HBO's Rome is the pinnacle of historical fiction storytelling. Review by S.K. Slevinski

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Recently released on DVD, Season 1 of HBO's Rome (co-produced by the BBC) ought to be a priority for every fan of historical storytelling. Find a copy of these DVDs however you can. Trust me that you will find this series hugely rewarding.

The over-arching story of Season 1 is not a new one for either history buffs or, really, any member of Western Civilization who has paid attention to school teachers and/or pop-culture. What is fascinating about Rome is not the story of grand historical events, but rather how it paints the depth of an ancient culture and the characters who populate it. The nuances of the lives, ambitions and politics of the people of Rome, both well- and less-known, come stunningly to life. Throughout Season 1, Rome tells the story of how the actions and motivations of characters, both of high and low standing, conspire to bring about the wide tides of history.

With such a staggering example of filmic storytelling, where do I begin? A logical first step would be the art design and set design. The sets combine historical research with vivid creativity to make the city of Rome a character in itself, both in the grandeur of the Forum and in the squalor of the back streets. More than just the sets, costumes or makeup, though, Rome creates a palpable world of culture that is both familiar and alienating. It is a world where the emotions and ambitions of people ring true with depth and honesty, but where characters navigate a many layered cultural milieu where elites, common classes and slaves alike have the potential to wield history-changing poweróbut where all run the risk of falling prey to the ambitions of another. Rome is character-driven storytelling at its zenith, as it takes a well-trod story and makes it intricately engaging.

For those who missed the original airing of Rome's first season, getting your hands on a copy of these DVDs should be a top priority. For those who saw the original broadcast, these DVDs provide an excellent opportunity for revisiting this superb epic. Commentaries and featurettes will give fans the greater depth of insight in this series.

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S.K. Slevinski is senior editor for ARWZ Literary Magazine and a long time reader of alternative reality fiction. She is currently a graduate student, specializing in folklore.