If the past is a foreign country, then ancient religion may be its most exotic locale. The HBO series “Rome,” which returns for its second season on Sunday, is hardly “Fodor’s Guide to Paganism,” but by venturing off some well-worn cinematic paths, the show has given the worship of the gods a generous treatment in a genre dominated by stories of gladiators and the advent of Christ…
Departing from traditional portrayals of the ancient superpower going back to Shakespeare, which tended to focus on the intrigues of the upper classes, “Rome” splits its narrative between the power brokers of the period and the daily lives of two lower-class soldiers, Pullo and Lucius Vorenus.
Daily life for Romans included a strong measure of religion, and Heller says it was clear early in his research for the show that its omnipresence meant that matters of faith had to play a major role in the series.
“You couldn’t really explain individual psychology and character without explaining something of their sense of religion and their cosmological sense,” Heller says. “If you think you’re going to disappear into nothingness when you die, you behave very different from someone who believes that they may be wafted up to the Elysian Fields if they please the gods.”