Imperium: Nerone (Nero) (1992) TV

 

 

Director:  Paul Marcus.

Starring:  Hans Matheson (Nero), Laura Morante (Agrippina), Rike Schmid (Acte), Simn Andreu (Porridus), Sonia Aquino (Messalina), Maria Gabriella Barbuti (Licia), James Bentley (Young Nero), Marco Bonini (Rufus), Robert Brazil (Silus), Philippe Caroit (Apollonius), Todd Carter (Senator #1), Massimo Dapporto (Claudius), Maurizio Donadoni (Burrus), Emanuela Garuccio (Claudia), Matthias Habich (Seneca), Klaus Hndl (Pallas), Jochen Horst (Etius), ngela Molina (Domitia), Mario Opinato (Tigellinus), Vittoria Puccini (Octavia), Ian Richardson (Septimus), Paolo Scalabrino (Senator #2), John Simm (Caligula), Liz Smith (Soothsayer), Elisa Tovati (Poppea), Pierre Vaneck (Paul of Tarsus), Francesco Venditti (Britannicus).

54-68 A.D., emperor of Rome after Claudius

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is the summary of the entire movie. 

Agrippina, the sister of Emperor Caligula, and her family is at home when the soldier Tigellinus breaks in with an armed force.  Tigellinus kills her husband Ahenobarbus and then takes Agrippina and her young son Nero to see the Emperor Caligula.  In the presence of Agrippina and Nero, Caligula presents the head of Ahenobarbus.  Because Agrippinna knew about the plot but did not inform her brother, Caligula sentences her to perpetual exile.  Nero is sent to be raised by his Aunt Domitia.  (Nero is the last heir of the great Emperor Augustus.)

Domitia's daughter is Messalina, who is carrying the son of her husband Claudius (who will eventually succeed Caligula).  Octavia is Domitia's granddaughter, while Britannicus, afflicted with epilepsy, is her grandson.  Apollonius becomes Nero's tutor. 

Ten years later.  Nero is a young man.  He enjoys the company of slaves and has come to love the slave girl Acte.  Tigellinus, sent by the Emperor, takes Nero to Rome.  There Nero meets his mother back from exile.  Caligula has been assassinated by his own guard and Claudius is now on the throne. 

Seneca is recalled from exile in Corsica and pardoned in order to become Nero's new tutor.  Agrippina has great plans for her son.  She believes that he will be emperor one day.  When she learns that her son loves Acte, she tells Acte that she can be one of his concubines, but never his wife. 

Among the slaves, the faith that came to be known as Christianity has started to spread.  Acte's friend Claudia attends meetings of a Christian group where as letter from Paul of Tarsus letter is read. 

As part of her ambitious plan, Agrippina tells Claudius that his beautiful wife has been seeing another man and is to marry him in an old religious rite.  Claudius shows up at the rite and his soldiers first kill the groom and then Messalina.  Agrippina then marries Claudius, who in turn adopts Nero as his son..  Nero is now being groomed as the heir of Claudius. 

Nero is grilled in the senate by Senator Septimus on the situation in Britannia.  He wants to know what Nero would do.  Claudius runs interference for the young man. In the midst of the debate, Agrippina causes a scandal when she butts into the discussion with her own opinions. 

Although Nero wants to marry Acte, his mother forces him to marry Octavia.  This is to help prepare Nero to be full consul next year.  But Nero spends his wedding night not with Octavia, but with Acte. 

Claudius goes with his troops to the troublesome Brittania.  One year later and Agrippina is seen signing documents in the absence of her husband.   And when Claudius does return the senators throw the coins stamped with Agrippina's likeness on the senate floor to show her boldness and impertinence.  Agrippina defends herself by saying that she gave them someone to hate to boost their opinions of Claudius.  Later Claudius tells Agrippina that Britannicus will be emperor, not Nero.  And suddenly Claudius dies from eating poison mushrooms.

Nero becomes the emperor and soon brings Acte to the palace.  Nero has his marriage to Octavia annulled on the grounds of her sterility.  He then announces that he will marry Acte. Later Acte meets Paul of Tarsus. 

Agrippina plots with the senators Septimus and Porridus to oust her son Nero.  Nero learns of this and has his mother banned from the palace.  Agrippina counters with the threat to use the last will and testament of Claudius, in which Brittanicus is deemed the true heir, to blackmail her son into getting what she wants.

It is formally announced that Nero will marry Acte.  Octavia kills herself and she is soon followed by the death of Brittanicus on the senate floor.  Acte concludes that Nero had Brittanicus poisoned or something equivalent and leaves for home.  Nero is so mad at this that he wishes his mother dead.  Tigellinus complies and kills Agrippina. 

With the departure of Acte, Nero starts to fall into the darkness of depression.  Then the beautiful Poppaea (who has had two marriages, one divorce and one funeral) gets the emperor hooked on different drugs.  Nero eventually marries Poppaea. 

The time has come for Nero to go and his own tutor Seneca is in on the plot.  Tigellinus moves against the plotters.  Poppaea is killed.  Seneca is offered the option of killing himself, which he does. 

Rome is burning.  Acte looks for a little girl in the ruins, finds her dead and cries aloud.  But then Paul of Tarsus touches the girl and she is alive.  (A miracle?) 

Out of Rome's fourteen districts, three complete districts are destroyed in the great fire with another seven in various stages of destruction.  Nero's aides tell him to blame the fire on the Christians, which he does.  This starts the severe persecution of the early Christians. 

Acte comes to tell Nero that she will come back to him, if he would only spare the Christians.  The emperor rejects the request, shouting "You would betray me again!"  Paul and many other Christians are crucified. 

68 A.D.  General Galba and senatorial conspirators, along with Tigellinus, oust Nero from power.  Nero gets away from Rome and meets Acte again.  Soon afterwards, by a body of water Nero slits his own wrists.  Acte finds him just before he dies.

 

Good movie.  Especially the first part is very good; like a good, action-filled episode of the Sopranos on HBO Television.  The pursuit of the position of emperor was often a very dangerous ambition as many rivals were sure to be knocked off in the competition.  Also good is that they did not accuse Nero of setting the fire.  But I do have a couple of complaints.  I did not like Acte's character.  Literally, it was kill or be killed for Nero.  But since he struck first, killing Brittanicus, Acte becomes very righteously indignant, calls Nero a murderer and abandons him.  This so-called Christian behavior sounds more like the moralistic rantings of our current-day conservative Christian evangelists.  Where is the forgiveness?  I also did not care for Paul's resurrection of the little girl who died, supposedly, in the great fire.  And I especially did not care for Paul's sermonizing because these early Christians did not impress me at all in their supposed moral superiority to the dirty Romans.  Give me a break.  Maybe the producers of the movie wanted to attract the evangelical crowd to their movie.   

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


Historical Background:

37 -- Caligula was Emperor of Rome. He had three sisters: Drusilla, Julia Livilla and Agrippina the younger.

37 -- birth of Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus in Antium, near Rome. His father was Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus and his mother was Agrippina the younger, the sister and reputed lover of Emperor Caligula. He was also the great nephew of Caesar Augustus.

Caligula's brother-in-law via sister Julia Livilla was Maricus Vinicius.

39 -- Caligula was away from Rome on a campaign against Germanic tribes. He had to return to Rome because of a plot against him. Sisters Agrippina and Julia Livilla were both exiled to the Pontian islands. Nero was thus separated from his mother at this time.

40 -- Nero's father died.

41 -- Caligula assassinated. Claudius became the Emperor.

Nero's other married a wealthy man and then it is believed she poisoned him. Nero was now the only heir to a huge fortune.

49 -- Agrippina became Claudius's fourth wife.

50 -- Nero was officially adopted by Claudius and became the heir apparent.

51 -- at age 14, Nero was declared an adult; he now made joint public appearances with Claudius.

53 -- Nero married his adoptive sister, Claudia Octavia.

54 -- Claudius died, probably poisoned by Nero's mother. At age 17, Nero was Emperor.

54-59 -- the first five years of his reign were good.

Nero was dissatisfied with his marriage and began an affair with a former slave, Claudia Acte.

55 -- his mother tried to intervene in the marriage on behalf of her daughter-in-law, but Nero resisted. She then plotted to replace Nero with her step-son Britannicus. (But Britannicus suddenly died.)

Nero started falling into a hedonistic life-style and his administration suffered accordingly.

by 58 -- the beautiful and witty Poppaea became Nero's favorite mistress.

59 -- Nero and/or Poppaea plotted to get rid of Agrippina the younger. The political move hurt Nero's reputation.

62 -- Poppaea was pregnant and Nero's wife had not given birth. So Nero decided to divorce his wife, but she died before he could accomplish this.

64 -- the great fire of Rome burned for a week. Nero was blamed for starting the fire, but further research has thrown this assertion into doubt. Nero tried to deflect the blame onto the Christians. He threw Christians to the lions and crucified many. This was the first major persecution of the Christians.

There was increasing dissension in the Roman empire and Nero became increasingly paranoid. Several rebellions started building. Eventually, the Senate deposed Nero.

68 (June 9) -- Nero committed suicide. This was the end of the Julian-Claudian dynasty. Chaos followed in the Year of the four emperors.