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GenreDrama, Historical
Written bySara B. Cooper
Chip Johannessen
Directed byJohn Gray
Kim Manners
StarringSantiago Cabrera
Vincent Regan
Emily Blunt
James Frain
Jonathan Cake
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons1
No. of episodes6
Production locationsRome, Lazio, Italy
Running time60 minutes
Production companiesStoryline Entertainment
Touchstone Television
DistributorBuena Vista Home Entertainment
Original networkABC
Original releaseJune 28 (2005-06-28) –
July 26, 2005 (2005-07-26)

Empire is an American historical television series for ABC. It is an historical drama set in 44 BC Rome, and covers the struggle of a young Octavius (Santiago Cabrera), the nephew and heir of Julius Caesar, to become the first emperor of Rome. Octavius is helped in his quest by a fictitious gladiator called Tyrannus (Jonathan Cake).

The series, filmed entirely in Rome and South Central Italy, was directed by John Gray and Kim Manners, and was produced by Carrie Henderson and Nick Gillott (episodes 4 and 6). It was written by Sara B. Cooper, Chip Johannessen, Tom Wheeler and William Wheeler.


Camane, a Vestal Virgin, is the only one of her order to see visions of the future. Desperate to avoid the carnage she foresees, Camane sneaks out of the temple to warn Julius Caesar, his sister Atia, and nephew Octavius.

Ignoring Atia and Octavius's pleas to heed the warning, Caesar returns to the Senate, and is murdered by his conspiring fellow senators, who fear his increasing power and popularity amongst the citizens of Rome. In the process, the conspirators lose the support of Mark Antony, who is appalled at their violent treachery.

The assassination is able to happen because Tyrannus, a former gladiator who serves as Caesar's bodyguard, was distracted by the kidnapping of his young son Piso by a group of hired assassins. Tyrannus manages to rescue Piso, but returns to a fatally wounded Caesar; however, Caesar remains alive long enough to tell him that Octavius is his chosen successor and orders Tyrannus to protect him.

Tyrannus sends his wife and son away and then leaves Rome with Octavius to protect him from assassination. Outside Rome they begin to seek allies who are willing to overthrow the senate. To Octavius, Mark Antony appears a willing and eager supporter of his cause and the two quickly become close allies. Antony verbally agrees to join Octavius and even signs a document stating that Octavius has the support of his troops should he die; however, Octavius makes the naïve mistake of offering Antony leadership if he himself should perish. It is after this agreement that Antony's true intentions are made known when he attempts to have Octavius killed. Antony almost succeeds, but the weak and poisoned Octavius is saved by a young Marcus Agrippa. Camane, having seen the danger in her visions, arrives and saves Octavius' life by getting the poison out of him. It is then revealed that Camane has fallen in love with Octavius through her visions.

Once recovered, Octavius, Agrippa, and a few companions make for Gaul, where Octavius aims to enlist the help of his uncle's former Third Legion. According to the story, the Third Legion was disgraced in battle, and Julius Caesar had one in every ten men killed (decimation). The survivors have remained in the Italian hinterlands ever since, living as bandits, and are collectively known as the ‘Lost Legion’. At first these men want to avenge themselves by killing Octavius, but Octavius manages to win their support with the help of Cicero.

Meanwhile, Tyrannus' wife has died and Piso has been adopted by a noble family on the island to which they fled. Thinking Octavius dead and desiring to be able to afford the opportunity to raise his son, Tyrannus joins with Mark Antony as a centurion. As a centurion Tyrannus has the means to educate and raise his son as a nobleman, but finds the soldiers under his command to be suspicious of him and upset at being subordinant to this low-born gladiator. After he saves one of his men from being killed, an act that nearly costs him his own life, Tyrannus earns the respect of his men.

Mark Antony, having now allied himself with the Senate, hears of Octavius's survival and moves quickly to intercept him before he can gain too large a following. Antony's army is superior in size to that of Octavius, and it includes the men under command of Tyrannus.

In the ensuing battle, Octavius rallies his troops, despite being heavily outnumbered. Nevertheless, they begin to lose ground, and Antony appears to have won. At that moment Tyrannus and his men change sides and turn the tide of battle. As the conflict closes Mark Antony is disarmed, but Octavius shows him mercy and does not kill him.

For her assistance, Octavius appoints Camane matriarch of the order of Vesta, and she cries as she realized that she shall never be with him. Octavius appears unmoved.

The saddened Camane relates that Tyrannus vanished from the pages of history, having given up a life of renewed glory at Octavius's side to raise Piso and live a normal life.


Historical notes


The series has received a mixed response, with many film critics giving negative reviews. The drama has been criticized for its lack of historical accuracy and tendency to portray the characters in a simplistic way as either "good guys" or "bad guys". It was also thought to be heavily imitative of the film Gladiator (2000).