The Spoils (Rome)

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"The Spoils"
Rome episode
Episode no. Season 1
Episode 11
Directed by Mikael Salomon
Written by Bruno Heller
Original air date November 13, 2005 (HBO)
January 4, 2006 (BBC)
Setting Rome
Time frame Late 45 BC, early 44 BC
Episode chronology
← Previous
"Triumph"
Next →
"Kalends of February"
List of Rome episodes

"The Spoils" is the eleventh episode of the first season of the television series Rome.

Plot summary

Bereft of options, Pullo has taken up "mortality work" for Erastes Fulmen, descending into the underworld as a knife-wielding hit man, spending his pay on prostitutes and a growing appetite for opium.

Across town, his erstwhile partner assumes his official duties as a magistrate, receiving local citizens to hear out their complaints and requests. One such request comes from Mascius, an old comrade from the battlefields, who speaks on behalf of fellow veterans. Less fortunate than Vorenus, they cannot live solely on the money Caesar has given them, and they want land in Italy. Already weary from taking on the burdens of the poor, Vorenus is dismissive, but he takes their demand to Caesar. "Is it possible they turn on me?" Caesar asks his new representative. "They'd never fight against you," Vorenus assures him. "But if they're not satisfied, those that have no other skills to employ will turn to banditry and raiding."

Caesar decides to offer them rugged land in Pannonia, and if Mascius refuses it, Vorenus is to make him a personal offer - in the hopes that he will sway his fellow veterans to accept the bargain.

Brutus is disturbed to find graffiti depicting him with a knife at Caesar's back. As he orders a servant to erase the image, Cassius arrives to tell him not to bother - the drawings are everywhere. Plebeians painted the graffiti in the hopes that Brutus would rescue them from the tyrant, Cassius tells him, ushering in liberty as his ancestors did before him. "They would not pluck a hair for liberty," Brutus sneers contemptuously. "Plebs love to see their betters fight. It's cheaper than theater and the blood is real."

When Cassius calls him a coward, Brutus bristles with anger. He is not blind to what Caesar has become, he insists, but he has pledged his friendship to the man. "He trusts me. I cannot betray that trust." "For friendship, you would let the Republic die." Cassius says with disgust. "I am just a man!" Brutus pleads. "The life or death of the Republic is not in my hands!" "The Republic is in your hands," Cassius snaps back. "The people will not accept a tyrant's death unless a Brutus holds the knife."

Erupting in fury at the position he's been put in, Brutus slaps the man and stalks off.

When Pullo murders a man in broad daylight, the brutality is witnessed by an old weaver, who chases him through the streets. Screams of "murderer!" echo through the alleyways, sending Pullo into a hallucinogenic collapse, and ultimately to jail.

As predicted, Mascius refuses Caesar's land offer for the veterans, and Vorenus makes him a personal offer. When he steadfastly refuses ("I have been true to my brothers since I first spilt blood...my honor is not for sale so cheap"), Vorenus actually makes a threatening innuendo of death to the man if he were to decline the offer. Mascius negotiates a higher price for himself and accepts the deal, as the two men turn away from each other.

At a symposium hosted by Atia, she pulls Caesar aside to warn him about Brutus; she believes that Servilia will not rest until Caesar is dead. Her imperious uncle scoffs at her warnings. "I well imagine poor Servilia is not very fond of me, but really, wants me dead? You are a dramatist Atia."

Vorenus and a terrified Niobe arrive at Atia's symposium as Caesar's special guests, and awkwardly attempt to mingle with the haughty guests. Niobe has made herself an elaborate dress for the occasion, which earns Atia's disingenuous compliments.

When Octavian learns that Pullo is awaiting trial for murder, he makes a plea to Caesar to intervene. "We must do nothing" Caesar insists firmly. The man Pullo killed has been a vocal critic of his leadership, and intervening on his behalf would look suspicious. Octavian secretly enlists Timon to find Pullo an advocatus, but there are no takers among the idle lawyers in town. Only when Timon holds up a hefty purse does one come forward, a skittish, underfed young man. Pullo appears resigned to his fate, however, and refuses to help the man find sympathy for his plight.

At a trial held before a jeering crowd in the forum, the prosecutor makes a simple case against Pullo: a good man was hacked to death by a wretched specimen, a horror that's becoming too commonplace. "I'll not take your time with lengthy proof of his guilt. Look at him. It's not open to question. We all know he's guilty."

As Vorenus makes his way into the crowd, he comes upon Mascius, who is hiding a sword. He spots several other soldiers in the crowd disguised as civilians, all ready to pounce should their fellow legionary be sentenced to death. Terrified of the political consequences, Vorenus insists Mascius call off their planned attack "for the good of the Republic." Caesar cannot reinstate law and order if soldiers are allowed to kill citizens without consequence.

Pullo's nervous lawyer offers a weak case for his defense, and when he cannot deny his client's guilt, Pullo is condemned to death.

When Caesar tells Brutus he wants him to govern Macedonia, he sees it as his ousting, a way to remove him from Rome. Caesar finally admits he's uncertain whether he can trust his "son," given his past betrayal, but Brutus insists he betrayed nothing. "Had you told me you were to march on Rome, and asked for my allegiance, I would have given it. I would have judged you insane. But I would have given you my allegiance. Because I look on you as my father...But you did not ask for my allegiance. You demanded it at sword point."

Caesar takes back his accusation. But Brutus still insists he will not go to Macedonia. When Caesar invokes his legal authority, Brutus is near tears. "As my father I looked on you," he says. "Be reasonable," Caesar replies. "You are on every wall with a knife at my throat. It would be foolish to ignore it." "Only tyrants need fear tyrant killers," Brutus says through clenched jaw. "And you are no tyrant. Haven't you told me so many times?"

The morning before he is to be led to his death, Pullo makes an offering to the gods, a cockroach he's grabbed from his dungeon cell. He pleads that Eirene will know that he's sorry for what he did, and asks them to give her a long and happy life. "And same for my friend Lucius Vorenus and his family, if that's not too much."

At the arena, before a capacity crowd containing both Vorenus and Timon, Pullo is led into a small ring and handed a large sword, but he drops the sword on the ground and sits in the center of the ring, refusing to fight. Three gladiators come out and tell him to fight, but Pullo stubbornly refuses. The men won't have it, and taunt him with insults. But when they insult the XIII Legion, Pullo grows increasingly angry until finally he lashes out, killing all three of his opponents. He yells "Thirteen!", but the crowd boos him. More gladiators come out, and despite the crowd's taunting, Pullo cuts down one gladiator after another while Timon cheers and Vorenus simply watches. Eventually Pullo tires, having been wounded so many times he can barely stand, at which point a large carnifex enters and knocks the sword out of Pullo's tired hand with a skull-topped mace. Just as the carnifex is about to deal the death blow, Vorenus charges into the ring, picks up a weapon, yells "Thirteen!" and takes on the gladiator, eventually slicing his leg off and collapsing him to the ground, before killing him with his own weapon. As the crowd recovers from shock, a roar of approval rises up, and Vorenus helps his old comrade out of the ring.

Across town, Posca walks stealthily through the back alleys, a fat purse of coins in hand. He enters a dark tavern and drops the leather satchel on a table. "If we employ you again, best not use veterans," he tells the man seated by the purse - Erastes. He nods in agreement.

Servilia is sitting in her villa weaving when Brutus enters. He tells his mother that he owes Caesar no more friendship and agrees to help her destroy him.

Historical and cultural background

  • While not specifically named, it would appear from the timing and the settlement of the men in Narbo that at least some of the soldiers being settled were those of the Legio X Equestris. Legio XIII Gemina (the often named 13th Legion) was also disbanded and settled at this time, although on better lands, within Italy.
  • Caesar was appointed Dictator for life.
  • Caesar offers the veterans land in Pannonia which did not become Roman territory until 9BC.

External links

  • "The Spoils" on IMDb
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