#LegionXIII Rome watch-along S01E08, “Caesarion” or “Julius Caesar, you are NOT the father.

A picture of a big roman number XIII, in front of an ominous sky, in the middle of a road through a field. In the crotch of the X, I, dressed as a centurion, naturally, am slumped over, sleeping. Bronwyn Green, dressed in a stola, is looking nervously at a harp, and Jess is depicted as the woman with a bloody knife from the DVD cover of season 2.

Quick rundown of the episode: Humiliated by his side’s loss to Caesar, Brutus returns to Rome, to a mother who seems equal parts relieved by his survival and embarrassed that her kid lost in the war against her ex-boyfriend. But it’s cool, because now that the and his traitor friends have returned to Rome, they can just keep on plotting. Brutus doesn’t want to get involved right now, but I think we all know that’s going to change. Antony overhears them plotting, and warns Cicero that if he acts up, he’ll nail his hands to the senate doors.

Caesar arrives in Egypt, where all the speaking Egyptians are as white as this year’s Oscar nominees, and Pharaoh Jeoffrey Ptolemy presents Caesar with Pompey’s head. Caesar isn’t very thankful for the gift, and decides to help Cleopatra overthrow her stupid, spoiled brother. He sends the thirteenth out to find her. She’s out in the desert smoking opium and waiting for her brother to get pissed off enough to kill her. Luckily, Titus Pullo shows up just in time to stop her from being assassinated. Cleopatras’ womb is “between the flood”, so she comes up with a plan to get inseminated any way she possibly can, so that when she inevitably seduces Caesar, she’s already got one in the chamber. Her slave brings her Lucius Vorenus, but he can’t do the job, so it’s down to Titus Pullo to have some tent-shaking, acrobatic sex with her. They smuggle Cleopatra into the palace in a sack, and Caesar wastes no time getting her into the other other, proverbial sack. At the end of the episode, he proudly present “his” baby to his cheering army, while that little shit brick Ptolemy floats face down in some sandy water.

My favorite part of the episode: When, in what can only be described as my perfect romantic evening, Titus Pullo and Cleopatra bounce off the walls of her pavilion like ping-pong balls to the sound of extremely enthusiastic ululation.

My least favorite part of the episode: Every single Egyptian with a speaking part is a white person. Ptolemy, Cleopatra, the guy who was Cassandra’s slave in the Doctor Who episode “A New Earth,” every single one of them is white. There are a lot of black Egyptians in this episode. They’ve all been cast as slaves who have no lines and who just stand behind the talking white people. What the fuck, HBO?

Favorite costume: When Cleopatra returns to the palace all decked out, and her slave’s makeup is AMAZING.

A middle-aged lady wearing a really busy wig with beads and starchy curls, with very exaggerated black eyebrows drawn on and triangles of rust-colored makeup over her eyes.

Team Atia or Team Servilia: Doesn’t really apply in this episode, as neither are featured. Servilia has a sex scene with Octavia that’s presented in contrast to Caesar’s scene with Cleopatra, but that’s about it.

Favorite watch-a-long tweet: When Jess was unimpressed with Caesar’s dramatic style of lovemaking.

What hairdo or costume would Bronwyn steal? Bron is sucker for comfort, so I’m going to go with Cleopatra’s linen nightgown thing.

An elfin white girl wearing a very low-cut linen gown with an empire waist and short sleeves.

Guess Jess’s head canon. Pullo and Vorenus double up on Cleopatra, but end up being more interested in each other.

Now go check out Bronwyn’s and Jess’s posts (Jess’s might be a little late this week due to illness), and join us Monday at 9 PM EST for season one, episode nine, “Utica”. Tweet to #LegionXIII to join us!

 

9 thoughts on “#LegionXIII Rome watch-along S01E08, “Caesarion” or “Julius Caesar, you are NOT the father.

  1. not that it really matters, but the Pharaohs ruling Egypt at this time, were white. They were the greek descendants of Alexander the Great who had conquered Egypt in 332 BCE. His Macedonian General, Ptolemy Lagides was the first Pharaoh of the dynasty in 305 BCE and is a direct ancestor of Cleopatra VII.

    1. Lol. I was coming here to say that I’m not expert but that historians had determined Cleopatra was actually Greek, and also not anywhere as good looking as the claims said she was. (But that part could be sour grapes.)

  2. I see your point about how they have largely white actors in a country that was in North Africa, but the Ptolemies that ruled Egypt were originally Greek (they inherited it from Alexander’s empire after he popped his clogs.) This is set about 300 years after that, and while there is some hotly contested evidence (involving measuring Arsonue’s skull – troublesome and v. dubious evidence at best) that the Ptolemaic line did marry into native Egyptian families when they weren’t screwing each other, all the main characters in the Ptolemy the Twat king’s court were real people who were Greek in origin, most born in Greece or in Greek colonies, and therefore not of Egyptian ethnicity. They wouldn’t have been snow white, but they wouldn’t be “black” either (the black people are actually probably meant to be Nubians, who really were often employed as guards, when they weren’t at war or ruling Egypt.)

    Far more frustrating from a historian’s pov is the mystical Egyptianising of Ptolemy’s court, with incense, wigs and eyeliner for days. The ruling elite at this time were Greek in language and culture, so the pudgy little king would not have sat around wearing a wig with a false beard; that was from a much earlier time. As can be seen from all the Greek tutors swanning around (in Egyptian dress, anomalously), they didn’t self-identify as Egyptian, but as Greeks. Rome was meant to de-Hollywoodify this era (apart from all the shit they do change), but this is like a Disneyland version of Egypt.

    1. Thanks for this knowledgeable reply!

      However, my concern is that if our astute Jenny didn’t hear anything about the “Egyptians” being Greek anywhere in 8 episodes, the show probably hasn’t mentioned it. If they’re casting white actors for historical accuracy, that seems inherently sketchy to me, on the level of, “Why keep just this one thing accurate? How convenient that it happens to help you put white actors in leading roles.”

      But IF that’s what they’re doing, then there needs to be mention of the characters’ Greek origin in at least every other episode or so. I’m no history buff, true, but I made it through college without ever learning this fact. I think it’s safe to say the average viewer might not be aware of the various ethnicities present at the time.

      1. Eh, I’ve heard the “Cleopatra was Greek and therefore white” thing, but there’s a lot of criticism of the historical scholarship that led to that conclusion, and that’s why I err on the side of Cleopatra being biracial. Her family’s dynasty had Macedonian lineage, but they were in Egypt for hundreds of years by the time it got down to her, and nobody knows who Cleopatra’s mother was. Not being a historian, but knowing that a lot of historical speculation errs on the side of white people being the most important people, I cast my lot in with the people who doubt Cleopatra’s 100% whiteness, just out of skepticism of the 19th century historians who deemed her so.

        But either way, like you said, it’s awfully convenient that the only speaking Egyptians are white people, despite the presence of actors of color standing around in the back.

  3. Tbh, the actual ethnicity of “Egyptian” Egyptians is hugely debated, and there are innumerable books, jounal articles and studies out there, which don’t actually do anything to get us any closer to finding out, but just emphasises how troublesome it is to put a pin in. The evidence is, to put it technically, “either not there or not useful at all”, and the issue is so politicised, you either get historians fiercely making a case for the Egyptian civilisation as a victory for black Africans or Arabs or North Africans, or (most of the ones I know/read) historians backing away, pointing out the Egyptians’ depictions of themselves are really not that much of a good representation of reality, and human remains evidence is a comedy of errors (there is a fantastic chapter in a book called “Ancient Egypt: Anatomy of a Civilisation” which covers the collection and analysis of genetic material and what it can tell us about the racial makeup of Egypt. Read it to NOT find out a damn thing about what Egypt looked like in terms of skin tone, but it sums up why its such a difficult thing to say anything definite about, and why you should be wary of anyone arguing strongly for any side of it.)

    That’s ancient, ancient Egypt, fast forward to the end of the Ptolemaic era, and Egypt has not been native ruled for a good 500 years (Saites, Assyrians, Nubians and Persians have all had a go at ruling), and they’ve had a couple of millenia of immigration from surrounding areas and general mixing and so on. Main immigrant groups were Libyans, Nubians (the Sudanese) and people from the Near East. Greeks too, but they keep to the upper echelons of society, and they keep to themselves. As in, really to themselves. The Ptolemies marry their own family members a good few times, enforcing their own racial purity and upping the chances that their children wouldn’t ever be able to fully close their mouths (N.B. The idea that the native Egyptians married incestuously is a misconception, but this post is already too long so I won’t go into it.) The arguments for her being all the way Macedonian Greek, or her wildly inbred genes being cut with some much needed new Egyptian DNA both fall into the “speculation” part of history, and I would say is ultimately unknowable and not that important in the long run, particularly since we can’t know (excellent blog here regarding Cleopatra’s ancestry http://blog.oup.com/2010/12/cleopatra-2/ ).

    However, this is about Rome and I’m getting carried away. The actor in Rome looks she *could* be from the Greek mainland. But she *is* far too pale-skinned to be Cleopatra. Cleopatra was from a Macedonian Greek family, and had lived her whole life in Egypt. Macedonians are generally olive skinned naturally, and in Egypt she’d be carrying a constant, no-sunscreen-ever tan, making her darker skinned.

    On a side note, Macedonians are pretty determined to claim Cleopatra as their own when the subject comes up, and they do go off on one if you suggest she is anything but.

    Anyway, this post was a fantastic procrastination tactic, so sorry for the rambling, I really better either go to sleep or do some worky work.

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