26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars
The end of liberty, 23 July 2009
As someone who likes any film or show with a toga, rates I Claudius as the best series ever and loved "Rome" it came as a shock to discover a series I'd never heard of about the early emperors and one made in my own back yard by Granada TV. Perhaps the reason for this is that having been made in black and white just before the colour revolution "The Caesars" now looks like something from the 1930s.
This is a shame because once you get over that shock this is a an ambitious and I think succesful attempt to examine the psychology of the early emperors. I can't but help think that much of the characterisation set the template for the much more famous "I Claudius" to follow.
The series focuses on the strange relationship the early emperors had with their power. Like all Romans they were ambitious to achieve glory for their family and Rome but also felt uncomfortable with absolute power and shunned much of its trappings. The central character is Tiberius and rightly so. He is one of history's great paradoxes - a man of enormous ability but whom his contemporaries and historians would vilify. Why? Because, if you believe the series, he could never be bothered to pretend he didn't enjoy the power but could not give it up.
True or not I don't know but as a super aristicratic Claudian he would have expected power and glory (and he merited it) but it came to him by gift not achievement.
All the other characters are measured against him. Augustus charming but ruthless, Germanicus vacillating, Livia and Agrippina power hungry, Sejanus and Macro ambitious and Caligula mad. All these stories are told and you are left sympathising with Tiberius. The story ends with Claudius and tkaing power. His reaction to power is unexpected; basically you feel he is not overly fond of the role but concludes that despite the madness of Caligula Rome needs an emperor not a republic any more. After him the emperors will no longer be equivocal about power.