Long before the machinations of the Targaryens and Lannisters, Rome was the crown jewel of HBO costume dramas. Bringing a tumultuous period in history to vivid life, the drama brought a lavish interpretation of history into viewers’ homes. As fans watched the rise and fall of Caesar and the chaos that came after, they were also treated to characters that made deeply human decisions. While we want to assume that man’s better nature will win out, that is usually not the case. On Rome (which you can stream anytime on HBO Now), power is paramount, and the pursuit of power often has no limits. That leads to pain on many counts, as the sting of betrayal often comes with grave consequences. As you relive the backstabbing both literal and emotional, know that it was all done for the glory of Rome.
9. Niobe Cheating On Vorenus
In Niobe’s (Indira Varma) defense, she did think that her husband, Lucius Vorenus (Kevin McKidd), was dead, but she still handled things in the worst way possible. Seeking solace in the arms of her sister’s husband, Niobe bore a child, which was a shock to her returning husband. However, she decides to pass the boy off as her grandchild instead, placing the blame on her eldest daughter. While the lie may have served her well in the short term, the guilt and fear that came along with it was eventually too much for her to bear.
8. Caesar Leaving Servillia
After Caesar (Ciarán Hinds) returns triumphant to Rome, he spends more time in the arms of his lover Servillia (Lindsay Duncan) than he does routing out the final supporters of his rival, Pompey Magnus (Kenneth Cranham). In a rage over his lack of action, Caesar’s cousin, Atia (Polly Walker), enlists one of her slaves to paint scandalous graffiti around the city involving the married tyrant and his lover. After his wife threatens to divorce him in the aftermath, taking all of her money and family influence with her, Caesar tosses Servillia aside, deciding that power was more important than love.
7. The Murder Of Eirene
Titus Pullo (Ray Stevenson) was always a bit of a brute, but his love for his former slave, eventual wife Eirene (Chiara Mastalli) always brought out his gentler side. However, when Eirene was pregnant with their child, Pullo made the grave error of cheating on her with his fellow gang member, Gaia (Zuleikha Robinson), leading to terrible repercussions. In a fit of jealousy, Gaia poisoned Eirene, causing her to die in childbirth and the child to be stillborn. While he can’t undo the outcome of his own misdeed and the betrayal by Gaia, Pullo does get violent revenge on the woman who murdered his family.
6. Brutus Siding With Pompey Over Caesar
When the former allies, Caesar and Pompey, are split over how to run Rome, many are forced to choose sides between the two very different leaders. Brutus (Tobias Menzes) is left with a difficult choice: follow his longtime friend and the lover of his mother, Caesar, or side with the leader he agrees with. Believing Caesar to be heading down the road to being a despot, Brutus betrays his friend for the first time. While he will eventually return to the fold, this was only the beginning of Brutus’ betrayal.
5. Octavia Seducing Octavian For Information
Octavia (Kerry Condon), daughter of Atia and sister of Octavian (Max Pirkis, and then Simon Woods), is often overshadowed by her power-hungry mother and anointed brother. Instead of being allowed to live her life, she is often used as a political tool for her family’s gain. When Servillia, recently spurned by Caesar, went to Octavia as a lover, the young woman was pleased to just be wanted. However, all was not as it seemed, as Servillia merely wanted to use her as well, convincing Octavia to seduce her own brother in order to get information about Caesar’s illness. Not only is the link she formed with Servillia proven to be a lie, she sleeps with her own brother.
4. Atia Allowing Antony To Beat Octavian
After the murder of Caesar, Rome is thrown into disarray. Many want to seek power, including Mark Antony (James Purefoy), but Octavian is the one who was chosen by the fallen dictator to be his heir. As a way to endear himself to the people of Rome, Octavian gave much of his inheritance away to the starving plebeians. Atia and Antony did not take this action well, with Antony beating Octavian for his “foolishness.” Atia stood by and let him harm her son, an action that turned the boy against his mother well into manhood and his eventual rule, and further demonstrated that Atia was more calculating than maternal.
3. Mark Antony Fleeing To Egypt
After defeating Brutus and Cassius (Guy Henry) at the Battle of Phillipi, Antony, Octavian, and Lepidus (Ronan Vibert) were left to rule Rome and its vassals. After deciding to split the empire in three, Antony took Egypt, reuniting with Cleopatra (Lyndsey Marshall) and causing trouble with his allies. Eventually setting himself up as a god and hiding away with Cleopatra for orgies, drunkenness, and drug-fueled stupor, Octavian is left with no choice but to wage war on his former ally.
2. The Torture Of Servillia
Atia and Servillia were longtime rivals for power, but after Servillia’s power over Caesar and Brutus became apparent, Atia decided that it would become her sole purpose in life to make Servillia’s life a living hell. This culminates in her ordering her men to overturn Servillia’s chaise in the middle of the Roman streets, stripping her naked, beating her, and slashing off chunks of her hair. Servillia’s recovery is slow, but her thirst for vengeance on Atia never slakes. While Atia may never have been tried in a court of law, the suicide curse that Servillia places on her does eventually bear fruit.
1. The Murder Of Caesar
One of the greatest betrayals in the whole of human history, the murder of Caesar on the stone steps of the Senate left a huge mark on Rome. As Caesar gained both the love of the people and military might, the Senators were left to wonder if he was becoming too powerful to contain. Fearing that he would become a tyrant and driven by their own jealousy, the Senators stabbed their leader to death on the fateful ides of March, and forever changed the course of history.