Stealing from Saturn

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"Stealing from Saturn"
Rome episode
Episode no. Season 1
Episode 4
Directed by Julian Farino
Written by Bruno Heller
Original air date September 18, 2005 (HBO)
November 16, 2005 (BBC)
Setting Rome and Italia
Time frame Between January 10 – February 30, 49 BC
Episode chronology
← Previous
"An Owl in a Thornbush"
Next →
"The Ram has Touched the Wall"
List of Rome episodes

"Stealing from Saturn" is the fourth episode of the first season of the television series Rome.


In their camp in Southern Italia, Pompey and the Senate's "generals"—Marcus Junius Brutus, Marcus Tullius Cicero, Cato the Younger and Quintus Caecilius Metellus Pius Scipio Nasica—are discussing the current situation. Caesar has marched on Rome and taken control of the city without meeting any form of resistance. Pompey has withdrawn to the south to muster his veterans, while expecting Caesar's force to desert him once the treasury is found empty and Caesar is left without money to pay his soldiers. But to their confusion, the team they dispatched to retrieve the treasury gold has not returned. Pompey's malevolent son, Quintus, enters after torturing a prisoner (the only survivor of the group sent to recover the gold) and delivers grim news to his father: the team turned on their leader, Pompey's man Durio, and attempted to take the gold for themselves, but were intercepted by Caesar's scouts (led by Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo) on their way out of the city. Quintus is convinced Caesar's men have kept the gold for themselves and Pompey sends him to Rome to find out for sure.

In Rome, Atia has already been receiving petitioners eager to court Caesar's favor, but is worried about Servilia's influence with Caesar. Atia plans a lavish dinner party with Caesar as the guest of honor.

Caesar petitions the Priests of Jupiter for a formal blessing on his endeavors, to legitimize his seizure of the city.

Antony offers Vorenus a post as a prefect on his staff, with a substantial signing bonus. Vorenus, believing that Caesar's actions are illegal, rejects the offer. He plans to start a business trading slaves and other imports from Gaul. He and Niobe host the traditional feast as a tribute to Janus, and their guests include local Aventine businessman Erastes Fulmen, Niobe's sister Lyde, and her brother-in-law Evander Pulchio. But things do not go well: Lyde, getting drunk, begins loudly berating her husband (knowing too well that Evander and Niobe had an affair while Vorenus was gone). In Niobe's rush to silence her before she lets something slip to Vorenus, the bust of Janus is overturned: an ill omen.

While cleaning up the remains of the party, Vorenus and Niobe are accosted by Quintus Pompey and a band of mercenaries, who demand to know where the gold is. Vorenus says he knows nothing of any gold, and Quintus's men are about to kill Niobe, when Pullo arrives with Eirene, both of them dressed like royalty and scattering coins to a crowd of worshippers. Pullo has come to call on his old commander, but, seeing the thugs, attacks them and he and Vorenus manage to overpower them and tie up the younger Pompey.

Pullo proposes that they flee the country together with the gold, but Vorenus orders him to return it to Caesar: if he does so, and takes along the captured Pompey, Caesar might show mercy. Pullo is aghast at the idea of giving up his new wealth, but Vorenus reminds him that he has already broadcast his theft across the whole city. Pullo reluctantly obeys.

At the dinner party, Caesar is called outside to meet Pullo. He decides to show mercy to Pullo, and then surprises Antony by ordering Quintus released and sent back to Pompey's camp, bearing Caesar's terms of truce. Antony obeys, then leads Pullo and a party to retrieve the gold.

Noticing Octavian watching, Caesar shares some confidences with his grand-nephew. Like Antony, Octavian is initially confused by Caesar's release of Quintus, but unlike Antony, he quickly works out the real reason: Caesar's terms of surrender will be too humiliating for Pompey to accept, but his show of clemency will encourage the rest of the Senators to abandon Pompey and seek Caesar's mercy. Chuckling, Caesar begins to congratulate Octavian on his acumen—then is struck dumb by an attack of epilepsy. Posca quickly hustles his master into an empty closet to wait out the fit, while rejecting Octavian's offer to call for a doctor—at all costs, Caesar must keep his affliction secret. Once he has recovered, Caesar makes Octavian vow never to speak of his condition. However, one of Atia's servants hears the yelling and groaning from the cupboard and, on seeing Octavian and Caesar emerge, leaves to inform Atia.

Returning to the party, Caesar orders Calpurnia escorted home, then goes alone to spend the night with Servilia. Servilia, who had been worried by his reserved attitude towards her at the party, is delighted.

With money to pay his soldiers, and distribute enormous bribes among the city officials, Caesar receives the formal blessing of the priesthood in the Temple of Jupiter.

Historical and cultural background

  • Lucius Vorenus holds a feast dedicated to Janus, who was the Roman god of gates, doors, doorways, beginnings, and endings. Since Vorenus is ending one career, and beginning a new one, Janus is an appropriate God to placate.
  • The line of poetry quoted by Octavia is Book VI, line 126 of the Aeneid, composed some 20 years after the events of the drama.
  • While negotiating her fee with Vorenus, the caterer recounts "the last time" Roman soldiers entered the city. She is referring to the bloody events during Lucius Cornelius Sulla's Dictatorship of Rome. During his year as absolute ruler, Sulla liquidated thousands of Romans, either because they were his political enemies, or simply because they had wealth or property that he or his allies coveted. These events would have occurred within living memory of many senators, which might explain their determination to not let another man have such power again. Posca's idea about needing to kill a few rich men as a means of raising funds has been used before in Rome (and will be used again many times subsequently).
  • During Antony's conversation with Vorenus, a servant is cleaning Antony with a strigil, a standard Roman method of personal hygiene.
  • The relative value of Roman coins is discussed in How Titus Pullo Brought Down the Republic. However, roughly speaking, 4,000 sestertii is equal to 1,000 denarii, which is equal to approximately $100,000.
    • Caesar and Posca discuss the various bribes Caesar will give out to the various government officials. For one such bribe of "50,000", it is not clear whether this amount is in sestertii or denarii. But in either case, they are discussing an amount equivalent in modern terms to anywhere between $1.25 million and $5 million (this may sound like a lot, but Caesar allegedly bribed the consul in 50 BC, Lucius Paullus with 36,000,000 sestertii ($900 million) and tribune Gaius Scribonius Curio with 10,000,000 sestertii (250 million).
    • Mark Antony offers Vorenus 10,000 sestertii (2,500 denarii) as a signing bonus to re-enlist in the Legio XIII Gemina—a sum roughly equal to $250,000.
    • Caesar rewards Pullo with the "100 gold pieces" for finding the gold. Since there are 100 sestertii to the aureus (gold piece), this is equal to 10,000 sestertii (again, about $250,000).
  • The golden-looking statue of Jupiter seen in the temple as Caesar comes to ask the priests for auguries looks like a reproduction of the chryselephantine statue of Zeus by Phidias, that used to sit in the temple at Olympia.
  • The mercenaries hired by Quintus Pompey appear to be Thracians, identified as such by their distinctive pointed Phyrigian caps and curved knives.
  • We see Caesar having an epileptic seizure. Several historical sources contain evidence that he suffered from that condition (referred to as the morbus comitialis). It is also true that in ancient Rome, epilepsy was regarded as a sign of the divine disfavor of Apollo.
  • After Octavian witnesses Caesar's epileptic fit, Caesar makes him "swear to Orcus" to keep it a secret. Orcus was a god of the underworld in Graeco-Roman mythology who punished breakers of promises.


Character Actor
Lucius Vorenus Kevin McKidd
Titus Pullo Ray Stevenson
Julius Caesar Ciarán Hinds
Pompey Magnus Kenneth Cranham
Atia of the Julii Polly Walker
Mark Antony James Purefoy
Marcus Junius Brutus Tobias Menzies
Servilia of the Junii Lindsay Duncan
Niobe Indira Varma
Gaius Octavian Max Pirkis
Posca Nicholas Woodeson
Octavia of the Julii Kerry Condon
Quintus Pompey Rick Warden
Cato Karl Johnson
Scipio Paul Jesson
Marcus Tullius Cicero David Bamber
Eleni Suzanne Bertish
Eirene Chiara Mastalli
Vorena the Elder Coral Amiga
Evander Pulchio Enzo Cilenti
Lyde Esther Hall
Erastes Fulmen Lorcan Cranitch
Calpurnia Haydn Gwynne
Newsreader Ian McNeice


External links

  • "Stealing from Saturn" on IMDb
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