• title card: white all caps text reading ‘THE GRANDEUR THAT WAS ROME’ superimposed on dead worms in a box of soil
  • Cathy meets the disguised Steed at United Foods
  • Marcus, centre stage in Roman armour, gloats at Cathy, foreground left while Bruno gazes at her from the shadows
  • Sir Bruno leads his courtesans into the revel, dressed in an emperor’s toga
  • Steed, wearing a toga, is held at gunpoint by Apollodorus
  • Cathy is restrained by two Roman guards as Bruno plans to poison her

Series 3 — Episode 10
The Grandeur That Was Rome

by Rex Edwards
Designed by Stan Woodward
Directed by Kim Mills

Production No 3607, VTR/ABC/2869
Production completed: July 19 1963. First transmission: November 30 1963.

TV Times summary

In which Steed attends a Roman orgy and Cathy is offered as a human sacrifice

Plot summary

When Mrs. Gale finds ergot in grain produced by United Foods and Dressings Ltd, Steed is sure that it is a deliberate infection. Luker, the chairman of UFD, dreams of re-instating the Roman Empire and plans to decimate the world by releasing bubonic plague. Unbeknown to him, his deputy — Dodds — plans to overpower Luker and become the new Caesar. When Mrs. Gale stumbles on the truth she is given a poisoned chalice, but Steed dashes to the rescue. It is too late for Luker though; he has been slain by Dodds already.

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In an opulent Roman villa, Sir Bruno Luker (Hugh Burden) is visited by his deputy Gordon ‘Marcus’ Dodds (John Flint), just returned from an international trip. He tell Luker they have a new senator in Singapore, whom Sir Bruno decides will be named “Spartacus”. Marcus raises an eyebrow at the Roman affectation, but joins him in a Latin toast,1 and then tells him cryptically tells him the flies are warbling, the peasants itch and the pigs walk backwards.2 Bruno drops some earthworms on the soil he was preparing and they squirm and die.

Act 1

Acting as a delegate for the Universal Health and Famine Relief Organisation, Catherine Gale (Honor Blackman) visits United Foods and Dressings Ltd, a major world supplier of fertilisers and grains, to investigate reported famine conditions in much of England, and is greeted by Eastow (Ian Shand), the PR officer. She tells him there are widespread reports of bad effects on agriculture from modern earth dressings. She mentions soil erosion, and Aujenksy, a disease normally caused by salt poisoning that makes pig walk backwards…3 Eastow happily offers her the assistance of the entire factory but frowns after she leaves.

Sir Bruno is pleased with the impending arrival of Lucius with two legions from New York and Antonius Verus with the same from Paris4 but is concerned the plan is taking too long to come to fruition. Marcus protests that they can’t fail but Bruno is gloomy.

MARCUS: You saw that report from Appollodorus. The situation on the Continent is pretty advanced. Soon the whole process will be repeated in Britain.
BRUNO: But it all takes so long… It may lose its impact. I’m not a young man, Marcus. I need action, quickly…

On cue, Octavia (Colette Wilde) arrives and his mood brightens — he skips over and kisses her hand and asks her to bring some wine, and introduces her to Marcus, his First Consul. Sir Bruno is taken aback when Marcus seems a bit too interested in Octavia’s charms, and informs him she will be the future Lady Luker, and perhaps Empress.5

Octavia returns with the wine and Bruno tells her he’s depressed — it’s the feast of the Roman Lupercal, so he orders her to invite some of her ‘young friends’ to a bacchanalia. Octavia suggests Marcus should come too, and bring some of his friends. Marcus says he has to give a speech that night, but the oblivious Bruno suggests he come afterwards and stay the night, and in fact should move in to the villa permanently. Marcus move to Octavia and says that is a good idea and they toast to “Audacity, danger, devotion” — but it is Marcus and Octavia whose eyes meet…

John Steed (Patrick Macnee) drops by Cathy’s flat with some slides6 taken from farms around the country. Cathy discovers one of them is infected with Claviceps purpurea, a dark fungus that causes ergotism, which matches the itching and deafness experienced by some farmers. Steed grimly tells her the infected grain used dressing from her friends at UFD. He draws a mark he saw on some sacks at the farm and she says she’s seen it somewhere before — it’s like a d overlapping an x, but she turns it around and it’s a Chi-Ro.7

Eastow has a visit from the technical director Appleton (Kenneth Keeling) and they argue about the use of chemicals in modern farming, Eastow espousing the public’s negative view of chemical sprays and hormones. Appleton is also irate about Cathy being allowed to visit his research laboratories. He tells Eastow he has a lot of valuable equipment and he doesn’t want any woman in there — he is to refer her to him for anything technical.8 Eastow smiles as Appleton storms out.

Sir Bruno turns off new footage of a riot in Trafalgar Square9 and goes to console himself with Octavia, but Marcus arrives and they break their kiss.

BRUNO: Come in, Marcus, you’re very clumsy. How was the meeting?
MARCUS: Oh, it went very well.10
BRUNO: I know, I’ve just seen it on the news. Your organisation is getting lax. I want these meetings to be forceful and realistic; there must be some control. Soon, now, I shall come into the forefront myself
MARCUS: You, sir?
BRUNO: Certainly. ‘Caesar’ will not always be a ‘code name’. And I don’t wish to be associated with street brawls.

Sir Bruno announces that Appollodorus has suggest how to deliver their final coup and he outlines the far more deadly plan for world domination — the synthetic recreation of a new Black Plague, rather than simply creating famine. Bruno has scientists developing an inoculation for it, which will keep them safe and allow them to ransom the entire world. Marcus looks taken aback —

OCTAVIA: Are you squeamish, Marcus?
MARCUS: (RECOVERING) It’s a terrific idea. I salute you, Excellency. The world will be ours.
BRUNO: Not ours, Marcus. Mine.

Act 2

Steed visits the UFD factory, posing as an Agriculture Ministry boffin, and learns most of the factory is automated. Cathy hasn’t spotted any of the marked sacks and says she can just barely cope with Eastow’s public school Hooray Henry act, but Steed tells her the place needs watching as things are heating up. Sergeant Barnes (Colin Rix) meanwhile tells Eastow that last night went as planned, but he in unsure that Appleton would like Mrs. Gale being around.8

Octavia tells Marcus, who is getting sick of the “Roman gimmick” not to smoke. He’s about to embrace her when Bruno returns with a replica of the Imperial Purple robe worn by the Caesars, for his coronation — hearing this makes Marcus roll his eyes.

Bruno announces the antidote is ready for testing, and they need a human guinea pig. Octavia wicked suggests they should ask a party member, and looks pointedly at Marcus.

BRUNO: Are our Party-members so devoted? What would you say, Marcus? What’s there to be afraid of? Just a little shivering — a high fever — then the swellings, the bubosa edema of the lungs… then death. But not, of course, if the antidote works. Are you a devoted party-member, Marcus?
MARCUS: I am, sir. But I’m not a devoted guinea-pig. Leave it to me. I’ll find someone.

Marcus asks how they will spread the botulinus toxin; Sir Bruno smiles and tells him through the public water supplies.

Steed and Cathy develop the photos she has taken at the UFD factory while Steed tells her Sir Bruno Luker is the silent chairman of UFD. Cathy assures him the process at the factory is secure and she doesn’t think it can be tampered with once its in the pipes, but Steed is less sure. She finds that one of the photos shows sacks with the strange monogram, and Cathy tells Steed it was used by the Romans!7

Marcus meanwhile pursues Octavia and tries to convince her they no longer need Bruno — they can start a new Empire without him. Octavia says she isn’t sure but Marcus says he can make her think differently, and they kiss passionately.

Steed arrives with Bruno, claiming to be a seller of Roman antiquities and offers a statuette from the Temple of Mars Ultor, but then slips up by offering to sell a proto-Corinthian urn. He asks if Bruno has given up business and politics, which Bruno confirms before asks for Steed’s client’s number. On his way out, Steed meets Marcus, whom he recognises as a fascist politician. Bruno is annoyed Marcus was seen just after he had said he had nothing to do with politics. When he discovers Steed has given him the British Museum’s telephone number he orders Steed be dealt with if he ever returns.

Steed meets Cathy at the factory and tells her Gordon Dodds, a fascist political thug, was at Luker’s villa. She knows he is the leader of the World Empire Party, but considers them political chicken feed. Steed however warns her that with Bruno’s money and the fertiliser company they could become a force — Sir Bruno dreams of power and he’s teamed up with fascists to get it, explaining that they give each other Roman code names, and Dodds is known as Marcus.

Steed speculates that something is happening to the fertilisers after passing quality control but breaks off when Eastow enters the office to call Appleton. Eastow tells them they’re preparing a big shipment for the famine drive before bustling off.

STEED: This could be it. Increased food and fertilisers all over the world. This could be the opportunity Sir Bruno’s waiting for.
CATHY: If you’re right I think it’s time I threw myself to the lions.

Sir Bruno meanwhile holds a meeting with his leading senators and tells them of the plan for a single worldwide government run by their World Empire Party, and the plan to poison the world’s water supply to create a universal plague. Lucius (Raymond Adamson) is aghast but Bruno reassures him they will all be safe, as he has scientists working on a vaccine. He stands and proposes a toast — One government, one Empire, and one Caesar!

Cathy sneaks into the factory that night and drops a metal tray to make sure she is captured by Penrose and Barnes, but she is alarmed when Barnes makes a call:

BARNES: Hello? Cassio. Tell Caesar — we’ve got his guinea pig.

Act 3

The next morning, there’s no sign of Cathy and Appleton hopes she has nothing to do with the damage to his lab he found that morning. Barnes enters and claims she left around 9.30, he called a taxi to take her to her hotel and she hasn’t been seen since. Steed believes none of it and says he was to have dinner with Cathy last night and was waiting at her hotel, if she did catch a taxi it took her somewhere else.

Cathy meanwhile is peering out the barred window of a basement room, she looks for a way out and prises a large nail from some door moulding but is stopped when Marcus and Bruno enter in full Roman regalia. Bruno tells her he wants her help in a little experiment — she is to be an offering to the gods, but they are both afraid of her and Bruno leaps back when she turns to face him.

Back at the factory, Steed intercepts Sergeant Barnes when he tries to put a white powder in the inspection hatches of the feed pipes.

STEED: What are you doing? Poisoning the pig-food? Infecting the insecticide?
BARNES: What d’you mean, sir?
STEED: The nasty stuff is all in the sacks, isn’t it? The ones with the Roman monograms —
BARNES: Now, look , sir —
STEED: Oh, and what’s cooking with Mrs. Gale, eh? Told us a couple of fibs, Didn’t you? Naughty!
BARNES: All right, Mr. Steed —
STEED: All right, then… talk. The complete alfalfa, or I’ll drop you in the clockwork!

Back at the villa, the senators are gathering in togas. Lucius finds Marcus in the throng and is told the Roman stuff will be dropped when they get rid of Bruno. Marcus says they will keep Bruno’s broad scheme, but they don’t need Bruno or his eccentricities, Appollodorus has the know-how to deliver the plague serum. Lucius asks if they can rely on Octavia and in reply she joins them and says all is ready.

Steed meanwhile breaks into the villa via the hypocaust11 and find a change room with spare togas. He arranges his hair in a Roman style while Bruno is announcing the start of the bacchanal and being given a crown — an imperial circlet — as a gift from Marcus. Octavia goes to fetch Cathy as Steed goes to blend in with the crowd but he is spotted by Apollodorus, now revealed to be Eastow, and put in the cell where Cathy is trying to escape with the aid of the iron nail.

CATHY: Steed!
STEED:Yes, with Appollodorus Eastow, the matey P.R.O.
CATHY: (LOOKS AT STEED’S TOGA) Well, if it isn’t the noblest Roman of them all!

Steed sets to work, taking over trying to loosen the bars with the nail, while upstairs Eastow and Octavia are telling Bruno they must test the serum on Cathy immediately, so he orders Lucius to fetch her, and Octavia to fetch his purple robe.

Coming to collect Cathy, Lucius finds Steed missing, but after Cathy is taken away by two soldiers, Steed emerges from a coffin and they fight, sword against wooden pole. After a short time, Steed’s makeshift weapon is chopped to pieces and he is backed up against the door with a sword at his throat…

Back upstairs, Marcus is announcing that all assembled will be senators in a mighty new Roman empire and crowns Bruno, declaring him Bruno Caesar and the throng erupts in cheers of “Hail Caesar!”

In the corridor, however, Steed is creeping towards the ceremony.12 He ducks back into the change room and retrieves his umbrella, which contains a short sword inside its shaft. In the main hall, Bruno is giving a speech:

BRUNO: My friends, you are participants in the birth of a new age. An age modelled on the greatest era in the history of man. An era which saw a new civilisation spreading through the barbaric countries of Europe. Great armies, not of marauding soldiers, but civilised men — brought law and order, justice, art, and a new standard of life to the backward nations. They even came to this fair country and infused a new spirit of grandeur into the hearts of thousands of men and women. We will create that grandeur — the grandeur that was Rome!

Octavia meanwhile poisons one of two goblets and tells Marcus which one has been tainted while Bruno is telling the crowd that Appollodorus has developed a serum to protect them from the oncoming plague. Cathy is dragged in by the soldiers and presented with a goblet of poisoned wine, which she throws in Bruno’s face as Steed appears, flourishing his sword.

Marcus makes a feeble attempt to stop Steed then retreats and the Avengers overcome the soldiers as Marcus goes after Bruno. Marcus catches up to Bruno and he realises his end has come.

BRUNO: What now, Brutus? The Ides of March are come.13
MARCUS: Then fall, Caesar!


By the time Steed and Cathy reach Bruno, he is dead.

CATHY: Ambition’s debt is paid.14
STEED: (FALTERING) Alius romedia segovia sunt… alius!15
CATHY: Faber est quisque fortunae suae.16
STEED: (LAUGHS) You must be mad!

  1. Bruno and Marcus toast each other with the words “Audentes fortuna juvat” (Fortune favours the bold — a quote from Vergil’s Aeneid, 10, 284.
  2. Marcus reports that the flies are warbling in the Caucasus, the peasants itch and go deaf in Provence and Madrid (“Some will die”, comments Bruno), and the pigs are walking backwards.
  3. It’s actually Aujeszky’s disease and has nothing to do with salt as it is caused by the Suid herpesvirus 1 (SHV-1). The disease is also known as pseudorabies and does indeed case neurological disorders in pigs and infects many mammals.
  4. He calculates that each force is 8,000 legionaries under the command of 80 centurions.
  5. The script has Sir Bruno say “Yes, Marcus, indeed” in response to Marcus’ declaration “Charming!”, but the filmed episode has him ask “Do you mind?”
  6. Cathy’s view through the microscope is clearly not slides at all, but vignetted pictures of cell structures from a science book.
  7. It is the Chi-Ro, a Christogram from the Byzantine period when Christianity started to overtake paganism. It’s interesting that they thought their audience well educated enough to recognise it immediately when Cathy first turned it around to see it better.
  8. Appleton is cemented as the red herring villain while the apparently pro-environment Eastow seems a gentle if annoying lamb.
  9. This is probably actually footage of a protest by the “Committee of 100” on 19 September 1961. The protest was against war and the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
  10. This line was originally “There was just a little trouble.”
  11. A hypocaust is Roman underfloor central heating, earlier in the episode, when Steed visited Bruno, he commented on it and Bruno effused about Roman engineering.
  12. It’s a massive cheat that we never see Steed defeat Lucius and it was the subject of angry internal memos at ABC.
  13. Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Act 3 Scene 1 Line 1. Marcus’ response is line 78.
  14. Cathy’s line "Ambition’s debt is paid" is of course a quote from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Act 3 Scene 1 Line 84.
  15. Steed’s faltering line was supposed to be “Alia remedia graviora sunt aliis” (Some solutions are more serious than others). The standard form of this Latin proverb is “Graviora quaedam sunt remedia periculus.” — Some remedies are worse than the disease.
  16. Cathy’s response means “Everyone is the architect of his own fortune”, a quote from Appius Claudius Caecus.

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