Okay ... here's an initial stream-of-consciousness review of the first episode of HBO's Rome, which ended just a few minutes ago (most questions are things I intend to follow up on over the course of the next week; feel free to weigh in on some of the questions):

- the intro is very cool, with graffiti and mosaics 'coming to life'

- the initial battle scene shows formations etc. directed by whistles ... isn't this what tubae were for?

- the battle scene is done 'close up', so there's no 'cast of thousands'; not as violent as the hype would suggest

- nice scene of Vercingetorix being stripped and forced to kiss the standard; the troops then hail Caesar as 'Caesar' (wouldn't we expect Imperator?)

- Julia dies in childbirth; seems to have been genuinely in love with Pompey

- interesting detail: Pompey's slave has Cn. Pompeius tattooed on his head (yes, slaves might have been tattooed)

- Atia's portrayal lives up to the hype; she does sleep with a horse dealer to ensure she gets the horse (which she's going to send Octavius up to Gaul on to give to Caesar as a gift)

- scene in the senate; quite the variety of gestures and clamouring ... not sure all was possible in a toga, but it was interesting to see them 'holding' their togas when gesticulating wildly

- Cato in a black toga ... what's up with that?

- Cicero has rather more hair than I'd expect (but then again, it is 52 B.C.)

- interesting that the senate seemed rather more like question period in Parliament (do they have that in the U.K.?); what's with the 'guards' at the door pounding whatever it was they were pounding

- passing scene of an Atellan farce? One of the people on stage was a woman (!)

- back to Pompey ... seems to be quite the guy; loved Julia and refuses to betray a friend

- Octavius is depicted as a bit of a fraidy cat ... that does have attestation in the sources, as I recall; he's also depicted as a bit of a snot but very, very politically astute (all believable, I think) ... he does sport a bulla

- this episode with the eagle being stolen at the instigation (ultimately) of Pompey ... what's up with that?

- Brutus seems a bit young ... borderline 'upper class twit'/rake/charmer

- initial impression of Mark Antony is he's a bit rude and financially in debt to Caesar

- I don't recall Octavius being captured on his way to Gaul ...

- the soldiers engage in that 'Roman salute' (you know, the bounding the chest thing) ... still not sure where that comes from

- the soldier (Pollio) does a very nice do ut des type prayer while in prison

- Caesar had a thing for Brutus' mother? (and vice versa?)

- society portrayed as very class conscious (especially Brutus)

- Atia undergoes a taurobolium pro salute ... very interesting (the presiding priest is wearing a Cybele crown; this is the scene where the bull is slaughtered above her)

- Octavia seems very much a pawn in all this; betrothed to Pompey after being forced to divorce Glabrio ... strange things happening with her makeup; Pompey doesn't exactly offer scintillating dinner conversation

- nice Roman marriage ... deductio in domum and a saffron-coloured 'wedding dress' ... Pompey marries Cornelia, not Octavia ... lots of consternation results; Octavia seems to have a bit of her mother in her

Overall, not bad. The sets are incredible and it is so nice to see Rome as not being 'white' everywhere. Any deviations from 'real history' don't seem that offensive. It's interesting how Atia is portrayed very much like most of us picture Livia (Freudian foreshadowing, no doubt) ... I'll have to check how much we really do know about Atia. This first episode obviously was designed to primarily introduce us to the various characters we'll see over the next few weeks. The split between Pompey and Caesar has been set up as has the connection between Caesar and Octavius.

Note for folks on the Classics list: the standards do not have SPQR on them