How Titus Pullo Brought Down the Republic

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"How Titus Pullo Brought Down the Republic"
Rome episode
Episode no. Season 1
Episode 2
Directed by Michael Apted
Written by Bruno Heller
Original air date September 4, 2005 (HBO)
November 2 & 9, 2005 (BBC)
Setting Rome, Gaul, and Italia
Time frame 50 BC – January 49 BC
Episode chronology
← Previous
"The Stolen Eagle"
Next →
"An Owl in a Thornbush"
List of Rome episodes

"How Titus Pullo Brought Down the Republic" is the second episode of the first season of the television series Rome. This episode aired in the United States on HBO on September 4, 2005 and in the United Kingdom on 2 & 9 November 2005 on BBC.

With growing political tensions at home, Caesar needs a voice within the Senate, and Mark Antony is not above accepting the gift of a bought office. Escorting the new "Tribune of the People" to Rome, Vorenus and Pullo return to their homes for the first time in years: Vorenus to his family, and Pullo to his vices. Atia rewards those who return her lost son to her. In the back rooms of Rome powerful men strike bargains to strip Caesar of his growing power, and in growing political tensions of Rome the actions of the basest of men will shake the foundations of the city.


This second episode is based on events that took place in 50 BC and 49 BC. Caesar's proconsulship in Gaul is about to expire, which would mean a loss of the office's immunity against prosecution by his political enemies. He had faced the same situation five years prior, but at that time his command had been extended with the help of his allies Pompey and Marcus Crassus. This time Caesar cannot count on his former allies, as Pompey has openly turned against him, and Crassus was killed in 53 BC at the battle of Carrhae. Caesar instead has to rely on Mark Antony for his political maneuvering: newly elected to the office of Tribune of the People (tribunus plebis), Mark Antony has veto power in the Roman Senate.

Meanwhile, Lucius Vorenus, now a first file centurion (centurio primi pili), and Titus Pullo return to Rome. After dropping off Gaius Octavian and having lunch with Atia of the Julii, Vorenus returns to his wife, whom he hasn't seen in eight years since he left for Gaul, only to find her holding a fairly new baby in her arms. When Vorenus asks her whose child it is, she tells him it is his grandson by his eldest daughter who has just newly turned 14. Meanwhile, Pullo returns to soliciting prostitutes and gambling. He's already lost most of his money in a gambling den full of Pompey's supporters when he discovers that he is being cheated by one of his opponents. He stabs the man through the throat, but is injured in the fight that breaks out. Pullo manages to drag himself to Vorenus's home, where he receives trepanation (courtesy of Vorenus) from a Greek doctor.

Caesar's political enemies, led by Pompey, plan to pass a motion in the Senate that would set an ultimatum for Caesar to surrender his command, or be declared a public enemy. Pompey enlists the help of Cato the Younger, Metellus Scipio (Pompey's new father-in-law), and of the reluctant Cicero. Pompey wants the motion to pass by a large majority, so that Caesar will see that he is isolated and has no political supporters. However, Pompey also wants the motion to be immediately vetoed by Caesar's ally Mark Antony so that the blame for any subsequent escalation would rest with Caesar. The motion is passed but a brawl erupts on the Senate floor and Mark Antony's veto is not recorded, nor is the session formally adjourned. Pompey is taken by surprise, and arranges for the Senate session to be continued the next day so that the tribune's veto can be recorded. He also gives orders to his minions that Mark Antony must not be harmed in any way.

Unaware of Pompey's orders and feeling threatened because of his association with Caesar, Mark Antony calls on the soldiers from Caesar's 13th Legion (Legio XIII), including Vorenus and Pullo, for protection. With Vorenus and Pullo walking beside him, Mark Antony makes his way to the Forum in order to properly record his veto in the Senate. Just as they are marching through a throng of Pompey's supporters, a friend of the man Pullo killed in the gambling den fight lunges from the crowd with a knife and attacks Pullo. Though the assailant is swiftly cut down, both sides believe that Mark Antony was the intended victim and a bloody fight erupts between the two mobs, just as Pompey emerges from the Senate House. Vorenus and Pullo escape with Antony, though the former is wounded and barely survives the return to Caesar's 13th Legion in Cisalpine Gaul (northern Italy).

Having been declared an enemy of Rome by the Senate, Caesar marches his army south toward Rome, marking the beginning of the civil war. Caesar crosses the Rubicon River with the remainder of his army in January, 49 BC. As the news is cried throughout the city, Niobe breast feeds the baby, indicating that it is really hers.

Historical and cultural background

  • Caesar's proconsulship in Gaul was about to expire, which would mean a loss of immunity against prosecution by his political enemies. He had faced the same situation five years prior, but at that time his command had been extended with the help of his allies Pompey Magnus and Marcus Crassus. This time, however, Pompey was against him, and Crassus had been killed in 53 BC. Caesar instead has to rely on Mark Antony for his political maneuvering: newly elected to the office of Tribune of the Plebs (tribunus plebis).
  • As part of his investiture as tribunus plebis, Antony sits a (very impatient) vigil in the temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus. Given that this was the God of Laws, Social Order, and Rome itself, it seems an appropriate god to appeal for favor to when one is becoming a high government official.
  • During the fight in the Senate, Mark Antony appears to have been unharmed. This was because, as Tribune, any attempt to harm Antony would have been considered a capital offense. Thus, when Antony and the Thirteenth are driven from Rome and Caesar recounts the events to his army, he says of the attack on Antony, "Can you imagine a more terrible sacrilege?!"
  • As Antony is about to wash his face before going out in public, Caesar stops him, telling him he looks like "Leonidas at Thermopylae". He is referring to the Spartan king Leonidas I, who fought the Persian Empire in the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC
  • This was the year that Caesar finally moved openly against Rome, crossing the Rubicon in January of 49 BC, at the head of the 13th Legion (Legio XIII Gemina). It is here he is said to have made the comment "alea iacta est" ("The die is cast"). There are some variations on what he actually said. Suetonius wrote that the comment was "Iacta alea est"[1] and Plutarch wrote[2] that he said in Greek, "anerriphtho kubos" ("The die must be cast" – Latin trans. "iacta alea esto"), a quote from a play by Menander.[3] Appian, too, gives "Ho kubos anerriphtho".[4] This alleged quotation is left out of the series, although the game of dice does play a significant role in the episode.
  • After a rather bloody bit of surgery on Titus Pullo, the doctor recommends a sacrifice to Spes, Goddess of Hope.
  • The surgery performed on Pullo (trepanation) was based on surviving descriptions of actual surgical techniques in implementation during that period, including the circular bone saw and the metal plate used to replace the section of Pullo's shattered skull.
  • Lucius Vorenus tells Niobe that his "official spoils" should clear "10,000 Denarii". It is extremely difficult to estimate the exact value of the Denarius, as it changed with the times (as do most currencies), and was part of an economy totally alien to us; however, the "classical rule of thumb" is that a Denarius was the daily wage of a skilled worker[citation needed]. This would mean that about 350 Denarii would be a "middle class" working wage. Lucius Vorenus has brought home approximately 25 years' wages of someone living at their standard of living.
  • Regarding the monetary units frequently mentioned in the series, one Denarius (a silver coin) was equal to four sesterces (a bronze coin). The gold piece mentioned occasionally was worth 25 Denarii.


Notes and references

  1. ^ Suetonius, Life of Caesar
  2. ^ Plutarch, The Parallel Lives
  3. ^ Liddell & Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, s.v. kubos:
  4. ^ Appian, Civil Wars, 2,5,35

External links

  • "How Titus Pullo Brought Down the Republic" on IMDb
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