The historical Caesar was honored with several Triumphs, which were celebratory religious parades. The one featured in this episode of Rome was the one that displayed Vercingetorix, the chieftain of the Averni and leader of the united Gauls, who was overthrown by Caesar in the first episode of the season. At the end of the triumph, Vercingetorix is ritually strangled in front of Caesar. Supposedly the Romans believed that this was a way to transfer the life energy and courage of their enemy to them.
Octavian, Caesar’s nephew and successor, is shown as Pontifex Maximus. He comes out of Jupiter’s temple with a bowl of red to paint Caesar’s face with, red being Jupiter and Caesar standing as Jupiter’s avatar for the day. In the commentary, they mentioned that the slave who rode in the back of the chariot with him during the parade was supposed to whisper “remember that you are not a god, but a man” for the entire triumphal parade. I guess this was to keep things from going to the feted one’s head. Not that it seems to be working in this episode with Caesar, who is starting to believe his own line of chat that he is indeed a demi-god.
I’m still worrying about Octavian, who by historical counts was a deeply religious man, dedicated to the Gods of Rome and protecting the Roman state from the influence of foreign cults. In an earlier episode he says that he believes in a “one universal source but of course the gods aren’t real”, which I think is a poor representation of Octavian’s actual religious philosophy. In this episode, he extracts his sister from the clutches of a debased and unhealthy cult of Cybele. Cybele was a very popular imported goddess in Rome. Considering Octavian’s position on the corrupting influence of foreign cults, one would think this was fairly well done. Oddly enough, however, Octavian was known for bringing the Cybelean cult to prominence during his reign. Octavian seems to becoming more and more muddled in this show.
And Titus Pullo, suffering an extreme blow to his love life, kills one of Vorenus’s slaves. This is an action of disrespect and a breach of hospitality so deep that Vorenus ejects him from his house. Vorenus is also running in a fixed election for a magistrate-type position, with much coaching from Caesar’s slave Posca. I don’t know if Vorenus has gotten more uppity because of his new higher position and deal with the Caesar-devil politics, but even if he has, I can see his point about Pullo disrespecting him and breaking the hospitality of the house. Hospitality was an important virtue at the time, and there were requirements to be fulfilled by both host and guest. Pullo really went beyond the pale with the wanton slave killing.