HBO Should Reboot ROME and Revisit the Fall of a Great Republic

Friends, Romans, fellow nerds, lend me your ears! More than a decade has passed since HBO and the BBC’s Rome reincarnated the story of the fall of the Roman Republic for the small screen, and by now the show has likely fallen out of most people’s memories. But the two-season series, which focused on the events leading up to and occurring after the death of Gaius Julius Caesar, told a timeless story that should always be fresh in our minds. A story of a world superpower transforming itself, due to titanic social, political, and economic forces, from a state run by representatives into one ruled by an emperor. Now, 10 years later, the narrative is still as relevant as ever, and it is time for the show to rise once again!

Julius Caesar played by Ciarán Hinds. Image: HBO First of all, this call for a revival of Rome does not stem from the need to remake a poor attempt at telling an important story. The original series (which may have helped to lay the groundwork for Game of Thrones?) was brilliantly executed, with the utmost attention to detail. Indeed, the television series was one of the most expensive ever, with $9 million allotted for each episode—roughly on par with Game of Thrones’ sixth season. Among the executive producing team were John Milius, who co-wrote Apocalypse Now, and Bruno Heller, who developed Gotham. Not to mention the stacked cast, which included, among many others, Ciarán Hinds (Mance Rayder on Game of Thrones) and Kevin McKidd from Trainspotting

Titus Pullo, left, and Lucius Vorenus (McKidd). Image: HBO

Despite all this, the show only lasted two seasons, totaling 22 episodes. The massive budget that allowed the show to have such a grand and Ancient Roman feel also eventually crushed its chances of lasting for long (in a somewhat ironic mirroring of its subject matter), and it was canceled well before it had a chance to cover a lot more history. On the topic of the show’s longevity, Heller is quoted as saying, “I discovered halfway through writing the second season the show was going to end… [and] because we got the heads-up… I telescoped the third and fourth season into the second one, which accounts for the blazing speed we go through history near the end. [But] there’s certainly more than enough history to go around.”

The Battle of Actium, one of many epic naval battles that could be featured in a Rome reboot. Image: Wikimedia / Lorenzo A. Casto

Considering the scale, creative power, and untapped history of the show, this seems like a clear case of a great series ending before its time. And now would be the perfect moment to bring it back, not only because the story’s relevant—the struggle for power amongst the people, government officials, and individuals bent on becoming tyrants is, of course, always relevant—but also because HBO is going to have a big hole to fill in their lineup once Game of Thrones ends after only two more shortened seasons.

Although Westworld could be considered a kind of successor to Game of Thrones because of its equally impressive production values, it still seems like it won’t satiate people’s desires to “live” in a world without advanced technology. Westworld may quench viewers’ thirst for science fiction, artificial intelligence, and blazing robotic shootouts — so many shootouts! — but people still need to watch stories that are set in a world ruled by the sword, built with stones, and full of horse clip-clopping. (And Netflix’s Roman Empire: Reign of Blood doesn’t count as it is a docuseries and only six episodes.)

Still from the docuseries Roman Empire: Reign of Blood. Image: Netflix

Rome also confined itself (understandably) to the then-present. It covered the disintegration of the First Triumvirate (Julius Caesar, Pompey Magnus, and Marcus Licinius Crassus), but did so in strictly chronological order. This didn’t weaken the show, but if the series were rebooted and allowed to last for a full six or seven seasons, there are enormous opportunities for new stories from many of these characters’ pasts. A book like Rubicon: The Last Years of the Roman Republic by (that other) Tom Holland includes myriad battles, wars, love affairs, and revealing stories from Rome’s main characters’ earlier years that could be woven into the new show to help viewers better understand who these real-life titans were. Other iconic figures, not directly related to the rise and fall of Caesar, could also be explored, including Sulla, the first Roman General to march his troops on Rome herself.

The Death of Caesar. Image: Wikimedia / Karl von Piloty

Perhaps one of the biggest reasons to reboot Rome now would be for the sheer spectacle of the new show. While the original series was grand and historically accurate in its production, large battles were usually not shown, and action sequences usually seemed noticeably choreographed. But 10 years later, with new technology and, yes, another big budget, the show could deliver multiple Battle of the Bastards-scale fights, but based on real-life events. Also: gladiator battles. (‘Nuff said?)

There’s been some word that there is a Rome film script in the works, but Heller has said that he’s “not holding [his] breath.” A film couldn’t do the story of the Crisis of the Roman Republic justice anyway. The story is too big, and it’s too important, especially now. Rome needs a full reboot. It needs the full Game of Thrones treatment. It needs at least six seasons, and it needs to be even better than the original. There needs to be a Rome reboot and it needs to be really good because, as Milan Kundera, author of The Unbearable Lightness of Being says, “The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.” And we are always in danger of forgetting what the fall of the Roman Republic taught us about how quickly what’s been built can be destroyed.

What do you think about the idea of rebooting Rome? Invade the comments section below with your thoughts!

 Feature Image: HBO 

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