The birth of the city of Rome is a legend shrouded in mystery, violence, power, family drama, and the supernatural. In other words, it’s the kind of story that is perfect for a television series.
Romulus, a 10-part series airing later this fall, is a dramatic retelling of Rome’s 8th century BC origin story. But rather than tell the children’s story of Romulus, Remus, and the She-Wolf, this series focuses on the primitive tribes from which Rome was born. What’s more, it was filmed entirely in archaic Latin.
“We are not actually narrating the legend of the she-wolf that saves the twins,” explains executive producer Marco Chimenz. “We do have a she-wolf but she’s a guerrilla leader, a woman who leads a group of outcasts to fight against the established power. She already has an idea of Rome, which is an idealised place that can free men and women from fear of nature, of gods and constant oppression and slavery. It’s a very modern ideology.”
Chimenz, who helped create the popular series Gomorrah and Suburra, worked with director Matteo Rovere of The First King to bring Romulus to the screen. This included re-creating the ancient city of Alba Longa as well as consulting with scholars on the Latin script.
“We have all seen a lot of films and TV series about ancient Rome and they are spoken in English, very often British English, which has become the language for this kind of storytelling,” Chimenz says. “Doing this series in English was not realistic, but doing it in Italian was not realistic either, so we decided to recreate this language. The actors had to learn all the lines and dialogue by heart, which prevented them from improvising.”
Romulus stars Italian actors Andrea Arcangeli, Francesco Di Napoli, and Marianna Fontana as Yermos, Wiros, and Ilia, the three characters through whose eyes we learn about this ancient universe. Hundreds of other actors and stunt performers were also on set for dramatic battle and ritual scenes.
If you enjoyed the HBO series Rome, which first aired in 2005 and is now available for streaming, you will love Romulus. Just make sure you are ready to pay attention! An entire show in Latin is not ideal for the lazy viewer.