Home > Entertainment > HBO’s “Rome”: Reviewing the Battle of Farsala (Pharsalus)

HBO’s “Rome”: Reviewing the Battle of Farsala (Pharsalus)

04-Dec-05 06:17 pm EDT Leave a comment Go to comments
I’m a history buff – and am especially interested in classical history.  That’s why this weekend when I fnally had a chance to look into it deeper, I pulled out my old Roman history texts and sat down and carefully watched downloaded copies of HBO’s new series "Rome" (especially S1E07 which dealt with the Battle of Pharsalus and its outcomes specifically).  And I was really amazed at just how historically accurate the series’ depictions of the figures were – a far cry better than what we got of ABC’s mini-series "Empire" which dealt with the second triumvirate early this past fall.
 

To help me visualize the battle in the area it happened, I turned to Google Earth and using the Paint .NET tool (a .NET attack on Adobe’s Photoshop, reviewed here earlier) I put together a composite diagram of the battle between Caesar’s forces (red) and Pompey’s republican forces (blue) – click the image left to enlarge.

 
"Rome" has just finished filming episodes for its first season, and it includes a drama around historical characters most of us know or have at least heard of from the days of the first triumvirate.  It’s soap-opera-ish presentation made it an acquired taste for me to be sure, but as with so many shows of its kind, once into it – it’s hard to stop watching.
 
The only difference I could find in the drama surrounding the Battle of Pharsalus deals with what happens afterward.  Pompey is, indeed, defeated and flees to Egypt where he thinks he’s got a friend in Pharoh Ptolemy XIII.  But long before his assasination on the shores of Alexandria, the drama plays out a scenario where he’s  intercepted by a couple of centurions who’ve washed ashore, shipwrecked by a severe storm along with 5,000 more of Mark Antony’s troops making their way to Pharsalus for the battle.  These two who are lead characters in the show, missed the battle itself but get picked up by the caravan Pompey himself is retreating with, on it’s way to Amphipoli.  For all we know, this might have actually happened, except that the show has Pompey’s wife, Cornelia travelling with him in the caravan with their 2 children.  And, in fact, it’s documented historically his wife was in Mitylene, a city on the island of Lesbos in the Aegean before, during and after the battle – although he might have stopped there and picked her up while fleeing to Alexandria.
 
Yes, I obviously got into this show in a big way.  But with the drama holding to the recrod otherwise so closely – many of the battle’s details seem to be dramatized bang-on too – it’s hard to be a history buff and not wanna watch a show like this.  Certainly, it’s enough to get over any trepidation I ever had about soaps. 😉
 
 
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Terry Glavin

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