Past Features

Turning Off The TV #14: HBO’s Rome


Welcome to my regular Thursday feature, Turning off the TV! In this feature I recommend books similar to TV shows or films you may have enjoyed, both series and specific episodes.

The TV series this week is: HBO’s Rome.

HBO's Rome

A down-to-earth account of the lives of both illustrious and ordinary Romans set in the last days of the Roman Republic, from Julius Caesar’s civil war of 49 BC to the Battle of Actium in 31 BC.

Yet another series that I haven’t seen, but really need to – especially as it covers one of my favourite periods of history. I can think of so many different books to recommend for fans of this show, so I’ve tried to narrow it down a bit. I’ve included both fiction and non-fiction in today’s feature.

Looking for fiction?

The Aeneid by Virgil Imperium by Robert Harris Ovid the Augustan Scapegoat by Michael Soloman

The Aeneid by Virgil is the classic tale of the foundation of Rome, by Aeneas, a Trojan who escaped the Trojan War and traveled to Italy. I’ve chosen this one not so much because of what it covers, but when it was written – during the fall of the Roman Republic and therefore during the period that Rome is set. Robert Harris’ Imperium follows Cicero, the famous orator, lawyer and politician (and whose name means ‘chickpea’, a fact that will always amuse me), of the Roman Republic. The series is a fictional biography of his life, and features familiar historical figures from the show such as Julius Caesar and Pompey. Ovid: An Augustan Scapegoat by Michael Soloman is set a little after the end of the show: in 14 BC, after the death of Emperor Augustus (Octavian). It uses fact mixed with fiction to create a tale of the poet Ovid, exiled from the Roman Empire and never pardoned.

Or non-fiction?

Rubicon by Tom Holland The Roman Triumph by Mary Beard The Classical World: An Epic History of Greece and Rome by Robin Lane Fox

Tom Holland’s Rubicon is a very highly regarded account of the end of the Roman Republic, with lively portraits of historical figures such as Cicero, Cleopatra, Spartacus and Virgil. Mary Beard is quite possibly my favourite historian/classicist EVER, and I had the privilege of meeting her last year, so naturally I have to recommend one of her books! I’ve chosen The Roman Triumph because it’s more of a general look at Rome than some of her other work – although to be honest, I’d recommend any book by her. My final non-fiction book of choice would be The Classical World: An Epic History of Greece and Rome by Robin Lane-Fox (who also comes recommended by Mary Beard, if I remember correctly). This book is a pretty brilliant brief account of the ancient world and is wonderfully written. I could list so many more non-fiction books (basically half of my coursebooks for university) but I think that’s enough for now!

Are you a fan of HBO’s Rome? Do you have any recommendations to add? Are there any series or films you’d like to see recommendations for?


15 thoughts on “Turning Off The TV #14: HBO’s Rome”

  1. Luckily I’m not a big TV watcher but hey at least this way I can learn about what TV shows are out there that I might someday binge watch on streaming *wink*

    I think I’ve heard about ROME though. Bloody I’m sure. And since it’s HBO I’m sure plenty of sexy times.

    1. Yes! Binge watch ALL the shows! I’m not one for just sitting down in front of the TV and watching whatever is on, but if a show looks good I’ll give it a try and then try to decide whether to keep watching.

      Most of the shows I’m watching aired years ago, and I watch them online via Netflix or other similar services. I quite like doing it this way, because if I feel like binge watching something I can – but normally I’ll watch an episode whilst eating lunch or something!

      Yep, it’s full of sex and gore ๐Ÿ˜‰

    1. Oh Amber! Haha ๐Ÿ˜€ Is that the one with the subtitle that’s ‘Blood and Sandals’ or something? What channel is that on?

      1. Blood and SAND! Sandals. I can’t stop laughing. Season one is Blood and Sand, the prequel is Gods of the Arena, season two is Vengeance, and season three is War of the Damned. It was on Starz, but unfortunately it’s finished now. Because the universe hates me.




        Um. Yeah. Blood and Sand(als).

    1. Eek, another show that was cancelled! I can imagine it was an expensive one to produce, accurate looking costumes for historical shows are SO important – and of course that means spending more money on them.

      Were there three series?

    1. Nathan has been defeated! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

      There are soooo many non-fiction books I can add (and I’m sure you’ll be familiar with many of them) but I didn’t want to go overboard ๐Ÿ˜›

  2. Oh, man, Rome; to this day it’s such a shame they cancelled it, the production and the cast and everything was just top-notch *le sigh* I have yet to read Robert Harris’ Imperium, I’ve heard so many good things about it ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. I have to say, it certainly looks like a lot of effort went into costumes, sets etc. It’s a shame ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Did it have a satisfying conclusion though?

      1. Satisfying enough, though they really rushed through the war between Mark Antony and Octavian; they included the highlights of their contention but the development was not as gradual or fleshed out as series 1 was =S Still good though ๐Ÿ™‚

        Agreed, I think this was the best I’ve seen in the visual media portraying Ancient Rome.

      2. I guess that was to be expected, if they knew that was it… but I suppose it could’ve been much worse ๐Ÿ˜›

        There was a comedy series on E4 here last year about Ancient Rome… it was called Plebs. I’ve been told I should check it out ๐Ÿ˜›

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