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Screening the Golden Ages of the Classical Tradition$
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Meredith Safran

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781474440844

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474440844.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM EDINBURGH SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.edinburgh.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Edinburgh University Press, 2020. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in ESO for personal use.date: 31 May 2020

Turning Gold into Lead: Sexual Pathology and the De-mythologizing of Augustus in HBO’s Rome (2005–2007)

Turning Gold into Lead: Sexual Pathology and the De-mythologizing of Augustus in HBO’s Rome (2005–2007)

Chapter:
(p.191) 10 Turning Gold into Lead: Sexual Pathology and the De-mythologizing of Augustus in HBO’s Rome (2005–2007)
Source:
Screening the Golden Ages of the Classical Tradition
Author(s):

Thomas J. West III

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9781474440844.003.0011

In the first of two chapters connecting the management of sexuality to the fortunes of Augustus, his dynasty, and the empire it governs, West focuses on HBO’s Rome (2005-7), a prestige cable series produced during the current golden age of television. He considers how Rome’s portrayal of Octavian’s psychosexual development, as he matures into Augustus, de-mythologizes the moral linchpin of Rome’s post-war “restoration” and thus interrogates this dominant icon of the “golden age of Rome.” The series juxtaposes Octavian to his viciously sexual mother Atia and his variably timid and rebellious sister Octavia, and also regards him as the protégé of two of the Republic’s leading men, Julius Caesar and Marc Antony. Yet even while establishing Augustus as the figure credited with containing the destructive, disruptive sexuality of his family and founding Rome’s new golden age, the series goes to great pains to look beneath the Augustan mask of male control and reveal a darker strain of barely tamed sexual desires, symbolized by his privately sadomasochistic relationship with his wife Livia. Beyond feeding viewers’ prurient appetites, the series acknowledges sexuality as a historical force in tandem with “civilizing” rationality; it can be repressed, but never eliminated.

Keywords:   Rome, Octavian/Augustus, golden age of Rome, golden age of television, post-war restoration, civil war, sexuality as historical force, prestige cable series, Atia, Marc Antony

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