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I, Claudius;The Rise of Vir; The parallels

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  • I, Claudius;The Rise of Vir; The parallels

    Spoiler warning

    ************************************************** ************************************************** ************************************************** ******************************************

    Has anybody here noticed the very strong parallels between the storyline of I, Claudius and the ascent of Vir Cotto? For those not familiar, I, Claudius was a fantastic 14 episode BBC production based on the Robert Graves novel that first aired in 1976. It follows the the life of the Emperor Claudius through his boyhood to his eventual rise to the imperial throne. The intrigues of the Julio-Claudian line of Roman Emperors provides the backdrop to the story. Much like our hero, Vir, the young Claudius is depicted as a bumbling halfwit who seems to drift through the events around him untouched. There are alliances, betrayals, omens, assassinations, poisonings and other skullduggery in spades. The evolution of the young Claudius is very similar to that of Vir. He displays a knack for scholarship and a keen eye for court intrigue. In the end, he unwittingly outsmarts everybody and winds up on the throne. It wouldn't surprise me if JMS had given I, Claudius a few viewings at some point. The antics of the Emperor Cartaggia are nearly a dead ringer for John Hurt's turn as Caligula (Caligula/Cartaggia, almost a cognate). I, Claudius is available on DVD, and I recommend it highly to any B5er.

  • #2
    I do recall a few bits. Joe has said frequently that he patterened a lot of the Centauri after the old Roman empire. The "Hands of Friendship" that shows up every now and then is an old Roman greeting, and the Emperor and the Centaurum are a straight copy from the Roman system. I wouldn't know if the Great Maker actually watched the series or not. However, if the Claudius story has any bearing in history at all (by your indications, it might), it's probably a safe bet that it influenced Vir.
    Radhil Trebors
    Persona Under Construction

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    • #3
      Oh dear yes, jms definitely watched I, Claudius :

      Originally posted by jms
      From: Jms at B5
      Subject: Re:Random thoughts
      To: AOL
      Date: 2/20/1996 5:51:00 PM

      Thanks. It is, I think, a uniquely American concern, since it's long been
      common for writers in the UK to write a goodly portion of any season;
      McGoohan did much of The Prisoner (under a variety of names), and Terry
      Nation wrote the entire (and some say best) season of Blake's 7, though that
      was only 13 episodes. (I believe the adaptation of I, Claudius, at 12 hours
      or so, was done by one writer...and it's the best thing ever made for TV, I
      think.
      )

      jms.

      For reference; I wrote this some time ago for another website(h2g2.com). Vaguely relevant I think.

      TM.

      Babylon 5 - Londo Mollari

      Londo Mollari - Ambassador of the Centauri Republic.

      By far the most complex character in Babylon 5 is Londo Mollari. To simply dismiss him as a loser or a baddie does not do justice to the excellent portrayal by actor Peter Jurassic.

      During Season One Londo could be dismissed as a member of a rigid caste, located on the homeworld of Centauri Prime, who's sole purpose is to climb the social ladder and make sure that no one removes the rungs while he is on his way up. In a way he is quite a funny person and not to be taken too seriously. His sidekick, who is to become more and more important as the series progresses, is Vir Cotto. He will become Londo's confidante as the years go by and the only person Londo will fully come to trust.

      Londo's relevance to Babylon 5 starts to change during the second season. The interaction with the Narn G'Kar (played brilliantly by Andreas Katsulas) becomes much more complex, and Londo's own motivation becomes much more obscure than was apparent before. Here is a man who is caught between a rock and a hard place... or rather between Centauri Prime(a rock) and Babylon 5(a very hard place). To make matters worse he has a recurring vision of himself as Emperor over a Centauri Empire that has totally collapsed.

      So on the one hand there is nothing he would rather be than the Emperor, but on the other hand he feels that this will be a catastrophe for his people and his world. This ambiguity is visible throughout seasons three, four and five in which he finally makes the ultimate sacrifice for his people.

      Londo is of course greatly influenced by his Centauri-peers and his upbringing on the homeworld. On the other hand the influence of Babylon 5 itself, with all its lifeforms and non-Centauri social interactions and philosophies, starts to change Londo and alienates him somewhat from his fellow-Centauri. This is of course essential for Londo as he is the ambassador to Babylon 5 and has to deal with a multitude of aliens, but it also frequently causes problems between him and the homeworld.

      One must keep in mind that the Centauri Republic is in decline and extremely self-involved. As Londo sees more and more of 'the big picture' his thoughts and ideas clash more and more with the powers that be on Centauri Prime.

      Londo is far from perfect. He schemes, wheels and deals to get his way, mostly for the benefit of Centauri Prime but sometimes just for his own well being. As it is the sole purpose in life for any Centauri to rise in the hierarchy of the homeworld, there is nothing wrong with Londo's behaviour. It is the other races who become annoyed because the Centauri-philosophy is not their own. Seen from Londo's point of view however, he is in fact a man of great integrity.

      As the Babylon 5 storyline continues to unfold, Londo becomes a more prominent/influential figure and is frequently asked for help. Most of the other major players in the game do not like asking Londo for anything but, sometimes, there is no other solution. They dislike asking for his help mainly because Londo may use the information gained for other purposes. This is a man for whom the word 'Intrigue' was invented. It does not mean that Londo is totally amoral and unethical, as many of his Babylon 5 contemporaries think. In fact, within the framework of Centauri ethics Londo is a man of great integrity.

      Londo's problems really start when he accepts the help of Morden, the Shadows' representative. In order to help him to gain stature on Centauri Prime, the Shadows destroy a Narn-outpost(the Narn have been the Centauri's enemy for years). From this moment on Londo starts to realise he may have signed a pact with the devil.

      Ultimately his liason with the Shadows causes the complete devastation of Centauri Prime(as shown in the brilliant episode 'The Fall of Centauri Prime'). This episode is very memorable. Few Science Fiction-episodes end so dramatically. Londo finally makes it to the emperor's throne but, as can be seen in the final shot of the episode, he is utterly alone and his homeworld is in total shambles.

      His nightmare has finally come true and he has no choice but to submit to a 'Keeper', a parasite that is able to control Londo when it's interests (or those of its allies) are threatened. If he refuses Centauri Prime and it's population will be completely obliterated by the allies of the Shadows.

      As Londo realises this he observes that:
      'It is ironic. When I was young I had no power and all the options. Now I finally have all the power but I have no options at all'.

      Although the Centauri Republic has often been compared, by sources close to the Babylon 5 project, to the British Empire in decline, it might be better to draw a paralell with the Decline and fall of the Roman Empire. In the Roman Empire, Emperor Augustus came first. He was succeeded by Caligula (after the death of several official heirs) who was replaced by Claudius. Compare Londo to Augustus, Cartagia to Caligula and Vir to Claudius and you may see the parallels.

      Years after Londo has assumes the throne he finally sees the chance to escape from his fate by dying at the hands of his old enemy G'Kar. Londo's vision has finally become reality as this is exactly what he has seen in his dream all those years.

      It is ironic that the two men and long-time enemies understand each other better than anyone else in the world.

      Please note : all opinions are the authors and should be regarded as such.

      Towelmaster
      Last edited by Towelmaster; 03-30-2005, 02:25 AM.
      "En wat als tijd de helft van echtheid was, was alles dan dubbelsnel verbaal?"

      Comment


      • #4
        "I am drunk. I stand between the pitcher and the toilet. We are drunk. We lie between the table and the floor."

        That's damn funny. But wouldn't it be, "I am become drunk"?
        Only a fool fights in a burning house.

        Comment


        • #5
          JMS has mentioned drawing inspiration from ancient Rome (both the empire and the late Republic) and the similarities between Vir and Claudius on the one hand and Caligula/Nero and Cartagia on the other are obvious. (Even the names point to the connections. Cartagia is a clear echo of Caligula, "Vir" is Latin for "Man", making Vir an "Everyman" - or EveryCentauri - figure.) Although JMS was clearly familiar with the BBC series, chances are he was already familiar with Claudius from his reading of history (including Gibbon, which I'm sure he would not have missed) and from reading Robert Graves' two novels, I, Claudius and Claudius the God.

          if the Claudius story has any bearing in history at all (by your indications, it might), it's probably a safe bet that it influenced Vir.
          Yes, the Claudius story has "some bearing in history". Both the books and the mini-series are extraordinarily faithful to the ancient sources and more recent scholarship. Claudius is known to have written a history of the early Empire, beginning with Augustus, down to his own reign. The text was lost but is referred to and fragmentary quotations may appear in other works that do survive. The literary pose taken by the Graves novels is that they are the lost Claudius manuscript, discovered by archaelogists, translated and edited by Graves himself. (In this respect they oddly resemble Tolkein's approach in The Lord of the Rings.)

          Regards,

          Joe
          Joseph DeMartino
          Sigh Corps
          Pat Tallman Division

          Comment


          • #6
            Yes, the Claudius story has "some bearing in history".
            My ancient cultures knowledge is not up to speed. It was the safest phrase I could use without looking like an idiot...

            Oops, too late.
            Radhil Trebors
            Persona Under Construction

            Comment


            • #7
              Here are parts of a couple of JMS posts touching on the influence of actual history on his approach to storytelling, including the examples of Claudius and Caligula:

              As for the Centauri back home ... you proceed from the assumption that all Centauri act as one. I'm basing this somewhat on the early Roman civilization and government, where one side would sell out the other, arrange for deaths and murders, turn people over to their hated enemies as long as it advanced their position, or if they were allied with persons of power on a particular side. Why did the Roman guards escorting Tiberius (a much less worthy emperor) kill the heir to the throne in "I, Claudius" (a much better leader, and well liked among the military)? Because they were told to do so.

              SF in TV has the tendency to portray aliens as monolithic ... they put the good of their species as a whole above everything else. Some do that; some do not. Just as with humans.

              ************************************************** *****************************

              And as far as Caligula goes, the sense of it is there, but not the details...and even if they *were*, basing part of a story on historical precedent, on actual events, is hardly inappropriate. (And in this case, again, it isn't based on that ... evocative of it, yes, but nothing more.)

              The notion of the Vorlons and Shadows representing Order and Chaos goes back to the Babylonian creation myths, that the universe was born in the conflict between order and chaos, hence part of the reason I decided to name this show after Babylon. That's called *research*. It informs the show, but it is not the show.
              Joseph DeMartino
              Sigh Corps
              Pat Tallman Division

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by B5_Obsessed
                "I am drunk. I stand between the pitcher and the toilet. We are drunk. We lie between the table and the floor."

                That's damn funny. But wouldn't it be, "I am become drunk"?
                Fixed especially for you.
                "En wat als tijd de helft van echtheid was, was alles dan dubbelsnel verbaal?"

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Joseph DeMartino
                  JMS has mentioned drawing inspiration from ancient Rome (both the empire and the late Republic) and the similarities between Vir and Claudius on the one hand and Caligula/Nero and Cartagia on the other are obvious. (Even the names point to the connections. Cartagia is a clear echo of Caligula, "Vir" is Latin for "Man", making Vir an "Everyman" - or EveryCentauri - figure.) Although JMS was clearly familiar with the BBC series, chances are he was already familiar with Claudius from his reading of history (including Gibbon, which I'm sure he would not have missed) and from reading Robert Graves' two novels, I, Claudius and Claudius the God.
                  Curious, I always thought that the model for the Centauri was the Napoleon's Empire. Napoleon was Emperor of the French Republic.
                  And "vir" doesn't mean "everyman" in latin. It means "hero".

                  Claudius replaced Caligula. I don't see Londo as a Caligula.
                  What I don't understand is how Vir managed to get rid of the Drakh? Even if Londo and his keeper were dead, some Drakh must have been still around. That's one of the plots left unsolved in the series.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Redrake
                    Claudius replaced Caligula. I don't see Londo as a Caligula.
                    That's because Cartagia reflects Caligula, not Londo. Just because JMS has based the Centauri on the Roman Empire doesn't mean he has to follow the line of Emperors verbatim.

                    What I don't understand is how Vir managed to get rid of the Drakh? Even if Londo and his keeper were dead, some Drakh must have been still around. That's one of the plots left unsolved in the series.
                    Yeah, you need to read the Legions of Fire trilogy for that one.

                    Cheers,
                    The Optimist: The glass is half full
                    The Pessimist: The glass is half empty
                    The Engineer: The glass is twice as big as it needs to be

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Garibaldi's Hair
                      Yeah, you need to read the Legions of Fire trilogy for that one.

                      Cheers,
                      I can't do that. Here we don't have any B5 books, except if there are some pirated versions DL-ed. As for buying from outside the country, I could buy them online, but it would be a waste of money. No one is sending here fearing of scams.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Towelmaster,

                        Nice work. I would only suggest that Emmperor Turhan is Augustus, who in his old age is manipulated by the forces scheming to determine his heir. Remember that Turhan's son is killed, leaving no clear heir? Well, guess what? Augustus' son-in-law and clear heir, Agrippa, died in 12 BC leaving Augustus to be manipulated in his old age by people scheming to determine his heir.
                        I believe that when we leave a place, part of it goes with us and part of us remains. Go anywhere in the station, when it is quiet, and just listen. After a while, you will hear the echoes of all our conversations, every thought and word we've exchanged. Long after we are gone .. our voices will linger in these walls for as long as this place remains. But I will admit .. that the part of me that is going .. will very much miss the part of you that is staying.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Disclaimer: I am a scholar of neither Latin nor Attic Greek, having flunked the latter and never studied the former. But I do know a bit of volcabularly and usage in both languages because my interests in history, literatrue and philosophy require it.

                          And "vir" doesn't mean "everyman" in latin. It means "hero".
                          No, as I indicated "vir" means "man", which metaphorically makes Vir an "everyman". (Just as "Adam" was not originally a personal name, but a word for "Human" or "Man" - you name a character "Man", even in a foreign language, and you're pretty much labeling him as an everyman.) It doesn't mean "hero", at least not as commonly used.

                          Latin, like ancient Greek (and English, for that matter), often had several words for the same object, though emphasizing different traits or aspects of the object. In Greek anthropos meant "human being" in the broadest sense, while "andros" meant "man" in the specificaly male sense. ("Gynos" means "woman" in the specifically female sense, hence words like "gynecology" for the medical field specializing in the female reproductive system and "androgyny" for a person exhibiting both male and female traits.)

                          Similarly Latin has both "homo" for "person", often meaning "man" generally (as in Pilate's "Ecce homo", "Behold the man", addressed to the crowd at Jerusalem) and "vir" - specifically indicating maleness - but not necessarily "heroism" and I don't know anyone who would translate "Vir" as "hero" in most instances. Vir militaris simply meant "military man", for instance, not "military hero". It indicated someone who owed his place in the Roman political world purely to his military prowess and reputation, not to family connections, education or experience in the law courts and lower rungs of the political ladder.

                          Gais Marius was a vir militaris, because his family was not prominent and he only became consul because of the popularity of his military victories. His cousin, the rebel Quintus Sertorius, was likewise a military man. The patrician Lucius Cornelius Sulla, who may have been as good a general as either of them, was not a military man as the Romans understood it, because he had consular ancestors going back to the beginnings of the Republic. And Gaius Julius Caesar the Dictator, the greatest general the Republic produced, was never a military man at all.

                          Regards,

                          Joe
                          Joseph DeMartino
                          Sigh Corps
                          Pat Tallman Division

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                          • #14
                            Re: The meaning of 'Vir'

                            I think most scholars of Latin would agree that 'Vir' is used to specifically denote a man in the sense of a "manly man" and not a mere male. It comes to us as the root for virtue. However, "hero" is probably going too far.

                            "Homo doctvs" is a learned man, but "Vir prudens" is a wise man.
                            I believe that when we leave a place, part of it goes with us and part of us remains. Go anywhere in the station, when it is quiet, and just listen. After a while, you will hear the echoes of all our conversations, every thought and word we've exchanged. Long after we are gone .. our voices will linger in these walls for as long as this place remains. But I will admit .. that the part of me that is going .. will very much miss the part of you that is staying.

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                            • #15
                              "Sic Transit Vir"...... Thus passes the man.
                              "The trouble with being a cynic is that you eventually get labelled as a highly reliable fortune-teller"

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