“They plunder, they slaughter, and they steal: this they falsely name Empire, and where they make a wasteland, they call it peace.”
I am a lifelong devotee of history; any history will mostly do – mostly. The one closest to my heart is the study of Rome. All that we were and all that we are is largely the result of Rome. The buildings and offices of State and institutions they represent are all modern echoes of this first, and greatest of superpowers.
So, when I watch a movie or television series on Rome, well, I always look with a critical eye; I cannot help it, the history geek bursts out of my head and screams at anything that is out of place.
Armour, clothing, weapons, everything comes under the critical hammer: this has resulted in only two representations that I have been more than happy with.
The Fall of the Roman Empire was a so so movie from 1964 upon which Ridley Scott`s Gladiator borrows from (neither being historically accurate); what marks this movie out is the atmospheric scenes in the Germanic forests and the funeral of the emperor Marcus Aurelius in a raging snow blizzard. The armour was well up to snuff for the period depicted, unlike just about every other movie before, or after.
HBO Rome was a wet dream for me; it was gobsmackingly so damn right in the way it looked, that I still quiver with emotion every time I watch it.
The opening battle scene from Gladiator is fairly accurate in the depiction of the legions, their weaponry and artillery, but, of dear me, the Praetorian Guard was more a fashion designer`s nightmare come true than in any way representative of this elite imperial bodyguard.
Still, it is only entertainment, and I suppose such glaring visual horrors to one person is the spark that ignites an interest in history to another.
It seems as if millions of books and television documentaries have been written and made on the humongous impact of Rome on the western world, but that is as it should be. It really cannot be overstated how much is borrowed from an astonishing civilisation that boasted the first multi-ethnic mega city in history; advancement in Rome was as much a meritocracy as by birth. Peoples of the whole known world not only lived, worked and died in the great city itself, but spread out to the farthest corners of this vast empire.
It was not just an empire forged by the brute force of military power, but by the multitude of people from the furthest borders that had been inculcated by Roman ideas and culture.
Walk through any town or city today, look around, and you will see Rome; it may be a bit shrunken and ramshackled in parts, but in the great western cities you will see the Roman Imperium in all of it`s majesty.
Once the ram had touched the wall, Rome had come calling.
“Look on my works ye mighty, and despair.”