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  • The Women of Rome

    The women of ancient Rome are the real power behind the throne. Against their wiles and charms and powers of seduction, no dictator or would-be conqueror can stand against them. They work behind the scenes, and carry out their schemes...


    If anyone enjoys historical movies or series with a modern yet fairly authentic 'edge', joint BBC-HBO series Rome is worth watching. The story moves from the fall of the Roman Republic and the rise of Julius Caesar, and to his death and the founding of the Roman Empire. 

    It stars a number of well-known and lesser-known, mainly British actors, some of whom have been seen in mainstream movies.

    In the first season, the locus of the story revolves around Caesar's ascension to power. He is played by Ciaran Hinds (Veronica Guerin, The Sum of All Fears) and supported by a cast that includes Polly Walker (Patriot Games) as his sister Atia and James Purefoy (Vanity Fair, Resident Evil) as Mark Antony.

    One of the most unique things about the series is how it portrays women as a kind of shadow government: influencing men and the politics of Rome behind the scenes in the home, and especially in the bedchamber. The powerful (and sometimes not-so-powerful) female characters strive to get what they want through their friendships and more particularly, familial and sexual relationships with the men around them. 

    Not everything is based on sex, but the women of Rome do use sex to get their way. And they enjoy having sex in order to do so (or not). Lots of it. 

    I'm not sure how much of the series is based on actual history, and how much is based on various degrees of conjecture and artistic license. But from the sexual and marital relationships depicted, it seemed that women did hold a certain amount of 'soft' power in Roman politics, and one wonders how much they could have actually influenced the course of history.

    I've also learnt that in those times, it was best not to piss certain women off, because they'd do things like set curses on a rival's entire clan and bloodline, get mercenaries or thugs to assassinate their enemies or beat them up, or take a man's most trusted subordinate as a lover partly to hedge her bets: in case he succeeds you as Tyrant/Consul, or he betrays you and usurps power, or gains political advantage (and raises her up) after you fall out of favour with the people - oh and by the way, she's your sister! 

    Those were definitely interesting things for women, and also dangerous times to be a woman, a woman of Rome.