Malkhos (malkhos) wrote in althistory,
Malkhos
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Salome

 I recently saw this version of Salome, and was surprised to find that it proposed an alternate history.

it was subtle, they never spelled out the alternate history, but just presented the result of whatever the divergence was.

The film opens with a text screen explaining that Julius Caesar was succeeded by Tiberius. This is really the only clue to what happened. What we have to suppose is that Caesar was not assassinated but reigned for several decades (presumably without launching his planned conquest of Parthia). Octavian must have died, perhaps in childhood, and it would be typical of Caesar to reach out to the opposition and elevate the Pompeian Ti. Claudius Nero to a high status, with his son eventually succeeding.

In the first scene of the film Tiberius interviews Pontius Pilate, who is introduced as commander of the ninth legion. Hints in this scene and later in the film show that he had been in charge of the conquest of Britain, several decades before Claudius actually took the Island. Pilate is made 'Governor of the East" presumably menaing of Syria. Strangely, he is not sent to Antioch as his HQ, or even to Caesarea where the procurator of Judea was HQed, but to Jerusalem. This is never explained, nor why Herod Antipas seems to be the ruler of Jerusalem. Salome had evidently been kept hostage at Rome for most of her life and is ordered to go back to Judea with Pilate. While in Rome she evidently fell in love with Tiberius' heir apparent. Now this is not Tiberius' son Drusus, nor either of his nephews Germanicus or Gaius (Caligula), but a certain Marcellus. Who this I cannot fathom, except perhaps Tiberius is foresahdowing the policy of the later '5 good emperors' and has adopted some competent individual from outside his family to make sure there is no succession trouble (perhaps in this time-line, Caesar had established a precedent by adopting Tiberius himself). But more strangely, this Marcellus and Salome are definitely convicned that the only possibility of a relationship between them is a full marriage. Salome asserts Tiberius would not allow it because she is a barbarian, though I would think the insignificance of her step-father's political position would carry more weight--though certainly any marriage of an Emperor in the early first century would have to be within the Roman aristocracy. For some reason, it never occurs to them that she could have become Marcellus' mistress without attracting Tiberius' concern or harming their social and political positions (a la Caesar and Cleopatra--although how that turned out in this time-line--and what happened to Cesarion--s never revealed). 

This pretty much covers the geo-political divergence postulated in the film, but it's filled with innumerable tiny references that show the world of the film is startlingly different from the world of history as we know it. I'll just mention 2 of the instnaces that stood out to me. When the single ship carrying Pilate and Salome approaches an unnamed port in Coleo-Syria (presumably Caesarea), one of the sailors shouts out "Land ho." Even if the ship had left sight of land to make a shorter crossing from Cyprus to the Levant, the ship would have paralleling the coast in sight of land for several days, so such a cry could never have been uttered. Although the ship they are in seems to be a pentekonter (cursorily small for such important passengers), it seems that some breakthrough in navigation, if not naval architecture, must have been made, allowing deep water passages to become standard. Another mystifying detail comes while the party journies overland to Jerusalem. Rather than using a road, traveling in coaches, and staying either in the oppida established at the end of each day's journey or in the houses of local aristocrats, they go overland, riding on horseback (Salome on a camel), and sleep in tents. During a night's camping, one of Pilate's aides saves Salome from being bitten by a gila monster. It is hard to imagine the divergence that brought these creatures to the Judea wilderness, but it must have come in the distant past (not even Caesar sponsoring a voyage of discovery that reached America could account for these animals running wild in the Syrian desert) and have had precious little follow-on effect since the time-line up to Cesar seems to have been otherwise unaffected.

But perhaps the greatest deviation form historical reality is to be be found in the film's ability to make Rita Hayworth appear bland and sexless.
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