Empire (2005) (mini-series)



Director:   John Gray, Greg Yaitanes. 

Starring:  Santiago Cabrera (Octavius), Vincent Regan (Marc Antony), Emily Blunt (Camane), James Frain (Brutus), Jonathan Cake (Tyrannus), Christopher Egan (Agrippa), Michael Maloney (Cassius), Fiona Shaw (Fulvia), Colm Feore (Caesar), Michael Byrne (Cicero), Orla Brady (Atia), Trudie Styler (Servilia), Graham McTavish (General Rapax), Dennis Haysbert (Magonius), Amanda Root (Noella), Ian Bartholomew (Cimber), Michael Culkin (Lucius), Alan David (Quinitilius).

Four hour mini-series about the rise of Octavius (later Augustus) to the leadership of Rome following the assassination of Julius Caesar. 


Spoiler Warning:  bellow is a summary of the entire film. 

Episode 1.  Pilot

Rome, 44 BC.  There are whispers of civil war.  The people love Julius Caesar.  To counter the cult of Caesar, his enemies lure the people with bloody spectacles.  The Republic is dying.  The age of the gladiator has begun.  The fate of an empire will fall upon the shoulders of one man: a slave, a gladiator. 

Senators Cassius and Brutus do not like Caesar because they believe that he aims to be a god.  Marc Antony is very close to Caesar.  Atia is Caesar's sister.  Julius Caesar is hailed by the people as he arrives.  

In the gladiator ring there is a very fearsome warrior named Reterian who is undefeated.  His opponent will be Rome's champion, the Cypriot Tyrannus.  Octavius kisses a young girl named Olivia, daughter of Senator Cimber, and off he goes.  He sits by Caesar.  Octavius wants to go to Syria and fight in the Parthian Wars.  (Parthia is a region in north-east Iran.  It was home to the Arsacid dynasty, rulers of the Parthian Empire, which included Greater Iran, Mesopotamia and Armenia.)  Caesar will not let Octavius go.  He says he has other plans for Octavius.  Ocatvius is mad about this. 

Tyrannus is doing well against Reterian, so management sends four other gladiators at him.  The Roman champion defeats and kills all five of the gladiators. 

At the Vestal Temple a pretty young woman named Camane is one of the vestal virgins.  (Vestal virgins were virgins who were the holy female priestesses of Vesta, goddess of the hearth.  The virgins maintained the sacred fire of Vesta. In return, they were afforded greater privileges in the society.)

At the slave barracks Tyrannus talks with his son Piso.   Being very tired he goes to sleep.  He is awakened by none other than Julius Caesar.  Caesar asks him to talk a walk with him.  He wants to know how Tyrannus became a gladiator and the big man says he stole a horse and was thrown in prison.  Caesar tells him that he wants to hire him as his private bodyguard for the next three weeks.  He hands Tyrannus the wooden sword, which symbolizes freedom and says he will reward Tyrannus with his freedom.  Tyrannus is very willing to be his bodyguard.

Tyrannus has a wife named Moira.  She and Piso go shopping in the open market lining very busy streets.  They are being watched an ugly fellow, who is probably an enemy of Caesar.  Moira shops, but suddenly realizes that Piso is no longer with her.  She desperately looks for him and calls out for him, but no luck.  Moira runs to Tyrannus to tell him someone must have taken Piso.  He tells Moira to wait for him.  He runs through the streets in the market area looking for his boy. 

Camane warns Caesar about the Ides of March.  She tells him signs warn of blood, but Caesar doesn't put much store in signs.  Caesar climbs up the steps to the senate.  Conspirators lure Marc Antony away from Caesar's side.  Caesar sits down. 

Assassins attack Tyrannus.  At the same time, a large group of senators attack Caesar and stab him, then move away for other senators to stab him.  Tyrannus kills a great many of the assassins, including the ugly one and rescues Piso.  Now he has to ride to guard Caesar.  Tyrannus arrives too late.  Caesar is already in the process of dying.  Tyrannus reaches him and Caesar tells him to protect Octavius, his heir. He explains that Octavius is his sister's boy.  He wants Tyrannus to teach Octavius how to fight and how to rule. 

Marc Antony confronts the senator assassins.  He calls them bastards and stupid bastards.  Antony leaves.  The senators get busy giving the orders to arrest all Caesar loyalists.  They have hired Princeps Rapax who has a band of gladiators.  They order to him to to kill Caesar's family first.

Tyrannus goes to Octavius and says that Caesar is dead and Octavius is his successor.  The boy's mother urges him to go quickly or he will be the next victim of the assassins.  The two men ride away.  Tyrannus stops to say goodbye to Moira.  He tells her to take the carriage to the port of Ravenna, then take a merchant ship for Cyprus.  She is to go to the Inn of Balbus and wait for him there.  Moira and Piso leave.  Octavius rushes in to say that the assassins are coming.  Tyrannus fights them all off and then the two men ride off.  They will ride to Perugia before they camp.  The narrator, Camane, says that the trials of Octavius have begun. 

Episode 2.  Will. 

The body of Caesar lays in the senate crypt.  The senators make plans to sneak the body of Caesar out without the people seeing him. 

In the Forest of Perugia, Tyrannus kills a gladiator who wanted to kill Octavius.  He tells Octavius that he must stay with him.  But when Tyrannus sleeps, Octavius goes in disguise to Rome.  

At the Senator Cimber Villa, Octavius talks to Olivia telling her that he needs to speak with her father.  Marc Antony arrives saying that Caesar left a will.  He says they must find the will and destroy it.  To that end, they grab Caesar's sister.  Olivia laughs when Octavius says that Caesar named him his heir.  She then rats on Octavius.  The two have sex together.  Octavius hears a noise and says he thinks Senator Cimber is home.  He, however, suddenly realizes that it's his enemies coming to arrest him.  Octavius is shocked and saddened by Olivia's betrayal.  He starts running and the soldiers chase him.  As he goes by, Tyrannus grabs him and pulls him to safety.  He says to Octavius:  "Idiot brat!"

Cicero comes to talk with Cassius.  But Cicero is not on the side of Cassius and Brutus, so Cassius throw him out.  Cicero is able to see a copy of Caesar's will.  And sure enough, Caesar names Octavius his heir.  He gives the document to Camane for save keeping. 

Octavius can't really seem to accept that he will be the new Caesar, mainly because, he says, Caesar despised him.  He was always criticizing Octavius.  Tyrannus sneaks Octavius into the senate crypt to look at Caesar's body.  There are some thirty stab wounds on his body.  Cicero shows up and speaks with Tyrannus.  Cassius lets his crowd come in and Cassius threatens Cicero. 

Cassius and crew try to leaved the building, but when the public gathered in front see them, they shout:  "Traitors!  Murderers!"   Cassius gives the order to get Atia.  They will use her to quiet the crowd.  In the crowd is Marc Antony and he uses this opportunity to speak to the crowd.  Antony cries over the body of Caesar who the conspirators tried to get out of town in secrecy.  Cassius doesn't like Antony trying to take control of the crowd.  Finally, Atia is brought in.  She tells the people that her brother loved the people of Rome.  She also says that she has seen Caesar's will and that it names Octavius as his one, true heir.  The crowd starts shouting:  "Octavius!  Octavius!"  The crowd lifts up Caesar's body.  They are going to burn Caesar's body. 

The narrator Camane says the audience is witnessing the birth of a civil war and it's the mob that will determine who will be emperor. 

At the Vestal Temple, the talk is of civil war.  Camane tells Octavius that she was called to be a Vestal Virgin at the age of six by his uncle.  She also tells him that Caesar named Octavius his own son.  She then gives Caesar's ring to Octavius.  Rapax and his deadly group arrives.  Cicero is there and he tells Octavius land Tyrannus to leave.   The two men get on their horses and take off.  Camane the narrator says that Octavius leaves here a boy, but will return an emperor. 

Episode 3.  Arkham.

Parts of Rome are on fire.  Camane is determined that she will make the will public to everyone.  She wants to have the will posted on every door. 

Tyrannus trains Octavius in fighting.  Later Tyrannus tells him to be at General Magonius's Villa at the end of the day, because he is a likely ally.  Octavius says he only knows the man from parties.  Tyrannus urges him to tell the man his plan.  Octavius asks:  "What plan?"

At the Magonius Villa, the black general is being arrested by the forces of Cassius.  When Octavius sees what's happening, he takes off his ring and hides it in a plant container.  The soldiers decide to arrest Octavius and Tyrannus as well.  Magonius tries to save them by telling the soldiers that the men are his slaves and he tells the slaves to get back to the fields.  It doesn't work. 

In Rome, Brutus tells Cassius that Caesar's will is everywhere.  They believe one of the vestal virgins is responsible for this.  Cassius is skeptical that a vestal virgin is involved. 

At the Vestal Temple the leader of the virgins tells Rapax that he is not taking Camane anywhere.  Rapax backs down, but tells her to expect a return visit from them. 

Through Magonius, Cassius wants control of the 4th Legion.  The General is being held now at the combat dungeons of Arkham.  At Arkham Tyrannus tells Octavius to do nothing that will attract attention to himself.  Octavius rejects the advise and definitely gets noticed.  And he gets a light beating for his efforts. 

Marc Antony has fled.  Cimber declines being consul.  Quintillius won't take the position either.  The senators say that Cassius and Brutus should be the consuls, but the named senators say that would not be acceptable as they are accused of killing Caesar.  Cassius threatens them that they either find a consul or consuls, or they will receive no protection from the mobs of Rome. 

Tyrannus tells Octavius that he cannot protect him here in the prison. 

Cassius tells Brutus that Rapax failed to grab Camane.  So they must figure out a way to get around her.  He wants to appoint a new head pontifex (i.e., the highest council of priests).  And the man Cassius has decided on is Brutus.  He will be head of the religious order. 

In the dungeons Octavius is selected to fight a gladiator, but Octavius won't fight.  Tyrannus steps forward.  He can't fight and win, so he lets himself get beat and falls to the ground.  There he hides his sword in the dirt. 

Tyrannus is worried about his wife and son.  Magonius tells Tyrannus that he knows that Tyrannus is a gladiator. 

Brutus appears as the head man at the Vestal Temple.  He speaks with Cicero and tells him that they will accuse him of treason unless he denounces Octavius.  Denounce Octavius or he will make the Vestal Temple shake. 

At Arkham Cassius arrives to see General Magonius.  He tells him that he wants his Legion.  Magonius says he won't get it.  He says he is throwing his lot in with Octavius.  Cassius starts to leave.  He gives the order to cut the general to pieces.  So the guards stab the general to death.  As he dies, he sees Octavius, and yells:  "Hail, Caesar!"  One of the jailors hears this and gets very suspicious.  A little later he comes to Octavius and reveals that he knows that Octavius is Octavius Caesar.  He starts to negotiate with Octavius for his freedom and some land.  Octavius kills the guard instead.  He tells Tyrannus who tells him they have to immediately hide the body.  They find a good place to hide the body and then Octavius washes the blood off his hands.  Tyrannus tells him to wait for his signal.

A black guard now reveals to Tyrannus that he knows that he is Tyrannus of Rome.  Tyrannus virtually immediately kills the man.  Now a little rebellion breaks out that quickly grows larger.  Octavius takes Cassius hostage.  Cassius has to tell his men to let Octavius and Tyrannus leave.  The two men ride out on horseback. 

Well, the senators have found their co-consuls:  Herteus and Panza, both aqueduct commissioners of the Servian Wall --  the only ones who would accept the position.  (The Servian Wall was a defensive barrier around the city of Rome built in the early 4th century BC.)

Octavius and Tyrranus are hunting rabbits when horsemen approach.  It's Marc Antony who tells Octavius:  "No more running, Prince."

Part  4.  The Hunt. 

Master assassins have been hired by Cassius to hunt down Octavius.  Antony, Octavius and Tyrranus ride to the Antony Villa.  The two men meet Antony's wife Phobius.  Antony tells his visitors that this villa belonged to Casear, but he gave it to him.  He also mentions that while he was with Caesar, he basely mentioned Octavius.  He tells Octavius that Caesar's friends are here.  Octavius must win these people over to his cause.  He must make them love him.  At the actual party, Publius Claudius talks about making Rome's enemies Romans.  Antony says to Octavius that he himself has three Legions and Publius had four Legions.  Tyrannus tells Octavius that they should leave, but Octavius tells him that he needs to be here at the party. 

The next day a hunting party goes out to hunt a wolf.  While Octavius is chasing the wolf, an assassin tries to kill him.  He shoots an arrow, but Antony stops it by raising his arm.  The arrow went into his forearm.  Antony says he suspects Herteus and Panza are behind this assassination attempt.  Tyrannus tells Octavius that they must leave.  The risks of assassination are too great.  Octavius now trusts Antony.  He even tells Tyrannus that Antony tried to help Tyrannus and his family. 

Antony gives back to Octavius Caesar's ring.  At the party Tyrranus gets a lot of attention from the women.  They want to know, since he saw Caesar just before he died, what Caesar said to him.  Tyrannus just tries his best to get away from these people.  Mrs. Antony is leaving the party.  Asked why, she says that she always leaves before the orgy.  So now Octavius knows what's up. 

The wolf shows up.  Tyrannus thinks he sees the assassin that went after Octavius and he assaults him.  It turns out that the man is General Critto.  Octavius has to speak out quickly to save Tyrannus.  But Tyrannus himself won't apologize.  Octavius is mad at him and says:  "You cost us four Legions."  Tyrannus starts to leave, but Octavius tells him to halt.  He says everyone here is telling him he should kill Tyrannus because of what he did.  Octavius says he would not do that to Tyrannus.  He tells him to go to his family, that his service is done. 

Marcus Agrippa arrives.  He had wanted to be friends with Octavius, promising to help him in any way he could.  A sign interpreter tells Tyrannus that he will meet Octavius on the battlefield. 

The senate of Rome makes a proposal to Octavius:  the governorship of Gaul.  Octavius says that's 500 miles from Rome.  But he would, he says, take the governorship of Gaul, Spain and Germania.  But the senate doesn't like this idea. 

Antony tells Octavius that he believes Octavius will be a great leader, even greater than Caesar.  He also tells him that his troops will eventually fall to Octavius.  Tyrannus rides out. 

It's orgy time at the Antony Villa.  After awhile Antony goes swimming.  There is a scream.  There are dozens of asps that have been placed in the beds and on couches of the people at the orgy.  Forty Romans are dead and now almost all the major Caesar loyalists are dead.  Octavius has also been bitten.  He sees Antony with the would-be assassin of Octavius.  Antony tells Octavius that he tried to tell him earlier. Octavius realizes that Antony wants it all for himself.  Antony says it was a honor to be second to Julius Caser, but it would not be no honor to be second to Octavius Caesar. 

Episode 5.  Fortune's Fool.

Port of Cyprus.  Antony, now that Octavius is dead, says assassins killed Octavius Caesar.  And, he claims, the assassins were send by the two co-consuls.  Herteus and Panza are both killed.  Then Antony exiles Cassius and Brutus. 

Tyrannus is on Cyprus to see his wife and child, but he learns that his wife is now dead.  Pios is safe, but is now with a family with the family name of Marius.   Tyrannus goes to the Marius Villa.  Marius tells him that Pios is a very special boy.  He asks if Tyrannus has a house?  No. Any money?  No.  He gets the message across that Tyrannus is not capable of taking care of his son.  Marius says he will fetch his son for him, but Tyrannus decides not to make his presence known.  He decides it's better to leave his son with Marius where he can have the finest tutors and learn Latin and Greek.  The biological father tells Marius not to tell Piso that he was here.  He also says that he cannot repay Marius for the kindness he has shown his son.  He starts to leave.  Marius says:  "Good, luck, Tyrannus."

Marcus Agrippa is helping in nursing Octavius back to health at the Agrippa Villa.  Camane comes to see Octavius, who fights for every breath.  She tells Marcus that they must bleed him to get the poison out of his body. 

Incognito, Tyrannus returns to the gladiator arena saying he just wants to fight. 

Octavius survives the snake bite.  Marcus Agrippa tells Octavius that that Marc Antony thinks he is dead.  Marcus Agrippa was on the burial detail.  When he discovered Caesar was still alive, he knocked out the other member of the burial squad, and saved Octavius.  Octavius tells him that he owes him his life.  Marcus also says he has Caesar's ring.  Octavius doesn't want to see the ring right now, so Marcus puts it in a bowl under a cloth. 

Tyrannus is back in the gladiator ring.  But they will give the gladiators no weapons against Antony's men who will be fighting today.   The winner of the match will go on to fight the top soldier. 

Octavius goes to see Camane.  He says he came to thank her for helping to save him.  Octavius is a little out of it and feeling down.  Things have not gone so well for him lately.  Camane reminds him that it was Caesar who chose Octavius and did not chose Antony.  But, Octavius says, Antony has the Roman Legions and Rome itself.  He says he himself has been kept fully occupied by fighting for his very life, for survival.  In the  Agrippa Villa, a servant finds the ring of Caesar and steals it. 

A unarmed Tyrannus kills all three soldiers send at him.  Now Fortunus will fight him.   Tyrannus thinks he sees Moira watching him, but it was just an illusion.  Now Tyrannus takes off his helmet.  Fortunus gasps when he sees it's Tyrannus.  Tyrannus now confronts Fortunus.   But it's not to kill Fortunus, but to have Fortunus kill him.  This act of suicide is stopped and the guards grab Tyrannus and take him from the arena. 

Camane really cares for Octavius, but it is unlikely it would ever work out.  Octavius tells her not to go back to the Vestal Temple.  She tells Octavius that she will not abandon her duty, even if Octavius seems willing to her to abandon his. 

Antony learns that a slave was caught trying to sell Caesar's ring in Tuscana.  When his wife finds out about this and realizes that Octavius is alive, she slaps Antony and tells him:  "You've jeopardized everything!  Octavius is alive!"

Rapax and his men surround the Agrippa Villa.  Marcus Agrippa goes to warn Octavius.  Rapax grabs Camane and Octavius comes to the rescue.  In the ensuing fight, Marcus Agrippa arrives and when  Rapax has his back to him, Marcus hits the man with a sword.  They retrieve the ring from Rapax.  Camane is going to distract the soldiers, so they can get away.  She tells Octavius to come for her when he is Caesar.  Octavius and Agrippa escape on horseback. 

Antony comes to see Tyrannus in his cell.  He suggests to Tyrannus that the man who has cost him everything, his home, his wife, his child and now his freedom is none other than Octavius Caesar.  Antony wants Tyrannus to join with him to fight against Octavius. 

Octavius sees Rapax's men riding away with Camane.  He says to himself:  "I will come for you!" 

Episode 6.  The Lost Legion. 

Octavius saves Camane from Marc Antony and his men.  When in safety they kiss.

Via Appia, the Road to Rome.  Camane is back under Antony's control and his men return her to the Vestal Temple.  She narrates that Caesar's dream is dying. 

Tyrannus awakens to find his iron shackles off and the cell door open.  He slowly walks away from his cell.  He sees Marc Antony and asks him what does he want?  He asks Tyrannus to serve him.  Tyrannus repeats the statement as a question:  "Serve you?"  Antony sees he is skeptical.  He says what does it matter if he gains politically from the struggle.  Serve him and Tyrannus will get land and freedom  -- all that Julius Caesar promised him.  Tyrannus agrees.  Tyrannus is put in charge of training some of the troops in how to fight more effectively. 

Octavius and Marcus are given a ride by a local man on his cart.  They run into the scene of a massacre of a group Antony's soldiers.  Who did this?  A group that does not fear Antony, for sure.  Octavius notices a sign on the bodies of the dead robbers.  It's a sign of a trident.  Octavius and Marcus continue on to the home of Cicero.  But Cicero says he will not help them.  

In training camp, Tyrannus stops a vicious fight.  A freedman struck an officer.  Rapax comes riding up (yes, he survived) to scold Tyrannus for stopping the fight.  Rapax then spanks the freedman on the butt extremely hard with the flat side of the blade of his sword until Tyrannus stops him, saying he would have killed the man if he had continued. 

Octavius asks Cicero about the trident mark.  Cicero tells him not to pursue this because he doesn't want to see him getting hurt.  But Octavius goes to use Cicero's library.  He looks up the various symbol of the different Roman Legions under Julius Caesar.  The trident is the symbol for the Legendary Third Legion, Caesar's best Legion.  They performed poorly and Caesar had 10% percent of the soldiers executed.  This broke the will of his finest Legion Caesar had. 

Cicero calls for Octavius.  His daughter tells him they left quickly.  Cicero says the Third Legilon will kill him.  Cicero tells his servants to prepare his carriage. 

Octavius goes to where the robbers were.  The legionnaires y soon take the two hostage.  They ask Octaviusfor his name and he says it is Caesar.  Octavius get knocked out.  The men talk about what to do with Octavius.  One says they should cut his throat.  They argue amongst themselves about what happened that day on the hill of Bibracte fighting against Mithradates.  (The first major battle of the Gallic Wars, in 58 BC the Battle of Bibracte was fought between the Helveti and six Roman legions, under Gaius Julius Caesar.  The Legions were the 7th through the 12th.)  Octavius says he knows how they feel about what happened, but they are themselves still prisoners to the memory of Bibracte.  He tells them to follow him out of the forest and be the legendary 3rd Legion of one last time.  The men prepare for battle.

Marc Antony scolds Tyrannus for interfering with Rapax's punishment of the man who struck a Roman officer.  He tells him to never do that again or else.  Antony then tells Tyrannus that Octavius is still alive.  He and his wife tell Tyrannus that Octavius is planning a civil war and all they ask for is his loyalty.  Mrs. Antony tells her husband to march now and crush Octavius and his forces. 

Cicero speaks to a crowd and asks them to pray for Octavius who is now on the battlefields of Mutina. (Battle of Mutina, April 21, 43 BC).   Octavius negotiates with Antony (accompanied by Tyrannus and Rapax), but they can not reach any mutual agreeable settlement. 

Octavius goes to see Camane in her jail cell.  He says:  "You asked me to come to you when I am Caesar.  Here I am."  He says he will stay the night with her.  This almost makes him late for the Battle of Mutina.  He arrives just shortly before the start of the battle.  In the battle Tyrannus has a flashback to the last words of Julius Caesar that he wanted him to protect Octavius.  Now Tyrannus switches sides from Antony to Octavius.  The soldiers he was training go with him over to Caesar's side.  Tyrannus saves Marcus Agrippa from death, by killing Rapax who was about to kill Marcus. 

The tide turns and Antony's men start losing.  Antony confronts Octavius.  He fights Octavius and taunts him as he dominates over they young man.  But Octavius is able to knock Antony's sword out of his hand with one mighty effort.  But Octavius refuses to kill Antony.  He lets him go. 

Caesar goes to visit Camane.  He promotes her to the keeper of the flame.  She will give her life to the temple and remain childless and pure as before.  Camane will be the matriarch of the Order of Vesta.  This is a shock to Camane, but she accepts her fate. 

Tyrannus returns to Cyprus and goes to see his little boy.  This time he actually sees Piso, who runs to him. 


Soon after the Battle of Mutina, a truce between Antony and Octavius at Bologna led to the Second Triumvirate with Lepidus, Octavius and Marc Antony as consuls.  Octavius defeated Antony and Cleopatra at Actium in 31 BC. 


Pretty good mini-series with lots of action.  It kept the interests of my wife and I.  But the emphasis on the role of the fictitious Tyrannus made the story go through a lot of tangents.  And from a historian's viewpoint, the story spent too much time on Tyrannus and the vestal virgin Camane.  The general outline of events is correct, but it's only a general outline. It would be preferable to watch one or two of many other films dealing with the story of Caesar, Antony and Cleopatra and Octavius (who later became Emperor Augustus of Rome).  The acting was okay, but I did not feel any of the performances were outstanding. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


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