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Rome Fodder

Rome: 2-6F Philippi - Full Review

Rome: 2-6F "Philippi" - Full Review

Previously: We see the children introduced to the Aventine Collegium, Octavia and Jocasta experiment with hemp, Levi chiding Timon, Timon in the synagogue, the children run away and are turned back by Lyde, Octavia’s “abduction” from the orgy, the Janus ceremony for the children, Brutus and Cassius plot their triumphant return to Rome, Antony’s camp in the alps.


Opening scene: Greece, Brutus and Cassius’s legions march. Cassius does the accounts on horseback, grumbling about how much armies eat. Guess he hasn’t read his Napoleon – “An army travels on its stomach”. Oh yeah, that’s another XIX centuries from now. Brutus rides up and is all chatty about “the men” while Cassius ponders the strategic situation and grouses some more about expenses.

Cisalpine Gaul: Riders gallop and foot soldiers double-time past the command tent, where Octavian writes in wax with a stylus. Antony is doing all the talking, planning their campaign in Greece. His strategy is basically Bedford Forest’s – get there the fustest with the mostest. He exchanges a look with Lepidus over Octavian’s lack of response. “Do you understand what I’m saying or shall I speak more slowly”. “No.” Octavian, it turns out, is planning for the home front – he’s making a little list - of men to be killed in Rome. No sense leaving supporters of your enemy at your backs as you ride off to do battle. Lepidus objects that “These are among the finest men in Rome, some of them my good friends.” Maecenas points out that the confiscated money of the dead men will come in handy. Posca scowls silently in the background. Antony proposes Cicero should go first, both to settle a personal score and because he’s the most dangerous. Antony says he has a few more names to add to the list. Lepidus will be left behind with a small contingent to keep order. Octavian will send the list to Vorenus to parcel out the contract murders among the gangs.

Atia’s been listening and speaks for the first time, saying she’s got a name to add to the list. ‘No’, Octavian says, ‘no killing women’, i.e. Servilia. But the name, Atia proposes is Rufus Tranquillis. ‘Huh’ says everyone simultaneously, including your reviewer. Turns out he’s Jocasta’s father. Guess that’s one way to deal with her social climbing. Maybe we could try a haughty snub, first? The guys are not down with this at first, but come around on hearing how wealthy Tranquillis is.

Octavian adds that Vorenus and Pullo should deal with Cicero personally. Oh, and Antony adds, ‘have then cut off his hands and nail them to the senate door’ – Antony promised him that, in the past, if Cicero ever crossed him again.

The army is departing to face Brutus and Cassius’s legions. Antony is saying his goodbyes to Atia. Atia tells Antony to ‘bring her Brutus’s head for a wedding present’. Antony shies a little at this wedding talk.

Aventine Kiddy Korner: The children are playing at cosmetics, with some help from Gaia. Lucius Vorenus, encountering this, objects and tells Vorena the elder to rub it all off, toot sweet. Vorenus tells Gaia to not interfere with the children. Vorenus order Mascius to summons the captains. As Mascius gets up to do so, Gaia sarcastically ‘thanks’ him for standing up for her. Mascius says they’re Vorenus’s children, and he’s the boss - ‘he says don’t paint them,, don’t f******g paint them’. “Spoken like a true third man.” Gaia really knows where to insert the knife. Mascius tells her he likes her but “Be careful, slave, I have my limits.” You know I’m really not understanding this ‘slave’ business. Who, exactly, is her master? How is it that a slave can go job hunting? Gaia is the second example we’ve seen. The late Duro was also a slave who sought out a new job. Or at least purported to be. Can slaves just walk off and look for a new job? Do they kick back to their masters? Somebody enlighten me. But I digress.

Short scene of Vorena the elder frantically wiping her face and weeping.

Vorenus is assigning the hit lists. Each gang gets 10 names of “the richest men in Rome”, their 00x license to kill them, and permission to take as much of as their property as they can carry. The children run through the room where all this violence is being planned, little Lucius giggling. Vorenus tells Vorena the elder to ‘try and keep him out of the mud', and sends a chaperone with them. The gang captains argue over their lists, which Vorenus says have been equally divided.

The children run into the Aventine open market, and little Lucius, holding the toy elephant Vorenus repaired, does indeed head straight for the mud, heedless of his sister’s cries. In a secluded nook off the market, one anonymous thug nudges another and points “That’s the one.” We can’t tell if he’s indicating Vorena or little Lucius. Anonymous thug #2 approaches Vorena the elder and asks her “is this is the way to the temple…” but he never finishes his sentence, standing mute as Vorena looks up, then lowers her eyes again. For a second there, I’m wondering if they’ve met before, perhaps in the slave camp. They both stand mute for a beat, then the chaperone inserts herself between them and orders the thug to push off, and pulls both girls away.

Back in the Aventine Collegium, Pullo doodles military doodles, while Vorenus hands out death orders. The gangs quarrel over how to spend the money the assassinations will bring them. Vorenus, as canny in gang psychology as he is inept in family psychology, notes that the feast of Pomona (goddess of smog and the LA county fair) is coming up, and proposes they spend some of the money on bread and fish giveaways, to improve the gangs’ reputations, since in the coming peaceful times, they’ll need some support from the populace. Memmio agrees to the plan just a little too readily.

Back on the street, thug #2 makes a goodwill offering of his own, two little stick figures bound together. He gets little Lucius to take it to his older sister. While the chaperone dozes he makes goo-goo eyes at Vorena the elder. She returns a shy smile.

Memmio and Cotta ascend those long Aventine stairs. Cotta wants know why Memmio backed Vorenus. Memmio says Vorenus is a man of vision. Near the top of the stairs, they encounter thug #2. “And?” says Memmio. “It’s done,” replies the thug.

Back in the Collegium, Pullo expresses distrust for Memmio. Vorenus sends Pullo on a little errand, to Cicero’s villa in Tusculum. “No looting,” Vorenus commands, “show some respect.” As Pullo packs his murder kit, Gaia tries to cozen up to him. Number one was a no-go so having a run at number two? Pullo’s not having any part of it, and says so. Eirene’s seen the last of this, and doesn’t like it. She asks Pullo where he’s going. On an impulse, Pullo says, since it’s a wonderful day, why not take the whole family along for a picnic? Way to turn an assassination into a kiddie romp, Pullo.

Some Sylvan Glen: The Pullo-Vorenus party throws down a cloth and enjoys the out of doors. Pullo excuses himself to go run and errand – with his sword. Vorenus’s doing that 'throw the little kid in the air' thing that all fathers do, and little Lucius seems to enjoy it. Vorenus is making headway with at least one of his children. Well, not exactly his child, but you know what I mean. Pullo kisses Eirene and mounts a horse for his little errand. Wished ‘good luck’ by Vorenus, Pullo responds “Hah!”. Luck’s not nothing to do with it when Pullo plies his trade. Two more armed men accompany him.

Cicero’s country villa, the garden: Cicero plays a board game with a young boy – slave? son? A messenger arrives bringing Cicero the news of the Octavian-Antony alliance that bodes ill for Brutus and Cassius... and Cicero. The young boy is named Hector.

On the road, Pullo’s party approaches, as Hector hides behind a tree. At their approach, the boy runs into the woods.

Cicero hastens to dash off a warning letter to Brutus, but before he can finish it, a servant brings word of armed men at the door. Knowing exactly what that means, Cicero nevertheless finishes his letter rather than running, and gives it to the messenger, telling him to get it to Brutus at any cost. The messenger disappears just as Pullo walks into the garden. Brutus and Cicero chat for a while, Pullo very respectfully.

On learning who his assassin is, Cicero remarks that it’s an honor to meet the famous Titus Pullo. Pullo compliments Cicero back. Cicero says Pullo’s work today will being him immortality. Pullo is intrigued, then disappointed to find Cicero means only that his name will be remembered as the killer of the famous Cicero. He was hoping for personal immortality.

Pullo compliments Cicero on his peach tree. Cicero broaches the subject of a possible bribe, but Pullo’s incorruptible, like the definition of an honest Alabama politician – once bought he stays bought.

They are interrupted by Cicero’s slave/scribe Tiro, who emerges from the kitchen brandishing a battered cleaver, intending to defend his master. Pullo tells him to not be absurd, and Cicero concurs.

Pullo draws his sword, but Cicero asks for a few moments to compose himself, which Pullo grants. Pullo asks for permission to pick a few peaches ‘for the missus’. Cicero watches a large black bird flying lazy circles in the sky, then gives himself up to Pullo.

Tiro begins to wail, but Cicero commands him to stop until he’s gone, Saying that he’s given Tiro his freedom in his will. “Take care of my people,” he adds.

Pullo advises him to kneel, to make it easier, and Cicero does. Pullo advises the weeping Tiro “You might not want to watch this,” then thrusts his sword down past Cicero’s scapula to the heart. Blood spurts and the greatest orator of late Republican Rome will speak no more.

Back at the picnic: Little Lucius plays peek-a-boo with his sister as a smiling Vorenus and Lyde look on. They discuss Vorena the elder’s marriage prospects – not good in Vorenus’s opinion. “What kind of man would marry a prostitute?” Vorenus asks rhetorically. Hard as it is for us to accept, the Roman mind made little distinction between forcible rape and willing prostitution. The conversation is interrupted by the girls calling little Lucius to stop as he runs into the road and is almost run down by a speeding horseman.

The horseman reins in just in time. Vorenus upbraids the horseman for excessive speed. The horseman says “take care of your bastard you stupid peasant”. Right on one point, wrong on the other two. Words are exchanged and Vorenus pulls down the horseman for a little serious discussion, but before he Vorenus can pound him into little pieces, Lyde calls for him to stop… “the children!”.

Vorenus lets the horseman leave, but he’s lost his dispatch case, which the children play with – it was Cicero’s messenger. And I guess we’re supposed to think that this is why the message never got delivered to Brutus. But the messenger knows the contents of the message. Couldn’t he just deliver an oral report?

The afternoon drifts on and Vorenus entertains the group with juggling tricks. Versatile Vorenus. Pullo rides in distributing Cicero’s peaches to the family, and remarking on what a fine fellow Cicero turned out to be. He slings a heavy satchel to Vorenus, and I guess we know what’s in there. All in all, a pleasant summer day in the country.

Night time, the Senate: We hear a pounding at the door, and we see Pullo nailing a pair of soft white hands to the Senate door. In actual history, I understand Antony also had Cicero’s tongue nailed there, it having done Antony much more damage than the hands ever had.

Octavian’s villa: Posca scurries in and delivers “more names from Mark Antony,” to Agrippa, Maecenas, and Octavian. “Antony has a lot of enemies, it takes time to recall them all.” Agrippa thinks “Surely, we have killed enough, close on a thousand men,” and retires from the unpleasant discussion, meeting Octavia in another part of the house. They discuss their relationship, about which Agrippa says he knows he could never marry her, because he is of common blood. Octavia protests that she can marry whom she likes, but they both know better. Octavia ends the discussion with a passionate kiss, which is interrupted by Maecenas seeking the “blasted tax projections”.

A synagogue, somewhere: A group of men are discussing how much of a bribe to give the Romans, and which Roman, the idea of which is to get the Romans to recognize Herod as the legitimate king of Judea. A voice cries out “How is it come to this? In this holy place?” It’s Levi. Timon is with him. Asked to ‘name yourselves’ by the Rabbi, Levi responds “We are the sons of Arod, from the families of Manasseh. We are the wrath of Israel” and spits in the high priest’s face, leading to a brawl. The revolutionary group flees to the streets laughing over this political action, and we learn that Timon’s real name is Tevye. But they have to disperse when interrupted by…

Soldiers in the street shouting “Make way”, who lead us to Vorenus and Pullo congratulating themselves over their successes. Pullo, however is concerned that with the ascendancy of the Antony-Octavian faction the city will become too peaceful for a warrior like himself, and frets over missing the battles. Pullo feels he’s not cut out for peace, but Vorenus thinks they’re heading for big things. Pullo doesn’t think “Second man in the Aventine. He handed out many fish,” will look good on his tombstone.

Elsewhere in the streets, prostitutes stroll outside a… brothel? Inside, the voice of a blind attendant calls “second hour.” I guess that means ‘pay more or leave’. In an alcove we see two bodies writhing in lust. Drawing closer, we see it’s Agrippa and Octavia. Guess somebody said ‘get a room’ and they took it literally. Later, while they shower, we hear, “third hour”. Nice staying power, kids. A little more kissing and snuggling, and Agrippa must take his leave. Octavia weeps once he’s gone.

Atia’s house: Octavian is preparing to leave Rome. Atia gives him parting advice – be nice to Antony. Maecenas is there. But where’s Agrippa? “He attends to several whores, or one lover,” Maecenas quips. Agrippa appears, but denies it when Octavian says he’s ‘hot from a brothel bed, on such a day,’ with mock seriousness. Octavia appears, breathless, claiming to have had ‘women’s troubles’. A trooper kneels to give Octavian a stepstool to mount his horse. Seriously, somebody’s got to get around to inventing stirrups soon. Octavian and party depart. After they’re gone, Atia shows she knows all about Agrippa, telling Octavia to not think she can marry him.

Jocasta stumbles into the doorway asking for help. Her family’s been killed and herself ‘dishonored’. Guess this orgies aren’t as much fun when involuntary. Octavia says they’ll take her in, and Atia replies “of course”, while making out her ‘inefficient assassin’ complaint in her head.

Aventine Collegium: Pullo inspects and polishes his old military gear. Eirene finds him and they talk about Pullo’s desire, like an old fire horse, to dash after the clanging bells toward the smell of smoke. Pullo says the Aventine Collegium stinks of fish (guess the handouts have started). Eirene says it reminds her of home, which was on a lake with lots of fish. Pullo denies any martial ambitions even as he raises the possibility of going with the legions, being as how he’s ‘in with the chiefs now” he could aspire to first spear, maybe even legate. But Eirene turns the talk from martial to marital with a few sniffles, and a cry of “I’m pregnant!” She has to say it a few times for it to penetrate Pullo’s thick skull. [Actually, she says "I'm preglant", but we, and Pullo, eventually figure it out.] A variety of emotions play across Pullo’s face, most of them that sort of smug pride new fathers-to-be get with a sort of ‘look what I’ve done' overtone. I'm sure Mac Slocum was making that same face two months ago.

In Greece, Brutus contemplates his grandfather’s ring, which Cassius says he’s been ‘mooning over’ for the last hour. A scout enters and reports to Brutus and Cassius that the enemy has been sighted, and that Octavian and Antony have combined their armies, and are only a day away. Their opponents have XIX legions, while Brutus and Cassius have only XIV. (Guess Cicero’s “twenty Legions” was a bit optimistic.) Cassius’s first instinct is to retreat, but Brutus says better to have it out here. No more running. We will meet them here tomorrow. If we win, all the more glory for us. And if we are to die, this is as good a place as any. ‘Tis in the hands of the gods now. We have the upper ground”. Cassius concedes to Brutus.

The fields of Philippi, a narrow valley surrounded by mountains: From a distance we see two huge armies facing each other. Orderly ranks of men stand ready, calmly facing their enemies. Brutus and Cassius wait on their horses for the enemy’s approach. Brutus remembers to wish Cassius a “happy birthday”.

Over on the opposite side, Antony advises Octavian to take a last chance to urinate, if necessary. Octavian says it isn’t.

Both sides give the orders to advance. Hob-nailed sandals raise a cloud of dust and a sound of thunder. Men clash shield to shield. We see attempts to fight in an organized fashion, as the Romans did the barbarians in Gaul in the very first episode of season 1, but the battlefield collapses into man to man chaos. We see smoke rising from the battlefield, but I’m not sure what from, there’s been no evidence of ballistas here.

On a hill, Antony snacks on a piece of bread while watching the battle. Octavian asks if Antony can tell how the battle goes. “No idea” Antony replies, then leads from the front by joining a new charge himself with his retinue. Octavian does not come along, but releases Agrippa to charge himself with his men,

Back on the Republican side, Brutus’s right flank has crumbled and an officer seeks reinforcements. Cassius appears and orders in the reserve, but before they can return to the battle, a flight of arrows begins to arrive. “Testudo!” an officer shouts, which is a signal for the men to link shields overhead in a ‘turtle’ formation to shield themselves from the rain of arrows, which they do, though with some casualties because the shield isn’t perfect.

The battle wears on. Cassius is wounded, carried in on a litter and Brutus comforts him. (The writers are taking considerable liberties here – in the actual battle of Philippi, Brutus and Cassius fought their armies separately). Brutus tells his old friend they’ll have to retreat, but Cassius is already dead.

Brutus’s army has melted away, the center crumbling. An aide urges Brutus to flee, as Brutus looks out on the enemy now advancing on his elevated position in neat files. Brutus makes a short speech to his officers telling them to look out for themselves, now, “save your skins”. The aide is still trying to get Brutus away. “Give my best to my mother. Tell her… something suitable.”

Brutus kisses his grandfather’s ring, ignores the aide, and walks calmly toward the advancing troops, stripping off all insignia of rank and all his armor as he goes, retaining only his sword. As he meets the advancing files, they pause and consider each other for a moment, armored and shielded warriors vs. a lone unarmored man. Brutus wades into the foe waving his sword ineffectually. They play with him for a bit, pushing him about with their shields, but when Brutus gets in a lucky stoke under a shield and slices a soldier’s calf, they turn serious and quickly skewer him.

In the aftermath, Antony and Octavian ride across the battlefield. Agrippa reports that Cassius’s body has been found and they are still searching for Brutus. Antony says to have Cassius’s head packed in salt for return to Rome. A battlefield scavenger cuts the finger from Brutus’s body to remove his ring.

The credits roll over dirge-like, somber music.


Next Week: Quick confusing cuts showing Eirene confronting Gaia, Pullo and Gaia, Antony and Octavian quarreling, Servilia praying, more confrontations among the Jews, and the line “Old Alliances are Broken”

- Cecil


Previous Episode: 2-5F “Heroes of the Republic" - Full Review

Next Episode: 2-7F “Death Mask”

Next week, Feb 25-Mar 3, no new episode. Instead the first six episodes will be repeated throughout the week. Click the line below for the week's broadcast schedule.

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

Posted by Cecil on February 16, 2007 7:20 PM
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There's tons of info on the Battle of Philippi online ( They do take many liberties with actual history to smooth the story telling, but so much it's fun to watch and then go online to read about what actually was going on at the time.

Philippi was actually two battles three weeks apart. Brutus' army actually won the first battle against Octavian's army. There were almost 200,0000 men fighting and there was a lot of dust from battle field. Cassius' army got routed by Antony's army in the first battle. Cassius couldn't see that Brutus' army was winning because of all the dust and thought B had been defeated too and (stories vary) C killed himself. After B was defeated in the second battle he also killed himself. B walking into the troops and stripping his armor was actually a story of one of his generals, but it made for a great ending to B, I thought. There's also a story that A found B's body and gave it a proper Roman funeral.

-- Posted by: marcorabellini at February 20, 2007 1:01 PM

I'm still making that face ;) -- mac

-- Posted by: mac at February 21, 2007 2:27 PM


Thanks for the link to add to my Rome-history file. I may publish a few musings on Philippi next week, while the show is in repeats and there is no new episode to comment on.

I agree that historically realistic battles are probably too expensve to film within the budget and timeframe of a weekly show. Rome historian (and co-Producer) Jeremy Stamp said they used upwards of 500 extras on several 100+ degree days in an old stone quarry to re-create the battle.

It was interesting that the battle looked as if it were taking place in a dusty desert, whereas the real battle was on the edge of a swamp. Antony's army built a causeway across the swamp to enable a sneak attack from an unexpected direction. The Romans were big on military engineering.

And what were those smoke columns rising on the far side of the battlefield supposed to represent? Unless they had arbalasts/onagers along (which I don't think so) I don't imagine fire was much of an element in the battle.

-- Posted by: Cecil Rose at February 21, 2007 4:48 PM

help me out with Guyus Cicero who is a slave. It about Rome and i will need it by thursday. Thanks shanora Burton

-- Posted by: shanora at November 5, 2007 12:36 PM

I'm not familiar with any slave named Guyus Cicero. The Cicero we write about here is Marcus Tullius Cicero, a Roman Senator, orator, and defender of the Republic against what he saw as the corruption of Caesar and Antony, and the descent of the Republic into Empire and Dictatorship.

Perhaps you will have more luck with the search engines if you use a more normal Roman spelling of your subject's first name - try:

Gaius Cicero

Good luck with your term paper.

-- Posted by: Cecil Rose at November 5, 2007 2:17 PM

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