The Glory That Was Rome

I was trying to articulate the other week why I find Ancient Rome so interesting.

I just finished up the audio book version of Robert Harris’ Imperium, which follows the life of Marcus Tullius Cicero, and I loved it.  I grab audio books to listen to during my commute, but the ones I really like I end up listening to around the house.  Imperium was one of those.

But it wasn’t a stretch to imagine I would like it.

I have enjoyed the work of Robert Harris in the past, so another of his titles was a safe bet.

But more than that, they key to my enjoyment was the work being set in Rome.

Rome has a very strong track record with me.

Robert GravesI, Claudius and Claudius the God were excellent. (Though I found the mini-series a little dry after the books.)

Colleen McCullough‘s Masters of Rome series was also quite good.

And even back in high school, in freshman English where we had to read Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, and Julius Caesar aloud as a group in the class, Julius Caesar was many times more interesting (and comprehensible I suppose) that the other two as far as I was concerned.  (Hamlet only became interesting to me via Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.)

I cannot put my finger on what I find Rome so fascinating, though I suspect it is the absence of Christianity as an overlay on events.  For example, I found the HBO series Rome to be hugely fun to watch, but Showtime’s The Tudors has been something of a yawn to me.  Despite there being some obvious parallels of court intrigue, the church and the spin that puts on everything dragged it down for me. (Though Sam Neill as Cardinal Wolsey was a high point in the whole dreary production.)

And with this interest in Rome, which has a peak for me in the times of Sulla to those of Nero, I find it odd that I have never really found a game based on Rome that has been able get the same sort of reaction from me.

Certainly Rome: Total War was interesting.  And I recall spending some time with Rome: Pathway to Power.  And there were a couple of others that I can visualize, but the titles escape me.  But not one would make my Top 10 games list.  Or my Top 25.

Which does not mean there is not a game out there that would feed my Roman desires.  Perhaps I have just not found it yet.

How about you?  Do you like Rome?  Is there a good game out there that you have played that delivers the Roman experience?

16 thoughts on “The Glory That Was Rome

  1. Cedia

    There was Imperator… ><

    Thanks for all the links, though, I'll have to check those out. I'm an Italian-American and I have also always had a fascination with Ancient Rome.


  2. Sardonicpoet

    Not a game, but two other forms of media you should check out: the new Starz series Sparatcus: Blood and Sand and Harry Turtledove’s novel Give me back my Legions!


  3. Saylah

    Say it isn’t so. I LOVE LOVE LOVE The Tudors and much as I enjoyed HBO’s Rome. But I do admit to having a fascination with the Tudor period which is only mildly eclipsed by love of all things Regency.


  4. mbp

    Enjoyed Harris’s rome books too. Another series to try is Emperor by Conn Igulden. Both these series do suffer from the flaw of being fiction – I found myself wondering how much was made up and how much was factual. For a more accurate account it is hard to beat Rubicon by Tom Holland.

    I have to say Rome TW does rank as one of my all time favourite games and the period has a whole lot to do with it. I can still recall individual battles like the one where I held a bridge against a thousand Gaul barbarians with only a single troop of Romans. I was Horatius!

    Praetorians is worth a look. It lacks the realism of RTW but it is an enjoyable Age of Empires style RTS.


  5. Zardoz

    Count my vote for Rome TW too. I’m playing it now thanks to Steam. (Since I missed it when it first came out and always kinda regretted it.) The AI isn’t quite as um… barbarian… vandal-ized… as the later TWs.

    BTW have you tried any of the mods for that game? Rome Total Realism looks very interesting but I haven’t tried it yet.

    And its worth comparing the HBO Rome to other attempts at the story. The HBO series works well because of the humanism of the narrative. Titus Pullo fathering Caesarian is a masterstroke if ever there was one!


  6. Kasimirtlw

    You should try and old underdog from the time amiga still ruled the gaming community. It was Centurion. you can find it at home of the underdog
    an old abandonwarez site. loaded with cool and fun classics

    Here you get to recreate the Roman Empire thru conquest or diplomatic venues. Run the chariots for more funds and play with ships in fleet battles. Bit before Rome total war but more then worth it.
    btw Rome tw total realisme is harder but more fun . for it feels more correct.


  7. HarbingerZero

    Wasn’t there an MMO that was supposed to be set in a mythical Roman background? Can’t remember the name of it now, though I don’t think it ever got out of Beta.

    Rome actually gets more interesting for me when you have the crossroads of Christianity and the classic Roman pantheon. Can you imagine the unfolding drama in the politics, military, and family life of the period as people begin “taking sides?” Fascinating.


  8. Ardwulf

    There is such a game – two, in fact – but they’re both boardgames and long out of print; Avalon Hill”s Republic of Rome and West End Games’ Imperium Romanum II. The former is pretty easy to run down, the latter… not so much. There’s also GMT’s Ancient World series, which is pretty good (the second of the two covers the first Punic War, and is much more interesting than the first one, which covers really early Samnite War stuff.)

    Rome: Total War is okay, but it utterly fails at capturing either the military history or the politics of the times.


  9. Phoe

    I haven’t really looked at it in a while, but there was a game called “Roma Victor” that really had me interested. I’m not sure if it flopped or not though.


  10. PeterD

    @HarbingerZero, the MMO was Gods and Heroes, and never got out of beta. All the rights and assets of the game have been purchased by a new developer, so presumably an attempt at revival is being made. However, I’m not sure how much the game would scratch the itch of those who like the Roman setting. I was in the beta, it was vaguely Roman, but more in the Titan Quest sense (more mythology than anything) and you didn’t have guys running around in full plate with 2-handed swords.


  11. HarbingerZero

    Thanks Peter, it was killing me not remembering the name. In thinking more about this, I might check around on the boards for Mount&Blade, I know there’s alot of mods and somebody might have gotten a Roman one going – or be willing to make the attempt.


  12. We Fly Spitfires

    I’ve always found Rome fascinating too… I think there’s something about the fact that they were so advanced for the times which always appealed to me (along with the sexual liberation of course).

    I’ve always wondered who would’ve won in a fight between the Roman Empire and Japan?


  13. Gallaria

    I too have always found Rome fascinating for most all the same reasons as WFSpitfires. Colleen McCullough’s First Man in Rome was riveting.

    Also, I can’t help thinking of Tony Bennett whenever I see the title of this post. Wilhelm, was that intentional? Knowing you, it most likely is.


  14. Wilhelm2451 Post author

    @Gordon – What, you never played Age of Empires? A viable match up there!

    @Gallaria – Not intentional. My Tony Bennett references are generally limited to mis-placed anatomy and things that only get halfway to the stars.


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