10 Best Historical TV Shows Like ‘Domina’

TV Shows Like Domina
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The role of Livia Drusilla (Kasia Smutniak) in turning Caesar Augustus (Mathew McNulty) into the greatest Roman emperor has never been told better than it is in MGM+’s Domina. The show doesn’t just recognize the role of women in Roman politics; it also gives a voice the marginalized groups, including the slaves. Livia Drusilla is still the central character, portrayed as the real political genius behind Gaius’s success.

The show puts the female hero at the center of male-dominated Roman Politics without distorting historical facts. Domina packs a little bit of everything in its scenes, with Livia’s endless smart political plays being the spectacle that makes the show a historical drama of a kind. Here is a look at ten other shows that capture the thrill of the politics of Ancient Rome like Domina.

1. Barbarians (2020)

Barbarians TV Poster

What it’s about: Born to the Germanic tribe of Cherusci but raised by a Roman general, Publius Quintilius Varus, Armenius finds himself torn between serving Rome and saving his tribe of birth from Roman oppression. Eventually, he is unable to stand the brutality unleashed on the Germanic tribes, and therefore unites them into a single strong army and leads them against his adoptive father’s army.

Why you should watch it: Barbarians is set in 9AD, when Gaius was the emperor, which is why it feels like a spinoff of Domina. It doesn’t have the fancy court politics of Rome like Domina, but it has the best view of Gaius’ Rome from the eyes of a low-class soldier and a Germanic Tribesman. The battle action in Barbarians is also a lot more intense than in Domina.

2. Romulus (2020)

Romulus Poster

What it’s about: Two twin brothers, Yemos and Wiros are fighting to recover their birthright as the true rulers of Alba Longa. They join the ranks of a rebel leader Ilia who has mounted a campaign against the same illegitimate regime that took their birthright. Their alliance becomes a united force that eventually builds the new city of Rome.

Why you should watch it: The show gives a realistic approach to the legend of Remus and Romulus regarding the founding of Rome. Instead of bringing in a she-wolf to suckle the twins, the show brings in Ilia, who leads the brothers to create the army that finally sets the foundations for the founding of Rome. Romulus recreates what the founding of Rome could have looked like, using Archaic Latin to spice up the scenes.

3. Britannia (2018)

Britannia Amazon Poster

What it’s about: 90 years after Julius Caesar failed to conquer Britannia, General Aulus Plautius attempted to conquer it again. Unlike Caesar, who focussed on battlefield victory, Plautius and his second in command, Lucius focus on defeating the Druids because they believe they are the real threat to Roman rule. Infighting among the Druids causes them to lose the nation to the Romans even before they face off on the battlefield, but a Druid girl named Cait and an outcast called Divis do their best to save what is left.

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Why you should watch it: Britannia tells both sides of the story about the Roman conquest of Britain in 43AD. The show gives a voice to the Druids and other tribes that lived in Britain before the Romans took over. Britannia also combines historical facts and fiction, bringing history to life. The politics and infighting are quite similar to Domina.

4. Empire (2005)

Empire 2005 cover

What it’s about: Despite being warned about an impending attempt on his life by Camane, a Vestal virgin, Julius Caesar goes to the senate anyway and gets killed. Tyrannus, his bodyguard, turns his efforts to protect Octavius, his named successor. Octavius makes the mistake of allying with Mark Anthony, who later betrays him. Tyrannus eventually helps Octavius defeat Anthony and become the emperor of Rome.

Why you should watch it: Empire is like a prequel to Domina because it covers the life of Gaius Caesar before he met Livia Drusilla. The betrayal and endless feuds between prominent people in Rome are similar to Domina. Empire has more action because of the intense battle scenes, unlike Domina, which focuses on Livia’s political maneuvers more than Gaius’ battlefield victories.

5. Plebs (2013-2019)

Plebs TV Series Poster

What it’s about: Marcus and his friend Stylax arrive in Rome from the provinces hoping to make a better life for themselves. They meet a beautiful Briton woman Cynthia and her slave Martella who are also struggling to make it as actresses. Marcus tries to court Cynthia, but she falls in love with a gladiator instead. Marcus, Stylax, and Cynthia continue to struggle with their hand-to-mouth livelihood and hopeless romantic ambitions.

Why you should watch it: Plebs is a break from the typical historical dramas about Ancient Rome that only focus on politics and wars. The historical comedy looks at the daily life of a peasant in the streets of Rome, and it doesn’t look any different from modern urban poverty. Domina fans will love it because it resonates with most of the supporting cast, like Tycho and Antigone.

6. Cursed (2020)

Nimue in Cursed

What it’s about: Nimue is a gifted Fey girl in the era of King Arthur whose people are being persecuted by a group of Puritans known as Red Paladins. The Fey don’t like her either, as they consider her to be cursed until the Red Paladins wipe out her village, and Nimue’s mother entrusts her with the Sword of Power. Nimue now holds the fate of Britain and the Fey in her hands, but she must find a way to defeat the Paladins and therefore needs some help from Arthur, a disgraced gambler turned sellsword who falls in love with Nimue and decides to help her protect the Fey.

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Why you should watch it: The Red Paladins are like an extension of the powerful Roman empire, except they use religion as their tool of conquest. Nimue and her people are just another tribe they wish to assimilate into the empire, and the poor leadership in Britain is helping them along. While the story of Nimue is more of legend than history, her struggle to save her people is similar to that of Livia Drusilla in Domina.

7. Vikings Valhalla (2022)

Sam Corlett Leo Suter Vikings Valhalla

What it’s about: 100 years after the death of Bjorn Ironside, Vikings have a strong footing in England, with King Canute ruling England and Denmark. However, religious conflicts across Scandinavia are at their peak as followers of Norse gods and Christian converts tear each other apart. Amid all that tension is Leif Erikson and his sister, Freydis, who find themselves in the heart of different battles from the moment they leave their homeland of Iceland.

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Why you should watch it: Leif travels with Harald Sigurdsson, who is fighting to retake his rightful place as the king of Norway. Their hunt for an army takes them to Russia and, eventually, Constantinople, where they meet the Holy Roman Emperor. The story of Leif Erikson, as they struggle to find their place in a changing world, is as interesting as that of Livia Drusilla in Domina.

8. Troy: Fall Of A City (2018)

Troy Fall Of A City Poster

What it’s about: Paris, a prince of Troy, sets his city and Sparta on a war path when he takes Helen, the unhappy wife of Menelaus, King of Sparta, as his wife. Menelaus united with other Greek kingdoms and laid siege on Troy, forcing the inhabitants to starve. The siege continues for 12 years as Helen refuses to leave Paris and return to her husband while cunning politicians and the gods convince the Greeks to keep fighting.

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Why you should watch it: Aeneas, who is the future founder of Rome, is one of the leaders who fight against Sparta in the siege. The show recreates the events surrounding the mythological fall of Troy with actual historical figures from Greece and Rome coming into the picture. It has lots of political scheming and backstabbing, just like Domina.

9. Ben Hur (2010)

Ben Hur 2010

What it’s about: Judah Ben Hur is a wealthy Jewish merchant who, like his fellow Jews, disapproves of the Roman occupation of Judea. However, his adoptive brother, Messala, joins the Roman army, tearing the family apart. When the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate, visits the town, Ben Hur joins a plot to assassinate him, leading to the arrest of the entire family when his brother finds out about Ben Hur’s plans. Ben Hur is sentenced to slavery while his mother and sisters are killed, forcing Ben Hur to embark on a journey of revenge against his brother.

Why you should watch it: Ben Hur covers the period of Gaius’ rule of Rome but only focuses on the empire’s occupation of Judea. The miniseries covers a wide variety of topics, including the unpopularity of Roman rule and the rise of Jesus Christ as the voice of common Judeans. It feels like a dispute on the other side of the world that Gaius and Livia probably never heard about.

10. Queen Cleopatra (2023)

Queen Cleopatra Poster

What it’s about: This 2023 Netflix Docuseries covers the life of Queen Cleopatra, the last Pharaoh of Egypt. Adele James portrays Cleopatra at the peak of her reign as queen, including her political prowess and irresistible charm that consumes both Julius Caesar and Mark Anthony. Her sad death after her armies fell to Gaius’ forces makes the peak of the show.

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Why you should watch it: Queen Cleopatra is like another version of Domina but on the other side of Rome. The docuseries portrays another woman who broke the barriers of male dominance in ancient Rome. Like Livia, Cleopatra has to climb on the shoulders of powerful men to reach her goal.

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