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Rome Fodder

Rome: 2-4F Testudo et Lepus (The Tortoise and the Hare) - Full Review

Rome: 2-4F "Testudo et Lepus (The Tortoise and the Hare)" - Full Review

Previously: We see everybody fighting everybody: Atia/Servilia, Vorenus/Pullo, Duro/Servilia, Lyde’s Escape, Children in slavery, Octavian’s letter to Atia, Agrippa/Octavia, the poisoned stew approaches Atia.


Opening scene. As she brings the stew to the dining room, Althea takes a taste with her fingers. Just a little taste to make be sure everything’s perfect for the mistress, of course. As she presents it, a bored Atia asks her servitor Merula for some music. But the flute player is down with the gripes. And the lyre player died last Lupercalia, and replacements are very expensive at the moment. Oh, the problems of the rich and treacherous. Merula points out that Althea has a wonderful singing voice, and Atia asks her to sing “Crown of Sappho”. Althea begins, and she does have a lovely voice but those high notes must be murder, because she begins to bleed from the mouth. Gamely she tries to continue, but then collapses. Merula and Castor rush to her. “Poison, Domina!”

Duro is caught looking on, gulps and runs. Castor flashes to what happened and chases him.

Short scene of Pullo galloping hell-bent into Gaul.

Octavia and Jocasta and other Roman yutes enter the house tittering, then are distracted by screams. Following them, they find Mom and boyfriend Timon torturing the formerly handsome young slave Duro, as Castor and other slaves stand around. Duro is tied in a standing-up yoke that leaves his arms, trunk, legs and head efficiently available for scourging. Timon and his men lay on with a will, but Duro’s not talking. Time for the hot irons.

“Mother!” Octavia addresses a bored Atia leaning against a pillar.

“Octavia!” (Jocasta whimpers at the bloody spectacle)

“What’s her name again?”

“Jocasta” Octavia whimpers.

“She’s a bad influence.” Can’t take a joke, shouldna’ joined the upper class in their diversions, I guess.

“What are you doing? Who is this?”

Sighing, “One of the servants tried to poison me.”

“What have you been doing to the servants that they want to murder you?”

“Nothing, this is Servilia’s work. With Antony gone, she thinks she can just... do as she pleases.” As opposed to doing as you please when Antony’s here, I suppose.

“If you know it’s her, why are you doing this to him?”

“Because it isn’t a legal confession (of a slave) unless there’s torture.” Aha! Just what Rome historian Jonathan Stamp has been telling us on the HBO website for weeks. Foreshadowing, forsooth.

“You must take Servilia to court.”

“No, I’m going to kill her. And if I get taken to court for it, I can always claim it was self defense. I’m thinking ahead, you see?” Atia the wise.

Octavia protests the wrongness of the situation. Jocasta is getting sick and starts to leave. “No don’t go, I need you as an independent witness", Atia improvises, as Jocasta throws up. Atia complains to Timon that this is taking too long. Timon has the unconscious Duro revived and prepares to lay into him with a vicious iron claw. Atia approaches the trembling boy (and would-be cheerful murderer) and gently caresses him. “Give me a name, boy, and I will spare your life.”

Duro ultimately gives up Servilia. After he gives the name, Atia whispers to Timon to take him out, kill him, and dispose of the body discretely. I suppose this means not leaving the body in a cart outside his former wife’s doorway, as was done with the unfortunate Glabius in season 1.

Atia returns to her chambers, followed by an anxious Castor begging forgiveness for having brought the murderer into the household. “Punish me as you see fit.”

“It would serve you right to be gelded,” Atia says matter of factly.

“If you wish.”

“And I would, you know if eunuchs were not so unfashionable. Just forget about the whole thing.”

“Whew” Castor does not say, and falls to kissing her feet.

“Silly man. Next time you want a boy, buy one at the market. Any fool knows not to pick one up from the streets.” And she waves him off. Atia calls for bread and cheese, a hard morning’s torturing has perked up her appetite.

Timon and men lead Duro through the streets. The boy has studied the latest hostage theory, and tries to bond with his captor and create empathy by making small talk. “What’s your name friend, a man’s got a right to know the name of his murderer? Timon? That’s not a Jew name? You’re a Jew, ain’t you?”

“That’s my name for business purposes.”

“Listen, Timon...”

“Oh, don’t bother.”

Duro tries to persuade Timon that Servilia’s got lots of money and will pay him good money to spare Duro, whom she loves.

“I expect she’ll get over it.”

More begging to no avail. The proper spot reached, a few up close knife thrusts, the kind Timon favors (cf. the late Glabius), and Duro is proven non-durable. A quick lift of a grate, and the body slides down into the sewers. Parting with his henchman, Timon wipes the bloody knife blade on his sleeve, smears a bloody hand across his brow, and heads home.

He enters his home in the same condition and encounters his family and uncle Levi sitting down to a meal. (So what happened to Levi’s previous kosher concerns?) Brother Levi rebukes Timon and vice versa. After a bit of a tiff over who’s allowed to send the children from the room, Levi exhorts Timon to ‘look at yourself and see what you’ve become’. “You are an animal!”

Timon rejoinders about Levi’s dissolute ways back in Jerusalem. They're both playing to the gallery of Timon’s wife. Levi say’s he’s changed. Levi wants to know where’s all the wealth ‘that Roman witch’ must pay you to get you to do her dirty work. “We both sell what we have to these people”, Timon responds. Levi praises what Hashem (God) has done for him. Timon’s more concerned with what the ‘Roman witch’s money' has done for him and his family.

Levi almost strikes Timon, but ends up with Timon’s knife pressed his throat. Timon’s got a serious case of little-brother’s revenge percolating up though him “Not so easy to beat me any more, is it? I’m not your little brother any more.” Timon’s young son comes though the door and is paralyzed by the sight of his father holding a knife to his uncle’s throat.

The town crier dude announces that Generals Hirtius and Pansa, assisted by Caesar Octavian, are about to engage ‘the traitor’ Antony near Mutina, Gaul, and all citizens are encouraged to pray for the success of ‘our heroic soldiers’.

Cut to Cisalpine Gaul, and if we didn’t get to see much of the battle of Pharsalus in season 1, we see a broad battlefield scene here – at least the aftermath of one, as Pullo wanders among the wounded and dead seeking Vorenus. As Pullo searches, we hear his name called by an officer on horseback. Pullo recognizes Octavian, but we don’t because he’s now played by another, older actor, Simon Woods. Ave atque vale, Max Pirkis, you were a fine Octavian.


“They call me Caesar, now, Pullo.”

“All grown up. Always knew you had it in you. You won, then?” Pullo seems surprised. “How?”

Octavian modestly says the legions under Generals Hirtius and Pansa did most of the work, and the rest he owes to Agrippa. After Pullo explains his quest, he tells Pullo that he’ll have his tribunes search among the dead and wounded for Vorenus, but if he’s not here he’s retreating north to the Cisalpine hills with Antony. Octavian gives him courier credentials to allow him to pass into enemy lines. Lacking a ready source of wax, he seals the orders with a bloody glop of battlefield mud, pressing his official seal into it. He promises fresh rations and a rested horse from Agrippa’s supplies.

Octavian retires to his tent to consult with his hangers-on. A lounging Maecenas is writing a poem to celebrate the victory. Hirtius and Pansa, the two generals he departed Rome with seem to have rather conveniently died of battlefield wounds, allowing Octavian to have all the glory, unshared. He dispatches General Agrippa to Rome to bear messages to Octavia, Atia, and Cicero. “Why send a general to do a soldier’s work?” Maecenas asks. Agrippa, for his part, is quite happy to have a chance to see Octavia again.

“I’m asking Cicero for a triumph. He’ll know I’m serious if Agrippa’s there looking all grim and soldierly.”

Trumpets sound. “Your troops are gathering, time to give them a speech”, Agrippa announces.

“Which speech, do you think?”

“The one about money,” Maecenas puts in.

Octavian gives a speech to the soldiers. He hasn’t attained Caesar 1.0’s level of oratory yet, but he’s working on it. He rallies the troops to return to Rome with him to collect their rightful pay, and it seems another Caesar will ‘cross the Rubicon’.

Pullo finds Vorenus in the retreating column. Vorenus is bitter and barely acknowledges him at first, but galvanizes into action on hearing his children are alive but enslaved.

Antony is having his shoulder sewn up and receiving reports of his losses. 8000 men “Eight thousand!” a small unsoldierly figure exclaims, and we learn that Posca is still alive and as irreverent as ever. Antony shuffles units, disbanding some to bring others up to strength, and advises “we’re heading North.” More back and forth over strategy with Posca, with occasional outcries to his stitcher-upper, and up rides Vorenus.

He reports to Antony and requests permission to leave the army. Antony is bemused that a soldier is asking permission to desert instead of just “slipping away in the night”, but agrees when he learns Vorenus’s purpose. Before they can leave, Antony shouts to Vorenus and Pullo “Be sure to tell everyone you meet, that Mark Antony is not defeated. And all those that defied him, shall pay. That f***ing little brat, Octavian, shall be first. You hear me, boys?”

“Will do, chief" responds Pullo.

Short scene of Brutus and Cassius congratulating each other for having raised 8, no 9 legions in Asia (Turkey). Brutus seems to be over his angst from last episode. He’s looking good, being martially dressed, and Cassius advises him to have his portrait done. “It’d please your mother.”

Servilia is praying somewhere, attended by female attendants in some sort of water ceremony . Timon and his chief henchman slip up behind her and throw a bag over her head. When it’s whipped off she finds herself in Atia’s torture chamber. “A slow, lingering death, that’s what you promised me.” Atia crows. The two spar back and forth, but Servilia never loses her patrician manner.

Tiring of banter, Atia summonses Timon, Timon summonses his men, and the torturing begins with a course of rape. Servants throughout the house cringe at the long agonized cries coming from the apparently not very isolated dungeon/torture chamber. Next there’s a course of whippings and beatings that leave Timon panting with exhaustion, but Servilia’s not ready to beg for death, and Atia’s frustrated. Being frustrated is probably a lot easier to bear than the bloody countenance that Servilia lifts in response to Atia’s “Have you had enough?” Apparently not, for Servilia spits in Atia’s face.

“Continue,” Atia orders Timon.

“What do you want me to do?” a panting Timon asks.

“I don’t know. Do something. Cut off her face.” A look from Timon. “Do it.”

As Servilia prays, Timon takes a knife, but instead of following orders, cuts her down from the rope that suspends her. “Get up, go!” and he lifts Servilia and thrusts her toward the door.

“What are you doing?” Atia asks, more surprised than angry that her right hand man is defying her.

He grabs her by the throat, forcing her to the ground. “I am not.. an animal! I am not a f***ing animal!” So maybe Levi's had some effect, after all.

Servilia somehow finds the strength to stumble out into and through the streets. Timon walks away down the same streets. Atia remains collapsed in her now deserted dungeon, overcome by the injustice of it all. Lousy parties, and now can’t even manage to get a little torture-execution right.

Scene of Pullo and Vorenus riding hard. They pass a boundary post marked “Flaminia”. Pullo tries to make a little small talk, but Vorenus pushes on. Later, as they walk their horses, Pullo finally gets the chance to say he was lying about having sex with Niobe, that even if he’d been so inclined - and he wasn’t – she wasn’t that type of woman. It was that pig Evander took advantage of her (during the eight years with no word when Niobe assumed Vorenus was dead). And if it’s any consolation, Pullo gave Evander a right doing before he killed him – screamed like a stuck pig. Vorenus thanks him for the courtesy.

When finally forced by darkness to camp, Pullo delicately raises the issue of the likely conditions of the girls in a slave camp, and Vorenus’s intentions toward the boy, Lucius, whom by Roman custom Vorenus should kill.

“You ever seen one of these slave camps?”


“It’s not pretty. They’ll be different now, the children.”

“I know”.

“I don’t think you do, though. You can’t, unless you’ve been there.” And we begin to think that Pullo has been there. In what capacity, we wonder? Slave or slaver? “Pshew. The things I saw.” Pullo gazes into the fire with a difficult expression to read, exactly. “Any road, they’ll be different. You should be ready.”

“I don’t care what they’re like. I just… want them back.”

“All I’m saying is… best be gentle, eh?”

“I will.”

And then the delicate question. “And the boy? Lucius?” A long pause. “You’re not.. thinking of killing him, are you?” Pullo knows when to tone it down. His words are soft, and he never looks directly at Vorenus, instead staring into the fire.

Vorenus is staring intently at Pullo's back. “Honor demands that he die.”

“True. Fair enough. … Most likely won’t sit well with the girls, though. If you do… kill him.”

“You… talk too much”.

“We all have our faults.”

Servilia has made it back to her house, where she’s been cleaned up, and lies on the bed in a fetal position. When a servant approaches she reacts in terror.

Back to Atia's house, where Octavia is receiving the news from Agrippa. “Octavian won!?” Why can nobody believe this the first time they hear it? If Octavian were a little funnier he could be the Rodney Dangerfield of Rome – he gets no respect. Yet.

“Your brother will be here within the month. With his army.”

“With his army? Why with his army?”


Agrippa tells Octavia that her brother will look out for her ‘after she swears him her allegiance'. Octavia is insulted that her brother expects an oath from her like a common soldier. Agrippa says he thinks that message is really meant for Atia. Agrippa blurts out “I’d sooner die than cause you pain.” Now the conversation’s turning awkwardly personal. Agrippa, seeming more like a stammering frat boy than a general, tries to get out a confession of love for Octavia, but she turns the conversation aside with inquiries about her brother. He grows more awkward and embarrassed, and tries to apologize. Octavia take a little pity and leaves a possible opening for resuming this conversation at another time.

Atia enters, and seeing Agrippa, assumes the worst and nearly collapses, expecting to hear that Octavian’s dead. Octavia assures her that Octavian is all right, and, in fact, won. Atia becomes the next in the long line of people having trouble believing this. And is doubly conflicted, because if her son has won, then her lover and putative protector has lost.

Cut to the senate, where now it’s Cicero’s turn to be amazed. “Wonderful news” he exclaims. Agrippa gives Cicero the message that Octavian is shortly returning to Rome ‘with his army’. “His army. Why?”

“I am just a messenger,” Agrippa replies, ignoring at his peril my alternate title for last week's episode. But Cicero hasn't Antony's temper.

'Oh my', sighs Cicero, “Another Caesar. Gods, I’m so tired of young men and their ambitions, so tired.”.

“I assure you, he has only the interests of the republic at heart” Agrippa replies. (Q: Isn’t that what everybody says?)

“I’m sure he believes that. I felt the same, when I was a young man.” Then he either displays his Hebrew scholarship, or reinvents Solomon “But it is all vanity, you know. All… vanity…” A tired Cicero climbs the senate chamber steps.

Pullo and Vorenus arrive at an open-pit slave mine. “This is the place,” Pullo says and asks Vorenus to let him do the talking. You know how well that's going to work. They find a supervisor and ask the way to the procurator’s tent, claiming to be looking for some runaway slaves. With a little bribery, and Pullo soothing things over whenever Vorenus’s temper erupts, they finally get directions. On the way they pass crucified slaves, one female. Vorenus takes a long hard look, but it’s not Vorena. They arrive at the procurator’s office

Pullo spins a story of being in search of runaways from Gaius Caesar Octavian’s house. “Two girls.” Vorenus says. “And a boy” adds Pullo with a pointed look.

They use the courier credential with Octavian’s seal on it to back up their story. “Odd wax, this”, the procurator dissembles.

“It’s the f***ing mud from Mutina. That’s why my friend’s still in fighting gear. It’s that urgent,” improvises Pullo.

“Caesar, eh? That’s a good story”

“Yeah, Caesar. One what just beat Mark Antony. Wonder what he’d make of a little fellow like you crosses him?”

“Yes, that’s all very well, but what if you’re lying to me?”

Pullo knows when to get menacing. Leans in with all his bulk and in a quiet voice asks “Are you calling me a liar?”

The procurator knows when his bluff’s been called, and finally agrees to take them to the slaves. Vorena the younger and Lucius are working in the scullery. Pullo and Vorenus find the younger girl first. “Daughter” Vorenus softly says, and holds her as comprehension slowly grows in her eyes. Lucius stumbles into the scene and drops his grain sack, trembling at the site of the man he thinks wants to kill him. Vorenus approaches as if still considering the possibility, but then hugs the boy instead.

“You’re not slave catchers," the indignant procurator exclaims.

“Where is she?”


“The other one,” Pullo says.

“Where’s my daughter?” Vorenus says, with a look that brooks no back talk.

A cowed procurator leads them down a brothel hallway, moans and grunts coming from the stalls to either side, customers strolling about. In the last stall, Vorenus finds the older Vorena, face turned to the wall, as a man undresses. She turns, but has little comprehension as a look of pain and compassion sweep Vorenus’s face.

In the last scene, the procurator stumbles into the scullery and collapses, bleeding. Vorenus steps over him holding the older girl’s hand, picks up Lucius, and steps into the outdoor light beyond. Pullo withdraws a large knife from the procurator’s back, picks up the younger girl and follows his friend.

We fade to black, and the usual ending credit music returns, after the Iberian themed music of the last two episodes.


Next Week: “Heroes of the Republic” – Families are reunited, forces are divided, and war looms. All may not be well in the Vorenus household, as Vorena the elder is seen telling Lyde that “He killed our mother.”

- Cecil

Previous Episode: 2-3F: “These Being the Words of Marcus Tullius Cicero”

Next Episode: 2-5F: Heroes of the Republic

Click here for complete "Rome" broadcast schedule, including reshow days, times, and HBO Channel

Posted by Cecil on February 4, 2007 3:30 PM
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Firstly, I'd like to go on record saying that I would walk with Titus Pullo to Massilia or to the ends of the earth and back. He is magnificent.

Second, since you mentioned "the town crier dude," I've been curious since the beginning about the gesticulations he uses for emphasis and meaning. Do we know anything about this, historically?

Thanks for the blog!

-- Posted by: Angela at February 8, 2007 12:55 PM


>Firstly, I'd like to go on record saying that I would walk with Titus Pullo to Massilia or to the ends of the earth and back. He is magnificent.

Remember, a friend is someone who'll help you move. A *real* friend is someone who'll help you move a body.

>Second, since you mentioned "the town crier dude," I've been curious since the beginning about the gesticulations he uses for emphasis and meaning. Do we know anything about this, historically?

I can't find any reference for this. Movies and films not having existed ca. 44BC, we have to lean on wall drawings and statuary, which don't leave much information about gesticulation. The most I've seen is formal senators, declaiming at length, seemed to use a 'swearing in/boy scout sign' sort of gesture (right arm out, forearm up a right angle, open flat palm facing audience). If they kept this up the whole speech, it probably cut down on lengthy speeches. Remember when Brutus was dressing for his Caesar's funeral speech, he held his arm up in this gesture, as if to see if his toga draped correctly?

But, boy do I love it when Ian McNiece cuts loose. If they didn't do this, they should have. I have no idea if the Romans really spread the news with such public newsreaders. It's certainly an effective device for keeping us abreast of offscreen developments. And so entertaining I can forgive any anachronism.

>Thanks for the blog!

Thanks for reading.

-- Posted by: Cecil Rose at February 8, 2007 2:32 PM

In the very beginning of the show, what is the white structure that appears to have the months of the year on it and little paintings? I've tried to describe it to various people who would know (but they don't watch the show) and they have no answer for me.

Since we're a week behind, I can't read you blog on this week's show.

-- Posted by: Laurie at February 12, 2007 4:27 PM

That's a "Fastus" (I think that's the correct singular) or Roman calendar. (Plural fasti) I've wondered about it myself. Look at the 1/24/07 article in the "History of Rome" blog on this site (at the top right of this entry click on "Rome News", and then "History of Rome") for some more information and links to web pages about them. They were frequently painted on walls in Rome.

However, I've uncovered no evidence of any of them having the little niches in which objects are moved about to indicate the passage of time. That may be a conceit of the set designers to make it more interesting.

The ones I've seen pictured are very close to the printed portion of the one depicted in the show. In season two they seem to use it mainly as an intro piece. Back in season one, I recall them using it in the middle of the episodes to indicate the passage of time, much like the fluttering calendar pages in fifties movies.

Maybe next time you're over there, you can ask around and report back on the niche issue.

-- Posted by: Cecil Rose at February 12, 2007 10:14 PM

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