The movie Gladiator begins with the Roman General Maximus leading the Roman army to victory against the German barbarian tribes, ending a perpetuate war. The victory won of this battle ends with Maximus earning the esteem of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius. As the battle ends, the Emperor’s son Commodus and daughter Lucilla arrive from Rome. The emperor Marcus Aurelius is dying and his last wish are to give power back to the people of Rome and end the corruption that cripples it. This is the reason why Aurelius decides to appoint leadership to Maximus, with the desire that Maximus will return power to the Senate and revive the Republic. Aurelius tells Maximus that he has not been corrupted by the politics, were as Commodus is not a moral man and he must not rule. Maximus is the son that Aurelius wished he had and he favours him over his son Commodus, this formulates Commodus’ jealousy and rage. Maximus expresses that his greatest desire is to return home to his family and that he is unsure to accept Aurelius wish to be the protector of Rome.
Maximus returns to his tent and asks the gods for guidance and to watch over his family with “a ready sword”. Aurelius then informs Commodus of his decision to leave Rome in the hands of Maximus. This infuriates Commodus with envy, betrayal and rage and he murders his father. Commodus then declares himself emperor and asks Maximus for his loyalty, Maximus realizes that Commodus is responsible for the emperor’s death and he refuses. Commodus orders Maximus to be executed and demands the guards to murder his wife and son. Maximus escapes by killing the guards and he quickly races home only to discover that his wife and son have been cruelly slaughtered. After Maximus buries his wife and son, he grieves succumbing to exhaustion and collapses on their graves. Slave traders find Maximus and take him to a Roman province in North Africa. There he is purchased by Proximo, the head of a gladiator school and former gladiator. Maximus is tormented over the death of his family and the betrayal by his empire, he refuses to fight, but as he defends himself his impressive combat skills are awe leading to a rise in popularity with the audience and gaining respect among the other fighters. Maximus becomes known as the “Spaniard” as he trains and fights, he becomes friends with Juba (hunter) and Hagen. Maximus and Juba develop a potent friendship, both inject each other with courage to which face death bravely. Juba proclaims that Maximus will meet his family again in the afterlife; this fills Maximus with hope and valiance.
In Rome, Commodus has reintegrated the gladiatorial games to commemorate his father’s death and gain favour of the people of Rome. In a recreation of the Battle of Carthage at the Colosseum, Maximus leads the gladiators to an incisive victory in an appearance of Hannibal’s forces against a more powerful force of Scipio Africanus legions. Maximus’ victory causes the crowd to cheer with amazement over his clever and unique battle tactics. Maximus hides his identity through a helmet that had a face guard. Commodus demanded that he must meet this gladiator, the crowds echoes and cheers surrounded the Colossuem and the Emperor descended to the arena, Commodus asked the Spaniard for his name and Maximus responded with an act of defiance. This act stunned and provoked Commodus with anxiety, he angrily instructed Maximus to reveal his identity. Maximus wrathfully turned to face his enemy and proclaimed in a clear and proud voice ” My name is Maximus, a loyal servant to the true Emperor, Marcus Aurelius.” The crowd froze silent as Maximus vowed revenge for the murder of his family. Commodus was stunned to discover that Maximus was still alive after he commanded his death. Commodus humiliated left the arena after the crowd roared for the approval to spare his life. The crowd chanted Maximus’ name vigorously, this act showed that Maximus, a slave had become more powerful than the Emperor of Rome. Lucilla was grateful to see Maximus alive and arranged a to secretly meet him. That night, Lucilla meet with Maximus expressed that she feared for the life of her son and that she has an allied in the Senate who wants to see Commodus overthrown. Maximus denied Lucilla’s help and proclaimed that the man she once knew was gone.
The games continued celebrating the 64th day, Commodus had a surprise arrange for the crowd and for Maximus. Commodus had arranged Maximus’ death against Tigris of Gaul, Rome’s only undefeated gladiator. The crowd cheered with excitement as they desperately thirsted for death. Suddenly, Maximus confidently appeared from his gate carrying only a small sword and a shield. Four chained tigers came out from a door and now Maximus had five enemies to fight and he desperately looked for a weak point. The intense battle between these two strong and fast gladiators ended with Maximus defeating Tigris. Maximus turned to Commodus and awaited his decision to kill or spare Tigris. Commodus approved for Maximus to kill Tigris, but Maximus spared Tigris, therefore insulting the Emperor and gaining the audience approval. The audience chanted and cheered Maximus, and bestowing him with the title “Maximus the Merciful”. Commodus was infuriated by the fact that he is unable to kill Maximus and stop his popularity from soaring. Cicero, Maximus’ servant meets him and proclaimed that his army was camped at Ostia, and that his army remains loyal to him. Maximus agreed to meet Lucilla’s politician (Senator Gracchus) and they plotted a plan to reunite him with his army and overthrow Commodus. Commodus suspected of his sisters betrayal, secret and lie; he therefore threaten her son Lucuis life, in order to force her to reveal her plan on helping Maximus.
The Praetorian guards immediately stormed to obstruct Maximus’ plan, while the gladiators fought, this caused a distraction and helped Maximus escaped. During the raid, Proximo was killed and Juba and the other gladiators were imprisoned. Maximus escaped the city walls only to witness Cicero being slain and he is captured to be turn over to Commodus. Maximus was restrained and chained under the floor of the Colosseum arena. Commodus came in smiling and snickering proclaiming that Maximus was the general who became a slave, the slave who became a gladiator and the gladiator who defied an Empire. Commodus explained that this was a good story and that the people want to know how it ends; only a great death will be good enough. Commodus explained that what could be better than to fight the Emperor himself. Maximus is man that knows no fear and was not threaten by Commodus’ assimilations. Commodus reached out to hug Maximus as a brother, and suddenly Maximus let out a cry of pain. Commodus had a small knife in his hand and had wounded Maximus in the side, cutting him deeply. This was a cowardly action that Commodus had performed because he knew that Maximus was prominent to excel him in combat. All eyes were focused in the Colosseum as they watched Commodus and Maximus enter. Maximus was weak and he fought on instinct as he struck Commodus, as he dropped his sword he order Quintis for another sword, but he order the guards not to assist him. Maximus finding the strength and power killed Commodus; the crowd fell silent and watched Maximus slowly dying.
Maximus fell in a deep trance and began to see visions, he saw his own hand on the gate, pushing it open and reuniting with his wife and son as they smiled at him. He ordered for Quintis to release the gladiators and Senator Gracchus, he then collapsed onto the bloody sand, Lucilla quickly ran to help him, there dying laid the protector Rome in her arms. Maximus reassured Lucilla that Lucius was safe; she gave Maximus a warm and gentle smiled and whispered to him “Go to them. You’re home”, Maximus then died. Lucilla reminded everyone that Maximus was a soldier of Rome and that his memory should be honoured. Senator Gracchus and the gladiators carried his body silently and proud out of the Colosseum. The Colossuem was empty and silent as Juba walked across the bloody sand; he was a free man again. He buried Maximus’ small wooden figures of his wife and son on the sand that carried is blood. Juba proclaimed that he would meet Maximus again “but not yet.”
Historical Analysis in the film Gladiator
In the film Gladiator weapons, military strategies, government structure and the spectacle of the gladiatorial games are some of the historical components the film analyses.
“The Roman army, like the armies of the Greek, was a citizen militia” (Collier’s, 1995, pg.682). This perspective is seen in the movie Gladiator because Maximus was a farmer and he became know as Rome’s greatest general. The role of the Roman army during the Roman Republic and Empire led to military success and victory. The role of the Roman army played an important role in the movie, in the beginning of the movie when Maximus is leading the army against the German barbarian tribe this portrays tactical, unique and superior weapons that allowed and helped the army conquer and establish the height and power of the Roman Empire. The soldiers fought honourably for the glory of the Empire against the barbarian tribes and this war was the final stand in the way of Roman victory and the promise of peace throughout the Empire. The Romans organized a very similar tactic to the Greek phalanx, eventually this evolved and the Roman armies adopted a more maneuverable tactic that strengthen the army’s advantage to conquer and attain success and military efficiency.
The major unit of the Roman army was the legion, composed of ten cohorts. The legions produced a tactical flexibility and this was an advantage to the Romans ability to make the best use of ground. “When preparing for battle, soldiers equipped with swords and spears would form protective ranks in front of cavalry and archers”(Corbishley, 2004, pg.18). This preparation for the battle against the barbarians is portrayed when Maximus is speaking to Quintus about the catapults being out of range and that this is a danger to the cavalry. The heavy infantry tactics developed quickly, striking from the flanks, encircling enemy forces and using the policy of divide and conquer. The legion was known as the backbone of the Roman army creating a more flexible formation for their infantry. The Roman Empire advanced to conquer a vast empire and had a strong army with tactical battle techniques. “Roman commanders planned their battles carefully, choosing a site that would make fighting difficult for the enemies, and waiting for the right time and weather to attack. To attack, Roman soldiers advanced in lines, holding their shields in front of them, then hurled their javelins. After this, they charged forward, striking with their swords”(Macdonald, 2005,pg.19). This battle tactic is portrayed in the beginning of the movie when Maximus tells Quintus that it is not time to fight, this shows Maximus planning out the outcome of the battle.
In the movie Gladiator government structure and politics are portrayed through the constant struggle between the Senate and the Emperor to gain power. Rome was founded as a Republic and in a Republic the senate has the power. Commodus did not share his father’s perspective that power should be given back to the people of Rome and end the corruption that cripples it. Commodus believes that for the health of Rome, the senate must be annihilated. Commodus believed that the Republic and the Senators scheme and deceive and therefore Rome must be saved from the politicians. Commodus’ idea of the Senate is what made Marcus Aurelius make Maximus the protector of Rome after he dies, Maximus had not been corrupted by the politics, Commodus is not a moral man and therefore he must not rule. The Senate is the people chosen from among the people to speak for the people; Commodus proclaimed that Rome did not need a Senate and that it takes an Emperor to rule an Empire. In order to gain the approval and admiration of the people of Rome Commodus used a tactical strategy of fear and wonder, this was a powerful combination. Commodus knows what Rome is, Rome is the mob as he conjures magic by reinstating the gladiatorial games, the people are distracted and have no idea of what Rome is going to become. As Senator Gracchus proclaimed “the beating heart of Rome is not the marble of the Senate it is the sand of the Colosseum.” This proclamation is important because Commodus will bring death and he will be loved for that. Commodus’ ambition is to make Rome the world of the ages and to overthrow the Senate. ” When the rules or constitution, of Roman government were first worked out, there was no word for emperor. They wanted a republican rule, which meant rule through elected officials” (Corbishley, 2004, pg.36). The rule of an Emperor threatened the idea of democracy because not only did the Emperor have authority over the government but also the Emperor had the power to preside over and to control the Senate at his command. In the movie Senator Gracchus does not pretend to be a man of the people but rather a man for the people, this is the central idea of what the Senate represents. The senate initially is an aristocratic council, an advisory body to the Emperor of Rome; the senate was the power base during the Republic. The name of the Roman Republic under the power of the senate was SPQR; this signature is seen on Maximus arm and it is a symbol of the government and an insignia of the Roman legions. With a strong army behind a General they could be extremely political depicting a threat to the government. In the movie the revolution of threatening the government is seen when Maximus commands the loyalty of the army and this induces that Maximus a slave has become more powerful than the Emperor.
The movie focuses on the idea of gladiators forced to fight to death to entertain the crowds. Gladiators were slaves, criminals or prisoners that fought each other or wild animals to amuse the bloodthirsty spectators. The Colosseum was the scene of public entertainment was the deliberate slaughter of human beings was used as a means of entertainment. “Some gladiators were specifically trained at gladiator schools” (Macdonald, 2005, pg.35). This is portrayed in the movie when Proximo is purchasing the slaves from the slave-seller and brought them to his gladiator school to learn how to fight. The successful gladiators became famous and attracted the crowds; Maximus became the most famous and admired gladiator. Maximus is the gladiator that defied an Empire to protect Rome. Proximo is paid signifying that he profits from the gladiators death. “The rare man who survived the arena repeatedly demonstrated his strength and daring could win the wooden sword (rudius) from the Emperor, signifying his liberation” (Collier’s, 1995, pg. 129). This is portrayed in the movie when Proximo proclaims to Maximus that he wasn’t the best because he killed quickly, he was the best because the crowd loved and admired him. If you win the crowd you win your freedom. Proximo won his freedom and the Emperor Marcus Aurelius presented him with a rudius (wooden sword), which is a symbol of freedom. Every victory Maximus had been an act of defiance to Commodus because Maximus had the power to amuse the mob and the mob is Rome.