Roman Empire: Reign of Blood (2016) s01e03 Episode Script

Enemy of the Senate

1 After the death of his father, Marcus Aurelius Commodus has ended the war in Germania and has returned home to take his father's place as Emperor of the Roman Empire.
People of Rome all hail your Emperor! Marcus Aurelius Commodus Antonius Augustus! But while the people celebrate the new ruler, not all are content to see Commodus rise to power.
White? Or red? You decide.
As the daughter of Marcus Aurelius, Lucilla has been prepared for a life of influence.
But as her brother takes the throne, she begins to manipulate members of the senate looking for ways to regain her power.
Such a strong man.
I wonder if you will show the same strength in the Senate with my brother.
The Senate isn't worried about Commodus and neither should you be.
That doesn't sound like much of a plan.
The Emperor's inexperience is the only plan we need.
He's a boy out of his depth.
A boy who will do anything we wish.
Such confidence.
But I wonder who will do as I wish? It's hard to figure out what's going on in the head of Lucilla.
Oddly enough, she seems to have thought that, as Commodus's elder sister, that she had a better claim on the throne than Commodus.
And so Lucilla put together a very high-level conspiracy against him.
As Lucilla begins to plot against her brother, the responsibility of the throne starts to weigh on the new Emperor.
Do not be so hard on yourself.
No man can please all men.
My father could.
You are not your father.
You're Commodus.
And we have to imagine the pressures that that would have placed upon a young Commodus.
That he would have to have earned this position.
He had to become the best Roman.
He had to prove himself to be the best man for the job.
He had to fulfill this immense ideological burden that the emperor had to bear in order to operate, in order to make sure everything functioned correctly.
The crowning of an emperor marks a new era for Rome, and Commodus believes that to carry on his father's legacy and make a mark of his own he'll need to gain the support of the Empire starting with the military.
When an emperor arrived on the throne, he gave the entire army a gift.
Sometimes very small, sometimes equal to a significant percentage of an entire year's pay.
It was announced that what he was doing was thanking them for their loyalty.
And, of course, at some level what he was doing was actually purchasing that loyalty going forward.
For centuries, emperors have given gifts to their soldiers returning from war in the form of money, slaves and land from conquered regions in an effort to keep their support.
For Commodus, winning the favor of the military is the first step in securing the support of the Empire.
But before he can give the military its payment, he knows he'll have to convince the Senate to back his plan.
For the first time in generations, we are at peace.
So I think those who lay their lives on the line for Rome deserve far more than simply our gratitude.
Thank you.
Emperor - I could not agree more.
- An excellent idea.
It's the right thing to do, and precisely the right time to do it.
Your support means a lot to me.
Emperor, please.
The legions have spent eight years of their lives in Germania.
We, Rome, owe them an enormous debt.
A gift of rich, fertile lands upon which to settle seems like the least the Empire can do.
Exactly.
Which is why I proposed May I ask which areas you are considering? Etruria? Campania? Sardinia? Perhaps Macedonia? An excellent question, Senator.
And to be honest, I haven't had the time to get into specifics.
And why would you? You have far more pressing concerns to attend to.
If I may, Emperor, offer the Senate's assistance in this matter? You have just made your triumphant return home.
The process of assessing and allocating the most desirable plots of land in our vast empire this takes time.
Time better spent reacquainting yourself with Rome and introducing yourself to your subjects.
That's a very generous offer, Senator.
Please.
Your father was a great friend to the Senate.
If it is within our power to make your transition to the throne smoother, it would be an honor.
I gratefully accept your offer, Senator.
This seems like something that can only benefit from the Senate's expertise.
Exactly.
We deal with this sort of thing every day.
Why bother yourself with mundane administrative tasks? There will be much more of that in the months and years to come.
Fine then.
Keep me informed of any developments.
Absolutely.
You'll be the first to know.
Your doubts were unfounded, Senator Dio.
- The Emperor is a boy.
- But he is still the Emperor.
Against the advice of the Senate, Commodus ended the war against the Germanic tribes, losing favor among some of Rome's most influential citizens including a senator named Quintianus.
With Lucilla's backing, the senator begins to lay the groundwork for his first play believing he can undermine the Emperor if the Senate takes credit for the gifts.
Senators, part of that aristocratic elite, could actually be a threat in certain circumstances to the Emperor.
They had a bit more autonomy, a bit more wealth, and the familial background that some of them could compete in certain contexts with imperial power if the situation was just right.
So they were not always trustworthy in that sense.
Emperor Saoterus and Cleander are here to see you.
- Emperor - What is it? This.
"The Senate hereby announces a gift to the brave legions" The Senate? Where did this come from? It was posted in the forum.
This was my gift.
My name is nowhere on here.
They offer their assistance, and then they do this? Now my soldiers think their Emperor places no value on their service.
That only the Senate honors them.
I have to do something.
I'll tell you what you do.
Let the streets run red with their blood.
Just tell me which ones, and I will see to it myself.
If we kill them Emperor.
Punishing the Senate by spilling their blood would send a strong message, but the streets would be in turmoil.
So soon after you have brought peace to the Empire.
- It's the last thing the people want.
- Who cares what the people want? I do.
- Emperor, I did not mean to say - You're angry.
We all are.
Saoterus is right.
We must settle this another way.
- We must - We must stab them back, but not to draw blood.
For what do Senators love more than life itself? Money.
Then that's where you stick the knife.
Good.
Good.
Come back in the morning.
For Commodus, the Senate's betrayal is a decisive move against his reign.
And he knows to maintain his authority, he'll need to devise a counterattack.
Essential for understanding Roman social relations is the whole idea of patron and client.
So it was very, very important, in the case of these donatives to Roman soldiers, where was the source they were coming from? Was it coming from the Emperor or was it coming from the Senate itself? Finally, Gentlemen I would just like to thank you for the assistance you gave in arranging my gift to the soldiers.
Should you need anything else? I've been told that the lands you chose are some of the finest in the Empire.
My soldiers are extremely grateful.
That means everything to us.
I've been thinking they're not the only ones who sacrificed.
Emperor.
Compared to the brave legions, our sacrifices have been minimal.
I was actually speaking about the people.
Well, what I meant was Is that this goes without saying.
The people made great sacrifices and offered steadfast support throughout the war.
Exactly.
So I was thinking one way I could thank them is to stage a day of games.
Games.
Yes.
On the first Saturday of next month.
A massive day of gladiator games ushering in a new era of peace in the Empire.
Emperor please do not mistake our reticence to imply disagreement.
The people deserve a day of games and much more, without question.
But if I may speak freely Of course.
Imperial games at the Coliseum, even for a single day, are a costly undertaking.
And after eight years of war, the treasury has been stretched to the limit.
I understand.
Money would surely have to be raised through taxation.
And, well to tax the people for the very games you are staging for them? - Well, it would be - Unacceptable.
If I may speak freely.
You're right, Dio.
The people shouldn't be taxed.
And they won't be.
I will see to it that these games are paid for.
Now, if you will excuse me.
Commodus has launched a strike against the Senate, demanding an even larger gift for his people a day of games.
First staged as part of funeral rites for the elite class, gladiator games have become a popular spectator sport of the Roman people.
Featuring violent fights and public executions used by emperors to gain support.
People would be put to death.
Then you had wild beast shows.
You had exotic animals released into the arena, maybe set against one another.
And then as the climax, you had a gladiatorial combat, and there was the feeling that gladiators were the headline act.
By staging an elaborate day of gladiator games, Commodus believes he has a way to win over the Roman people while undercutting the Senate.
Well, that sounds fine.
- If you need to discuss it further - Dio.
Did you hear? No Judging from your state of agitation He deceived us.
- He? - The Emperor.
What exactly did the Emperor do? He is taxing us, Senator.
For the full cost of the games.
I see.
What is so amusing about that? "I will see to it that these games are paid for!" And it would seem he is doing just that.
Paid for, by us.
And you are just going to stand there? If his father were alive to see this disrespect I will give the Emperor his due.
Going forward, I think it would be wise that we all did.
By forcing the Senate to pay for his games, Commodus has secured his revenge.
But Quintianus refuses to admit defeat.
To the Senate.
I'll drink to that.
Well, this is just the first step.
We need to show the Senate that if they cross Commodus again We already showed them that.
And you think that's enough? I do.
And you think they won't respond? Who cares if they respond? They're not who you should be focusing on.
Emperor, with all due respect, I Let him finish.
You came back to Rome for a reason, not to play games with the Senate.
They'll never give you your due.
But the people.
What did they do when you announced your games? They were chanting my name in the streets.
Giving their thanks to their Emperor.
I couldn't have said it better myself.
And doesn't that show you exactly where your attention should be? Drink.
Tonight we celebrate.
Commodus has outwitted the Senate and guaranteed the funding of his games.
But to win over the people, he's convinced he has to do more than stage a spectacle.
Soon after taking the throne, Commodus launches a massive P.
R.
campaign commissioning dozens of statues in his image, and minting thousands of coins with his profile.
Commodus made sure that he maintained the support of the Roman people.
Coins are a great way for Emperors to advertise their reign.
It's a way that they can show themselves as they want to be seen.
People of Rome, thank you! And may the Gods be with you! Commodus was very interested in popular appeal, and so many of his programs, such as the donation of monies to the people were aimed around garnering popular support.
These were moves that Roman Emperors made to really bask in the glow of popular acclaim.
As the Emperor's popularity continues to grow, Lucilla realizes the time has come to put her plan in motion.
And with her connections in the Senate in place, she makes her next move to dethrone her brother.
Lucilla resented what is essentially a form of honorific demotion.
And this resentment seemed to have worked with the other resentments among the leading senators and aristocrats, who also felt that Commodus had started to infringe upon their dignity and honor.
So what Lucilla may actually represent is the sentiments of the traditional aristocracy.
And their willingness to move against a sitting emperor.
Lucilla, this is your brother.
Yes, I'm well aware of his relationship to me.
He's the Emperor of Rome.
Only for as long as he lives.
It sounds as though something happened tonight.
Nothing happened tonight.
This is about a lifetime of disrespect.
You're upset.
Sit down.
I do not need to sit down.
- Have a drink of wine.
- I do not need wine.
I need him dead.
And I need a drink.
You need a backbone.
You know, if the Emperor were to die tonight, I would not shed a tear.
But to murder - There are other ways - It is the only way.
You have underestimated him already, and he only grows stronger.
Are you so blind you cannot see that? You are letting your hatred blind you.
Senator, my hatred gives me clarity.
But tell me, what does your cowardice do for you? While the Senator is reluctant to act, Lucilla's anger continues to grow knowing she'll have to follow through with her plan with or without Quintianus.
After announcing his day of games, Commodus takes his campaign for the people a step further.
Saoterus, my brother.
You called for me? What is this? Open it.
Commodus has given Saoterus one of the highest honors in Rome known as the signet ring.
Commodus You deserve this and more.
The signet ring was used to seal letters, orders, et cetera in wax.
It was about as close a guarantee as you could get, given the technology at the time, that an item in question was emanating from the Emperor.
Thank you, brother.
In giving the ring to his most trusted friend, Commodus has named Saoterus his closest advisor.
And as one of the few men he can trust, Commodus believes Saoterus will appeal to the common people.
Commodus, once he takes power, is keen to become his own man, is keen to break away from this group that he sees as being loyal to his father, always comparing him negatively with his father.
And instead, he looks to appoint his own men.
People who are freed men, former slaves, who are from the lower ranks of society.
Gentlemen my apologies for keeping you waiting.
The Emperor had some business he wished to discuss with me before I departed.
The Emperor is not joining us? He has sent me in his stead.
In his stead? He has named me Chief Aide.
I am to act as his proxy in all matters pertaining to this body.
It's all here in writing.
With the Emperor's, and my, official seal.
Well, this is this is This is a momentous occasion, Saoterus.
Give the Emperor our warmest regards and let him know that we look forward to meeting with him, - should the need arise.
- Of course.
And now with that bit of business out of the way, let me share this document with your scribe.
This is a disgrace to Rome, yet you stand and smile at the freedman who now rules over you.
I merely welcomed the man who is here at the Emperor's request.
The whim of the Emperor.
- A man not fit to rule.
- But, in fact, he does rule.
For now.
Until something is done.
What, may I ask you, could be done? Gentlemen - shall we begin? - Absolutely.
Gentlemen, the Senate is in session.
Commodus had difficulty in his relationships with the Roman Senate, partially because he chose as his advisors people who had originally been slaves in his court.
The Senate was not included in his inner circle.
And this was perhaps the most dangerous choice that Commodus made during his reign.
For Quintianus, Commodus has dealt the ultimate insult to the Senate.
And he realizes the only way to settle the conflict is to put an end to the Emperor's reign.
Oh by the Gods, I wish you'd been there just to see the look on Quintianus's face.
The son of a freedman walking into the Senate, commanding their attention.
Oh, brother.
Senator Quintianus, this is an unexpected visit.
- I had to see you.
- And uninvited.
It couldn't wait.
Apparently not.
But I happen to have been asleep, and having a very pleasant dream.
Commodus must die.
My goodness.
What on Earth did my little brother do to you? He has no honor.
Only contempt for everything the Rome you and I know stands for.
To name a freedman to rule over the Senate! As resentment against her brother grows in the Senate, Lucilla sees an opportunity to further her plan.
But she's not the only one in the palace with an agenda.
Slaves were instruments.
They were extensions of whoever owned them.
They were nonexistent individuals.
So you would have Romans with their elite slaves that knew all of their secrets, knew everything that was going on on a day-to-day basis.
And the clueless master that believes he has everything tucked away and nobody knows what's going on, when, of course, the slaves know everything.
After watching Saoterus rise to power and win the trust of the Emperor, Cleander is determined to take his place and will do anything to seize the position for himself.
What did you hear? I overheard Senator Quintianus and Lucilla talking.
They plan to murder the Emperor.
When was this? Nearly two hours ago.
- Who else was there? - I'm not sure.
Just me, I think.
Go back to Lucilla's quarters.
- Yes.
- Go Madame? Yes, what is it? Sorry to disturb you, but we have a Cleander.
here to see you.
Thank you, Tatiana.
Sorry to intrude.
But I was just passing by and realized I've never been in here before.
Prepare my bath If I'd have known you were coming, I would have had the cook prepare something more substantial - No need.
I won't be long.
- Is that a promise? Just long enough to tell you I know everything about your plans for the Emperor.
Clearly, I have no idea what you're talking about.
Clearly which is a shame, given that anyone plotting to kill the Emperor could certainly use someone close to him on their side.
Tatiana.
Yes, Madame? Never mind my bath.
Our guest is very hungry.
Prepare him a nice meal.
We have much to discuss.
There are several moments in the Empire, Commodus is one example, in which there's a nexus of lower-status people around the Emperor who are perceived as his friends and are thought of as dangerous for this reason.
And because power emanates from a single point, anyone else who wants access to that power has to be close.
I know that each of you have taken great risks to be here.
This is your one chance.
The future of Rome is at stake.
Commodus is destroying everything that we hold dear.
Our tradition, our culture.
He must be stopped.
Good.
It is all going to happen at the Games.
Cleander? The most important person to remove is Saoterus.
And I will take care of that.
Roman Emperors were the most powerful people on the planet.
It perhaps is not surprising that many men wanted to have a part of that power and looked to take control themselves.
And so throughout the Empire, we find that assassination attempts are quite common.
As Lucilla and members of the Senate plot their overthrow Cleander knows this is his opportunity to eliminate Saoterus.
And with all eyes on the Emperor's games, he's determined to take advantage.
After months of planning, the eve of the Emperor's games has arrived.
But while Commodus prepares for one of his most important days as Emperor, Lucilla has recruited influential senators and members of Commodus's inner circle with a plan to dethrone the Emperor.
Lucilla plots to have Commodus assassinated.
It may have been that she was simply after power.
Perhaps she wanted to be Empress.
Or perhaps it was already clear to her that her younger brother was just not up to the job of being Emperor, and so needed to be got rid of before he threatened the safety of the Empire as a whole.
On the day of the games, 50,000 people crowd into the arena.
to see battles and performances by more than 100 gladiators and thousands of wild animals.
These were celebrations that involved the entire city of Rome.
They would be shown throughout the day the glory of the Empire, the glory of the Emperor who was paying for all of this.
They would be, of course, encouraged to be loyal and see how great their Emperor was, that he provided all of these things.
But not everyone in Rome is in the Coliseum.
Look at this, Saoterus.
Empty streets means a full Coliseum.
Perhaps, some preliminary games? The Emperor is expecting us.
If anyone will understand, it's Commodus.
Cleander.
The games won't start for another half hour.
And I know for a fact, you won't need that long.
Emperor Commodus! Let the games begin! I'm sure they're on their way.
- What other business could there be? - They'll be here.
Come here, you.
I love my friends Ahh, a lady.
How are you? Oh, look.
This is for the Senate!