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I chose the movie “Gladiator” because of the similarities to the history in Chapter 4, The Roman Legacy, of our textbook. In the movie “Gladiator”, Russell Crowe played a Roman General named Maximus, who was under the leadership of Caesar Marcus Aurelius.
The rule of Marcus Aurelius was marked by a number of social reforms, including laws which changed the positions of women and slaves in Roman society, giving them more rights and protections.
Maximus was loved by Caesar like a son, and he wanted Maximus to become the Protector for the people of Rome when he died. Caesar had a son named Commodus, but he felt that his son was not capable of being emperor after his death. He felt strongly that Maximus would be worthy of the position because he had not been corrupted by the Romans politics of the time, which were offensive to him personally and to his Stoic philosophy.
In the beginning of the movie, Maximus leads his men to a decisive victory against Germanic barbarians, finally ending a long war on the Roman frontier and earning the esteem of the elderly Caesar. Caesar is dying, and in spite of his son, Commodus, the emperor wishes to appoint temporary leadership to Maximus, with a desire to eventually return the leadership of Rome back to the Senate.
After the vicious war against the Germanic barbarians, Commodus arrives and asked, have I missed it, have I missed the battle. His father tells him you have missed the war. Commodus saw the way his father admired Maximus after the defeat of the barbarians, and his disappointment was visible on his face.
Caesar had sent for his daughter Lucilla, because he knew when he told Commodus that he would not become emperor, he would need her support. Commodus loved his sister very much, in a way a brother should not. Lucilla had a love for Maximus that went back to their time together as teenagers.
When Commodus is told by his father that he will not be appointed emperor, he begins to cry to his father, pleading his short-comings as a son. Commudus reminded his father of a letter he had written to him, listing the four virtues: wisdom, justice, fortitude, and temperance, and as he read the list he knew he had none of them. He explained to his father that he had other virtues, such as ambition, that can be a virtue when it drives us to excel; resourcefulness; courage, maybe not on the battlefield but there are many forms of courage; devotion, to his family, to his father. However, none of my virtues were on your list, and even then it was as if you didn't want me for your son. Caesar tells his son that his faults as a son were due to his failure as a father. Commodus takes his father’s face into his chest and smoothers him while he cried.
After the death of Caesar, Commodus orders that Maximus be killed so that he could become Emperor of Rome. Instead, Maximus escapes to return home. On his return home, he finds his family had been crucified, presumably on orders from Commodus. He then was captured into slavery; the slave became a gladiator; and the gladiator would soon defy an empire.
Maximus next step was revenge. He knew that Commodus had ordered his death and that of his family.
Proximo is a freed gladiator who became a merchant of gladiators. He purchased Maximus in North Africa and trained him to become a gladiator and to win the crowd over through his performance. Proximo had received a wooden sword of honor from Caesar years before, but Proximo is not interested in Maximus’ revenge. Maximus’ status and fame grows until he ultimately reaches the historic Roman Coliseum and comes into contact again with Commodus. In his first event, he skillfully leads a band of other gladiators to defeat an opposing force of chariots and archers, earning the crowd's praise through his heroics in the fighting. Upon being introduced to Commodus in the arena afterward, he reveals his true identity to the stunned emperor. Proximo has his own interests at heart, but Maximus convinces him to plot against Commodus. When Commodus discovers the plot, he sends soldiers to kill Proximo.
Now desperate to have Maximus killed, Commodus arranges a duel with him in the arena. Being a coward, he stabs Maximus before their duel so that he would have an advantage in the fight. In the midst of the fight, Maximus forces Commodus' sword from his hands. When Commodus demands a sword from the guards they all refused. Maximus defeats Commodus by driving a knife into his neck, but he is dying himself. With Maximus dying words, he carries out Caesar’s commands, calling for Senator Gracchus to be reinstated, the slaves to be freed, and power in Rome to be transferred to the Senate. Maximus dies in Lucilla's arms and his soul wanders into the afterlife to join his murdered wife and son. The belief of several of the characters in the film in the afterlife as a path to reuniting with lost family was a powerful and moving theme in the film.