4.5/5 | Full Review…

One has no doubt about the authenticity of much of "Rome." You just wish it was more fun to visit and taxed your brain more than it often does.

Mar 31, 2020 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

The series, invested in something of a pragmatist's view of history, doesn't allow all this sordid material to devour itself.

Mar 31, 2020 | Full Review…

I found the series' depiction of filthy, chaotic Roman life profoundly satisfying.

Mar 31, 2020 | Full Review…

There's magnificent acting in the historical roles: Ciaran Hinds, his face long and narrow as a sword blade, is a fully believable Caesar.

Jun 4, 2018 | Full Review…

Rome takes a bit to get going... but once it starts up, I'd say viewers are in for a great ride.

Jun 6, 2018 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Rome: Season 1

  • 1d ago
    Good season. It perfectly shows life in Imperial Rome with its many adventures. I advise viewing.
  • 4d ago
    Too graphic . The violence and sex add nothing to the story. Compared to PBS, I Claudius, this is junk.
  • Jun 17, 2020
    A masterpiece!!! Rome one of the best tv shows of all time, it is sad that it only had only two seasons.
  • May 10, 2019
    Magnificent. Kevin McKidd, Ray Stevenson and James Purefoy were brilliant.
  • Feb 07, 2019
    The characters aren't very interesting and the story is moving very slow.
  • Oct 21, 2018
    Best series ever made.
  • Sep 16, 2018
    A fantastic and epic show that succeeds in transporting you into the frame of mind & common beliefs of an average Roman during the Republic. Coupled with a fantastic cast & crew, this series has created a monument that can be rewatched over and over again!
  • May 26, 2018
    It's is often said that Rome started the golden age of tv series in my opinion, rome is on a level of it's own.
  • Jan 27, 2018
    One of my favorite tv series of all time, saddest final episode ever!
  • Nov 24, 2017
    Its an awesome Series having the best story I have come across about Rome and being a Roman History Buff I have come across loads. The Story is told from two prospective, one based on Ceaser and his rise to power and the other based on two soldiers paralleling his life. The many intrigues of Roman Society is shown very accurately. When I say accurately I mean general practices of the society and not on what actually happened, the correct word is authenticity. The ensemble cast is what makes the series so special. Each of the characters is portrayed perfectly. Difficult to choose a favorite actor as all of them were brilliant. Ceaser and Young Octavian do stand out in Season One. The sets and costumes are very authentic. It adds to the genuineness of the periodic theme. Music is different, very instrumental and again adds to the feel of the ancient times. The action is the only part where I was disappointed as they don't show any battles. While the individual fighting is very real they skip out on all the battles and there were some epic ones. This is a must watch series for everyone.

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