An Analysis of the Movie Gladiator and its Two Main Characters

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World Civilizations: Gladiator Assignment Contrasting Values of Maximus and Commodus and How They Reflect Characteristics of Rome Gladiator was simply an outstanding movie about ancient Rome and a personal favorite. This Hollywood film took its audience to the end of the Pax Romana around the second-century Rome with the last year of Marcus Aurelius's reign in 180 A.D., the last of the five good emperors. This brilliant emperor finds himself aging and at the point where he must choose between two people to succeed him in governing Rome in the hope that they may restore the Republic.

The first and most favored by Marcus is Maximus, an extraordinary Spanish-born general who fights the Germanian Armies with Marcus Aurelius by his side. Maximus is a practical man who values family, strength, honor, discipline, and loyalty; this draws Marcus to favor him over Commodus as an emperor and "son." Commodus is Marcus's only true son by blood; however, Commodus is a selfish and spoiled 20-year-old man only thirsty for power; he is obsessed with gladiators and constantly trained as if he would become one himself. This is an immoral man, completely corrupted by politics.

The character of Maximus Decimus Meridushas had a huge emphasis on family. Throughout the movie, we see that every night Maximus asks the Gods to watch over his family even before they protect his own life. Whether he was in a designated room for prayer or deserted in the desert, he would always pray with and kiss the figures of his wife and son. After fighting with his army for two years, treacherously counting every passing day in which he cannot see his family, Maximus receives the offer to become the succeeding emperor of Rome. Incredibly, his first instinct is to decline so that he can be with his family. In addition, when Quintus ordered his guards to execute Maximus in the name and safety of the new emperor Commodus, before all else, Maximus asked that Quintus watch over his family. Furthermore, after escaping the execution, Maximus went to find his family. Knowing Quintus was after them instead of finding his legion and attacking Rome for himself.

This strongly correlates with the emphasis that the Romans put on a family. Families were at the heart of Roman society. The eldest man in the family, known as the paterfamilias, or "father of the family," was given by law the power to rule the household, control all the property, and have full authority over the family members. The paterfamilias could do with his family whatever he wanted, from selling them into slavery to banishing them completely from the family unit.

"Strength and honor." This is what Maximus said to the other gladiators before their matches to remind them what they were fighting for and what to fight. Strength, honor, discipline, and loyalty to one another were how the gladiators, especially Maximus, stayed alive. Maximus displayed strength, honor, and discipline throughout the movie, from the beginning as he was fighting with his legion, all the way through the middle when he held the backs of his fellow gladiators Hagan and Juba during gladiator games, and to the end when he fought and killed the emperor.

With these virtues, Maximus stayed loyal to his friends and the other gladiators. For example, the time when Maximus dove and threw Hagan out of the way of a full-speed chariot, risking his own life. He also stayed loyal to Antonius Proximo Palindromos and Senator Gracchus as they attempted to free him so that he could reach his legion and take control of Rome. Maximus promised that he would kill the emperor Commodus, and when he did, the Republic would be restored, and the Senate would be given full power to represent the people, both of which he did. However, most important, what made the movie so incredible is how strongly Maximus kept his loyalty to Marcus Aurelius, even when he found himself in rags fighting tigers in front of 50,000 people just to stay alive. This directly relates to the most emphasized Roman values: discipline, strength, and loyalty. Together, these qualities made up the most important of virtues, that of gravitas, a virtue seen as inevitable in good Romans.

Now, Commodus, unlike Maximus, was not a practical man at all. He saw things for what they seemed to others, and as an emperor, he cared only about his people when they were screaming his name. Maximus lived in a tiny house on a simple farm in the rolling hills, and he did not need more than a loving wife and son to keep him happy. He also had a simple servant, Cicero, who was more of a friend. The majority of Romans were practical people; they favored boys who could work and serve Rome more than women and girls who reproduced. However, many of the wealthy were different. Commodus represented the rich while Maximus did the poor, and this just shows the awful differences between the two (the rich and poor, Commodus and Maximus) in the movie and Rome. Commodus was not simple; he traveled in a luxurious bed with riches, clothes, and the finest of foods and drinks, leading a life of ridiculous comfort, and yet he was not happy.

It was people like Commodus who caused the eventual downfall and decline of Rome, which surely enough took place at the time when Commodus was in control, in 180 A.D., after the fifth of the five great emperors, Marcus Aurelius. Commodus is almost a perfect representation of all the tyrants who ruled Rome; they seized power unjustly, in his case, and he murdered his father and then lied about his wishes.

The tyrants did not know what they were doing; they were selfish and thirsty for power, with no true confidence in Rome. Commodus himself also had little pride in controlling Rome; he simply liked the name, Caesar. Other than that, Commodus would spend his time training, working out, and wrestling or sword fighting so that he could become a great gladiator. There was no patriotism, directly resulting in problems recruiting Roman citizens for the army, which affected the overall loyalty of the army and the decline of funding for defense. The incredible instabilities that are visible in Commodus himself are visible in Rome during its decline as well. Furthermore, the strategies that Commodus used to cover up for his problems, like training to be a gladiator and trying to resort to his sister Lucilla and her son Lucious Veras, had the same intentions as the strategies he used to distract Rome from its problems with events like the gladiator games. Commodus tried to disassemble the Senate, which kept presenting problems with Rome as it stood, and developed 150 holidays a year, with free food, games, races, mock battles, and gladiator fights in the Colosseum.

In conclusion, this movie was not only action-packed and thrilling, but it also did an excellent job of portraying the characteristics and values of Rome through the characters of Maximus and Commodus. The family values of Maximus reflect the huge emphasis on family in Rome. The strength, honor, and discipline portrayed during the gladiator games were in direct correlation with the Roman virtue of gravitas. The virtue of gravitas was what actually made Maximus loyal to his friends, father, and those who offered him help. Then the huge differences between Maximus and Commodus symbolized the differences between the rich and poor in Rome. Finally, the strategies Commodus used to distract the Romans from their problems symbolized his lack of faith in Rome itself and the types of tyrants that caused its decline.

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An Analysis of the Movie Gladiator and Its Two Main Characters. (2023, Mar 09). Retrieved May 18, 2024 , from

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