|Written by:||Nick Murphy|
|Directed by:||Nick Murphy|
|Premiered:||21 September 2006 (UK)|
|Michael Sheen features in part one of a six episode serial depicting key points throughout the history of the Empire of Rome.
The story begins in the year AD 64 where Nero, unlike other Emporers before him, likes to wander among his people in disguise.
A great fire raged through Rome that year. Nero leaves the safety of his country estate and goes to Rome to help his people. The devastation and loss of life is massive. The senate want to move the capital of the Empire, but nero formulates a plan to rebuild Rome, greater than before. This time, instead of wood they will use marble so it will never burn again. It would be beautiful, and full of art, and be the Rome that Rome deserves.
His long time friend and adviser, Seneca, begs caution as the art and buildings Nero has commissioned will run into millions, and that Rome cannot afford this without fear of bankruptcy.
Nero is adamant that they are to go ahead as planned. He is determined to be immortalised in the country’s history. He wants this to be the age of Nero, and fancies himself as a god-like figure.
He eventually realises that Seneca was right, and so speaks to his aid Tigellinus and asks for money. He says that he knows the Empire is rich so how can he get his hands on some of the cash. Tigellinus tells him that when they collect the gold and riches from a conquered province, that a proportion of the wealth collected is given to the gods. Nero authorises raids on the temples. This is seen as a great act of imfamy, the riches being Rome’s crown jewels. Raids were conducted throughout the empire and were seen as an attack on the very heart of Rome.
The senate were quickly losing faith in Nero’s plans, and a small group of dissenters start to plot his removal. They plan to get enough support throughout the senate to vote Nero an enemy of the state. Senator Piso offers himself as a replacement as Nero has no heir. He also hints that they find a ‘direct’ way of removing Nero.
Nine months into the renovations and the scale and expense is getting out of hand. Even the temple money is quickly running out. A plot to assassinate Nero at the races is overheard by a servant, who decides to inform the Emporer of the plan to kill him.
His master is brought in for questioning and after interrogation the traitors are revealed. With a series of murders Nero quickly removes all his political opposition in one fell swoop.
To further turn his people towards the idea of Rome being a city of art and beauty, Nero holds an arts festival, of which he is performing at the top of the bill. The Roman aristocracy are appalled at this display, as it is unseemly behaviour from an Emporer. As his madness takes a further hold, he beats his wife to death when he felt she viewed his performance as less than perfect.
Nero’s dream flounders as the political crisis worsens. He left the city behind to partake of a tour of performances and debauchery. He instructs Tigellinus to figure out a way of getting more money from the citizens. Tigellinus suggests that the make a new decree that all wealthy land owners must give 10% of their worth to the Empire on their death. Nero is impatient, and instead, suggests that the wealthy are given a choice of death and giving their wealth to Nero, or their family face imprisonment. With no enemies or advisors, it seemed as of Nero was allowed to do whatever he wanted.
The suicide campaign was successful in that it provided the need resources but the Govenors of Spain and Gaul wrote to the senate claiming that they were ready to rebel with force if necessary. Nero returned to Rome as more provinces joined the proposed rebellion. Rome was now the greatest city the world had ever seen but the cost had sucked the wealth out of the Empire and the streets were rife with poverty and disease.
Nero informed the senate that he will go speak to the Gauls and quash their rebellion – by singing to them. Instead of taking an army of centurions, he wanted to take a troupe of performers. The senate, now fully convinced of his madness, proceed in voting his an enemy of the state, condemning him to death. It was the duty of every citizen to kill Nero on site so he had nowhere to run.
The drama ends with him saying he must be a god, as he did all those terrible things and nothing happened. With that, he takes his own life, ending a dynasty that had ruled since the age of Emporers began.
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Ancient Rome: Rise and
Fall of an Empire
Ancient Rome: Rise and
Fall of an Empire
by Simon Baker