Production on HBO'sambitious epic miniseries Romehas ground to a halt following the flooding of newly-built sets in Bulgaria.

An HBO spokespersonconfirmed yesterday that the production, which is based at Cinecitta Studios inRome, has been on hiatus for three-to four weeks.

"They were meant to go toBulgaria, but weather precluded that, because the sets were under water there,"she said. "Everyone has decided to take that opportunity to decide where to gonext."

She denied rumours floatingabout Rome that HBO was unhappy with the footage so far shot by Michael Apted,who is signed on to direct the first three episodes of the series. "This has nothing to do with Michael'swork," she emphasized.

The series follows the livesof two Roman soldiers and their families during the rise of Julius Caesar afterhis conquest of Gaul in 51 BC.

Rome is planned as a five-year series with 12 one-hourepisodes to be broadcast each year.

The cast includes CiaranHinds who plays Julius Caesar, Kevin McKidd, James Purefoy, Ray Stevenson,Lindsay Duncan, Kerry Walker and Kerry Condon. DoP is Marco Pontecorvo (MyHouse in Umbria).

HBO has built a sprawlingset on Cinecitta's backlot which recreates a large section of Rome's ancientForum. Studio chief Lamberto Mancini has described it as "the biggest setever built - bigger than the sets of Ben-Hur and Gangs of New York."

A co-production between HBOand the BBC, Rome has a budget of$75m a year, making it one of the largest TV series ever made. It is expectedto be broadcast in the US next summer.

HBO's executive vicepresident of original programming Carolyn Strauss and senior vice presidentAnne Thomopoulos are overseeing the project for HBO.

BBC controller of dramacommissioning Jane Tranter and head of drama commissioning Gareth Neame areoverseeing for the BBC.

Executive producers areBruno Heller, William J MacDonald, John Milius, Thomopoulos, Neame and StanWlodkowski.