The Untold Truth About HBO’s Rome

As mentioned by Time magazine, the classical world has long been mistakenly associated with clean, white surfaces due to the weathered appearance of ruins, pillars, and other structures. Thus, the creators of the series wanted to move away from this image as much as possible and portray Roman society in a much more realistic way.

Ancient Rome was a vibrant city filled with markets, as well as all kinds of social gatherings and community events. Yet, as it was densely populated, the streets were often crowded and dirty. As production designer Joseph Bennett described it to The Independent“So gradually you build up the image of a crowded, humid, smelly, noisy – and hot city. There is a contemporary account of a man who sleeps on his roof to escape the oppressive heat, and is driven crazy by the noise and the smell. It must have been like living in Soho, only with crazy wealth and crazy poverty.”

By describing his vision of the city to The New York Times, Bruno Heller said, “Rome of this period was more like Bombay or Mexico City. It was a dirty, wild, wild place.” Executive producer Frank Doelger made similar comments in an interview with Time. He pointed out how beautifully colorful Rome was, but also gritty and filled with pornographic graffiti and public latrines, like Bombay or Calcutta in his mind.

Julio V. Miller