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More stupid crap in Empire:


No, the punishment for treason by a Vestal was not being buried up to the neck and then stoned. The Vestals were untouchable except for the severe offense of fornication. The punishment for that was being buried alive with a jug of water and a loaf of bread. The purpose of that was no specific person was responsible for the Vestal’s death, because that would have outraged the gods. Touching them, even to punish them, was unacceptable because it was seen as impinging on their chastity. Since their chastity was understood as vital to the health of the Roman state, the idea of punishing them in any way that involved physical contact was unacceptable.

No, Italy did not have a massive gladiator school somewhere in Mordor where Tyrannus (Jonathan Cake), Octavius (Santiago Cabrera), and Senator Magonius (Dennis Haysbert) could be thrown after they are captured, only to fight their way out of. Gladiators were valuable property and were not forced to live like wild animals in a mine.

No, it did not take an enormous crisis for the Senate to have the authority to appoint a new Pontifex Maximus and no, Brutus was not appointed as said Pontifex Maximus so that he could forcibly take Camane from the Temple of Vesta. The college of pontiffs elected the Pontifex Maximus from their own number, and after Caesar’s assassination, the office went to Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, who became an ally of Antony and Octavian.

No, Romans did not use medieval broadswords, even during gladiatorial training. Nor did they use medieval flails for gladiatorial training.

No, Romans did not say ‘Hail, Caesar!” during his lifetime. The phrase is a common modern misquote of the phrase “Ave, Imperator, morituri te salutant” (“Hail, emperor, those who are about to die salute you.” The only recorded use of the phrase dates to 52 AD when a group of fighters in a fake naval battle (technically these were not gladiators at all, but naumachiarii) greeted Claudius with the salutation. While widely known and misquoted today, there is literally no reason to think the phrase was customarily used by gladiators or anyone else.

No, ‘Caesar’ was not a title in this period. It was just a cognomen, which Octavian acquired as soon as he was adopted. When Cassius shouts “you’ll never be Caesar,” it’s like someone telling me “you’ll never be Larsen.” But then, we already know that movies and tv shows never get Roman names right.

No, Cicero (Michael Byrne) was not a supporter of Caesar and Octavius and an opponent of Brutus and Cassius. It was pretty much the opposite. He was politically opposed to Caesar, and Mark Antony (Vincent Regan) was a personal enemy of his. He was something of an ally of Brutus and praise Caesar’s assassination. He did to some extent befriend Octavius, but mostly as a way to play him off against Antony, and in the period 44-43 BC, produced a series of 14 Phillipic Orations against Antony.


Vincent Regan as Mark Antony

No, Mark Antony did not have a beloved dog named Sulla. How do I know this? Because Sulla was one of the optimates, the pro-Senatorial, anti-crowd factions in Roman politics, while Mark Antony was one of the populares, the pro-Tribune, anti-aristocratic elite faction (I’m oversimplifying, because many of the populares  were themselves aristocrats and senators). So naming his dog after one of the arch-optimates of the previous generation would be like Hillary Clinton naming her beloved dog Nixon. Nor is it likely that he would joke about his wife being his ‘commanding officer’, because submission to women was seen as a sign that a man was unfit to rule.

No, there were not people called ‘master assassins’ in ancient Rome. The whole concept of being a master at an occupation is a fundamentally medieval concept, only beginning to emerge in the 12th century with the guild system. The concept of people who were trained as assassins only emerged around the 12th century in the Middle East when the Ismaili section of Shia Islam was established, and even these people weren’t ‘professional’ assassins, but rather religious fanatics who went on suicide missions. And whatever assassins existed in ancient Rome sure as hell weren’t magical beast-masters who could see what their falcons saw and shape-change into wolves. This is supposed to be actual history, remember?

No, orgies were not regular features of Roman parties. While Romans had somewhat more lax rules about where and when and with whom sexual activity was acceptable than more Americans do, they regarded unrestrained sex parties with disapproval and suspicion as something likely to erode the morality of Rome and as potentially politically subversive. Simply a rumor about such activity was enough to get the cult of Bacchus banned in Italy in 188 BC. Stories about Roman emperors such as Tiberius and Caligula throwing debauched parties were told to demonstrate the emperor’s unsuitability to rule and may well simply be slanderous inventions. Even if these stories are true, later Roman historians report them disapprovingly, demonstrating that even a century after this period, Roman culture considered sex parties disreputable.

No, there was no mass murder of Caesar’s supporters using asps and wolves during an orgy in Rome. It certainly wouldn’t have been engineered by Mark Antony, because he would have been killing off his own supporters and allies.

And no, the screenwriters of this horrid piece of dreck should not have been allowed to write a mini-series about a historical period they clearly cared nothing about.

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