I wanna be Titus Pullo.
(Warning, there are minor spoilers toward the end of this, after the cut)
If you’re watching Rome you know what I’m talkin’ about. If you’re not watching Rome, well, we’re down to the last episode, so wait for the DVD to come out; which should hit when next season rolls around. Or wait for HBO to start a re-show.
Rome is a fantastic show; it takes a few episodes to get going and knowing your roman history helps a little since they don’t always explain the relationships and historical significance of everything. But once the show gets going, it’s fucking brilliant, well written, well acted, incredibly well cast.
But I’ve said all that before.
The thing I want to talk about, though, is Titus Pullo.
Again, if you’re watching Rome, you know what I mean. Though the show features all of the major historical figures, Julius Caesar, Marc Antony, Brutus, Cleopatra, etc., the heart and soul of it all is two roman soldiers, Lucius Vorenus, a Roman centurion when the show begins, and Pullo, a legionnaire. Vorenus is described on HBO’s site as ‘honorable and pragmatic‘; he’s a simple man who values loyalty, duty, honor and family. He’s a patriot, who lives and breathes rome and his legion, the thirtheenth.
Pullo, is Vorenus’ opposite in many ways. HBO’s site describes him as: “A ferocious lover of life, possessing the courage and loyalty of a warrior, but the morality of a pirate. A man of huge appetites and wild passions. Impulsive, unreflective, optimistic, conceited, generous, and brutal.”
Here’s why I like Pullo:
Vorenus: Do you think of *nothing* but women?
Pullo: What else is there? [he thinks]
Pullo: Food, I s’pose.
This is who I am, in my head. He’s an animal, a lover, a warrior, a brutal killer. Yet there’s something poetic about him. When he speaks of women, he has a tone of near awe, and a faraway look in his eye. Even when he’s talking about a whore, or a slave girl, he’s not speaking of a lesser thing, but of love and beauty.
The show is filled with brilliant Pullo moments. Conversations with Vorenus (“When you couple with her, there’s a spot just above her cunny, it’s like a little button. Now – attend to that button, and she will open up, like a flower…“), with the boy Octavian, with Vorenus’ wife Niobe. Moments of brilliance.
And then there’s the violence. He’s a man capable of murder and torture, a man who explodes. There’s a scene where he kills a slave in a moment of jealous rage, beats the man’s head to jelly against a tree for presuming to marry the girl of Pullo’s desire, the just-freed slave Eirene. And I watched that and understood, I could feel myself beating a man’s head that way for presuming to take my girl. I was there with Pullo, an innocent man’s blood and gore on my hands. And I liked the feeling.
There’s a simply spectacular scene in the penultimate episode, “The Spoils”, where Pullo, condemned to die in the arena for the murder-for-hire of a minor political figure, sits on the sand and refuses to fight. After sinking to crime in a previous episode, he has faced his actions, found himself unworthy, sacrafied to his gods while asking only good for Vorenus and Eirene. Pullo sits and asks the gladiators to simply kill him.
Yet they won’t, instead taunting him while he sits like a rock. Until they insult his legion. Then, only then, when they transgress upon his loyalty, does he stand and fight, and oh, what a fight. One of the most brutal fights I’ve even seen on film, with beheadings, legs and arms hacked off, an impalement. Pullo goes from stone to berserker, killing everyone in sight which sreaming for his legion, ‘Thirteen, Thirteen, Thirteen!’
Not for himself – for those he loves. When he’s given up on himself, his rage and bloodlust are brought out by an affront to his loyalty.
This is the me in my head. Rogue, womanizer, lover, fighter. The soul of a poet in the body of a brute. The potential for murderous violence lurking just beneath a jovial exterior. A man who can and will do anything that needs doing, will kill or die for those to whom he’s made promises. Fiercely loyal, yet for all that, a criminal, a villain, a pirate. A man who can and will take what he wants, yet will die to protect his.
I sit at a desk and tap-tap-tap away. Yet somewhere I’m up to my shoulders in gore, a slave girl or whore on one arm, a wine-skin in the other. Spoils of war before me, carnage behind.
That’s who I should have been. I was born in the wrong place, the wrong time. Where’s my sword and slave girl? I should have been Pullo.