These Being the Words of Marcus Tullius Cicero
Directed by Alan Poul
Written by Scott Buck
As Vorenus sleeps, a tearful Niobe appears. "I thought you were dead," she says. "The boy is blameless." Vorenus bolts awake to find himself lying in his office, overlooking the Aventine tavern. Below, a brawl breaks out between two prostitutes, drunken customers cheering them on, until Gaia breaks them apart. Mascius and Pullo catch each other admiring Gaia, as Eirene watches on.
As the new head of the Aventine, Vorenus receives an official visit from Memmio and Carbo. A young nephew of Carbo's, a boy of 12, was "defiled" by an Aventine man, Quintus Bubo. Carbo comes to ask Vorenus' permission to avenge his family's honor and kill the man. Vorenus dismisses the request after learning that the boy accepted money for the exchange. No offense was committed and Mark Antony gave strict orders to maintain the peace. Besides, Bubo "is a man of property and respect." Vorenus orders Memmio and Carbo not to touch Bubo.
Pullo speaks up on their behalf, "Money or not, he took advantage of the boy," suggesting maybe a moderate form of punishment. Vorenus shuts Pullo down, stoking the ire of Memmio. "We came to you out of politeness, a mere formality," the gang leader tells him. "Even your own man..." "My man doesn't know when to keep his mouth shut," Vorenus snaps before insisting his decision is final. After they leave, Pullo confronts Vorenus, who responds, "Do not question my authority under any circumstances." Pullo pulls back, "Authority?" They're interrupted by Gaia, bringing Vorenus food.
Octavia is hosting a friend, Jocasta, the daughter of a wealthy businessman. She's just returned from Macedonia with two sacks of hemp. With the help of a slave girl, Octavia tries smoking the seeds for the first time, only to choke on the smoke. They're interrupted by Atia who reprimands them for stinking up the house - before taking a hit of the hemp herself. Atia wants to know more about Macedonia; they are going there once Antony takes up the Governorship. Jocasta tells her the place is "ghastly," with a "filthy climate, vile food and beastly people." Octavia snickers, the hemp seeds finally hitting her, but her mother is not amused. "Perhaps you did not mix in quite with the best society," she says to her friend. Jocasta explains her father is "hideously rich," but there is no "society" to be found in the region. The women are so awful the men resort to their sheep. "It is truly the end of the world."
Atia scowls at the young woman. "I am no snob, my dear," she says to Octavia. "I do not mind that you bring home a tradesman's daughter. But let's stop there, shall we? No actors, or gladiators, or that sort of thing..." Jocasta stares up at her in disbelief. Octavia tries to assuage her friend after her mother leaves. "She's been in an infernal grump since Octavian left."
Timon tries to pay a visit to a depressed Atia in her chambers, but she sends him away before he can speak, throwing him into a fit outside her villa. Servilia's servant, Castor, witnesses the outburst while he is there summoning Duro, Atia's handsome boy servant, for sex. The boy struggles to endure his latest obligation in the horse stalls. When Timon returns home, his older brother Levi is helping his kids learn Hebrew, angering him even more. He throws back a glass of wine.
In their rural slave barracks, Lyde and the children, Vorena the Elder, Vorena the Younger and Lucius, try to sleep in their small stall wearing little more than rags. Lyde watches the guard saunter by.
Over breakfast, Atia confronts Mark Antony about coming home so late, puking drunk and mauling her. She's also unhappy about going to Macedonia after his Consulship is over. He insists they have dressmakers and jewel merchants in the capitol, but she's already ruled it out. Once he leaves Italy, she tells him, his enemies will no longer fear him, and he will be powerless to strike at them. "I don't want to strike at them," he responds. "There's no juice in it anymore. I want peace and quiet and a nice rich province to squeeze." She tries a more direct approach to stoke his paranoia: "Your enemies will not rest until you are dead. You have a wolf by the ears. You cannot let go of it now."
Back in the Aventine, Timon finds his brother hovering with a suspicious-looking man. When he confronts him, Levi claims the man is a saffron trader, but Timon doesn't buy it. A bloodied and incoherent Quintus Bubo is presented to Vorenus and Pullo, his hysterical wife by his side, begging for justice. Memmio's boys got to him, Gaia explains. Enraged that his command was disobeyed, Vorenus plots Memmio's punishment as Pullo tries to talk some sense - Memmio will have to retaliate and he'll start a war. Vorenus insists he has no choice, then blames Pullo for questioning him in front of Memmio. He orders Pullo to go after Carbo. "This isn't the mumping legion. I take orders from no man," Pullo fires back. As Vorenus seethes, Pullo tells him his thinking is backwards, and that he's just trying to keep him alive. "You'd like nothing better than a gang war eh? Get yourself killed and be done with your misery. Take half the city with you...It won't bring back Niobe. Or the children. Or Caesar."
When Vorenus insists Pullo never helped him, Pullo starts ticking off a list, which includes getting rid of "that snake Evander." Realizing what he's revealed, Pullo finally admits to knowing about Niobe's child, and to killing the man who fathered him. "She loved you. You were happy together," he says, attempting to talk him down. "What was I supposed to do? If I'd told you...you would have killed her." Vorenus throws him out.
Mark Antony meets with Cicero, who casually informs Antony of the considerable army Octavian has raised. Antony mocks the "cripples and fools" the boy has likely bought, but Cicero lets him know he's enlisted veterans. Standing up before a potted plant adjacent to the senate leader, Antony lifts his tunic and begins urinating in it as he informs Cicero of his new plans: he no longer wishes to take the Governorship of Macedonia; he wishes to take Gaul. The weather is better. The Senate will not pass such a measure, Cicero tells him, as they will see it as emulating Caesar, camping on the border with his legions, scaring Rome into doing whatever he wishes. Antony laughs, insisting he'd never thought of such a thing.
"You are the Senate, Cicero," Antony says before suggesting he propose his new Governorship at the next meeting. Cicero protests. "The Senate would know I was backing you through fear of death." He refuses Antony's offer of a bribe, so instead he receives a threat, a reminder of how his old friend Crassus died (molten gold poured down his throat). "Enough," Cicero says, giving in. "It is correct what you say. The weather in Macedonia is dreadful."
When Pullo tries to explain and apologize to Vorenus for not telling him about Niobe, he is quickly forgiven. "How can I not forgive you, Pullo. You're all I have left in life." They embrace stiffly, as Pullo, looking confused by his friend's sudden turnaround, changes the subject back to the Aventine war. He suggests they let Carbo pay a fine and talk to Memmio. "You may be right," Vorenus allows, "but it's too late now."
In fact, Carbo is entering a public latrine to take care of business, two of his men in tow. They're interrupted by Mascius, Appius and three other gangsters, who knock out the men before turning Carbo upside down, head first into the open toilet seat. As Mascius beats the struggling Carbo, Appius rips his pants off.
At Atia's villa, a strapping young man arrives announcing he has a message for the mistress of the house - from her son. As he waits for her, he stumbles upon Octavia practicing the lyre. Enchanted, he watches until she notices him, then introduces himself: Marcus Agrippa, a friend of "Caesar Octavian". Her brother is now a powerful man, he explains, in charge of an army 10,000 strong. "I have written him 100 times asking him to stop this madness - he doesn't listen to me," Octavia tells Agrippa. "On the contrary," the man replies, "I think you are the only person he listens to." Atia enters, overhearing this last part, and receives the message from her son: he wants to know that she is well, and to assure her of his respect and fidelity. And in the name of family, she should keep an open mind about her future prospects. In response, Atia threatens to tell Mark Antony "where the traitors are," given that Octavian is deliberately challenging him. Her daughter begs her not to. "He's your son's friend...no telling what Antony will do to him." "I have no son," Atia responds.
In the meantime, Atia's boy slave, Duro, pays a visit to Eleni. Duro demands to speak to Servilia. After being refused, he threatens to leave until Servilia stops him - demanding to know why Atia is still alive. He can't find the right time, he tells her; she always eats with her daughter. If she doesn't mind killing both of them, he could do it tomorrow. "No harm to the girl," Servilia insists. He asks her for patience - and more money. When she gives in and hands it over, he insists on one more parting gift - a kiss. At first appalled at his gall, she reconsiders in the name of her mission and plants one on the boy.
At a Bithynian salon, Cassius is making an appeal for money to the local dignitaries. "Those who help us now will have good friends in Rome when the traitor Mark Antony is deposed...With or without your help, we shall raise an army...Antony's head will rot on a spike." Ignoring his request, the Vizier asks about the shows where Roman women have sex with baboons. At a loss, Cassius explains it's "more of a punishment" than a show, and suggests they could always train baboons in Bithynia. "You need my money to raise an army. I want to see a Roman woman f**ked by baboons," the man responds. Cassius allows that "arrangements can be made."
In the background, a tipsy Brutus is bragging to the other Bithnyians about killing Caesar, but the men appear more amused than impressed. "Seems rather cowardly..." a Pontic dignitary says to him. "Perhaps I shall find a fresh corpse to stab and become great myself." Brutus becomes enraged, calling the man a dog and telling him he'll pay for his insult. Cassius intervenes and escorts Brutus to another tent, where he tells him he's lost his way.
Mark Antony informs Atia he knows all about Octavian's friend - Agrippa's in Rome meeting with Cicero, attempting to form an alliance against him. Unfazed, he tells her the Senate leader will refuse, as "I have my foot on Cicero's throat." Worried what Antony will do to Octavian, she makes him swear on Jupiter's stone he will not harm the boy.
In the rural slave barracks, Lyde manages to wriggle open the slave cage and escape, but the others are caught. Torn over what to do, she makes a run for it into the night.
Eirene stumbles upon the body of Appius, hanging upside down. Mascius is sure that its Memmio's work - a Caelian coin was left in the gangster's mouth. Vorenus is ready to declare a war, but Pullo challenges him, setting off his suspicions that he's on Memmio's side. "Can't you see what's happening to you?" Pullo asks, incredulous. "A demon has possessed you!" Upping the ante, Vorenus accuses him of having an affair with Niobe. Beside himself, Pullo swears "on the bones of my mother" nothing happened between them. But when nothing appeases him, Pullo gives up. "Okay I f**ked her. Me and every guy..." The two go at it until they crash through the second-level office onto the men below. Vorenus can barely move, but Pullo manages to get up, gather Eirene, and leave the Aventine.
Far from Rome, a gaunt, long-haired Brutus rides his horse to a river, disrobes and wades in to his waist. With his arms lifted to Janus, the God of new beginnings, Brutus begs to start his life anew. "As the shore is scoured by the tide, let me be cleansed..." He submerges himself.
On the Senate floor, Mark Antony arrives late, only to find that Cicero has not arrived at all. A clerk announces Cicero has left a speech he insists be read into the rolls. Confident of what's ahead, Antony sits back. "'When I was a young man, I defended our state,'" the scrolls begin. "'As an old man I shall not abandon it." The clerk pauses when he realizes what he is to read next. Addressed directly to Mark Antony, Cicero says, "'Please listen as if you were sober and intelligent, and a not a drink-sodden, sex-addled wreck." The senators begin leaving in droves as the blood rushes to Antony's face. The clerk trembles. "'You have brought upon us war, pestilence and destruction. You are Rome's...Helen of Troy." Refusing to read on for fear of what will come next, Antony demands the clerk continue, as the senators continue to scurry out. "But then a woman's role has always suited you best." With this, Mark Antony bludgeons the clerk with all his rage, then looks around to find an empty senate.
Outside of Rome, Cicero rides in a litter with his slave Tyro, dictating a note to Octavian "Caesar." "Tell him I've exposed Antony for the debauched wreck that he is...At this time the Republic would be most grateful to accept Caesar's offer of assistance. We shall need his army at once."
After escaping Vorenus and traveling to Massilia for several months, Pullo and Eirene return to the Aventine, where all that's left is a burned out carcass of buildings. They stumble upon Mascius, who explains that Vorenus went north with Mark Antony. "Ever since we gave Carbo one up the ass, the Caelians boys and their friends have been going at us like Belgians." They lost ten men this month alone, he adds, begging Pullo to stay on. A bewildered Pullo is convinced the gods are playing tricks, as he was certain they told him to go back to Rome and find Vorenus. He tells Eirene its best they get out of Italy before the next civil war comes.
As they leave the city, they're interrupted by a sickly-looking beggar woman looking for directions to the Aventine. She recognizes Pullo. "Lyde?" he says, as she collapses, overcome with relief. She tells him the children are still alive.
Alone at the dinner table, Atia asks after Octavia. She won't be joining, her servants inform her. Back in the kitchen, Duro waits for the others to leave before pouring a liquid into the stew. He watches in the wings as the young cook, Althea, delivers the bowl to her mistress.
On a country road, a horse gallops into the afternoon sky. Pullo leans forward in earnest, his mission finally clear.