Fratres! Three weeks from now I will be harvesting my crops. Imagine where you will be, and it will be so. Hold the line. Stay with me. If you find yourself alone, riding in green fields with the sun on your face, do not be troubled; for you are in Elysium, and you're already dead! [The soldiers laugh]Brothers, what we do in life, echoes in eternity.
At my signal, unleash hell.
My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius. Commander of the Armies of the North. General of the Felix Legions. Loyal servant to the true Emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife – and I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.
[addressing crowd after killing gladiator in solo fight] Are you not entertained? ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?!?! Is this not why you're here?!
Quintus, free my men. Senator Gracchus is to be reinstated. There was a dream that was Rome, it shall be realized. These are the wishes of Marcus Aurelius.
Some of you are thinking you won't fight. Others, that you can't fight. They all say that until they're out there.
I am Proximo! I will be closer to you in these next few days, which will be the last days of your miserable lives, than that bitch of a mother who first brought you screaming into this world! I did not pay good money for your company, I paid it so I could profit from your deaths! And just as your mother was there at your beginning, so I shall be there at your end. And when you die — and die you shall — your transition will be to the sound of … [claps his hands] Gladiators, I salute you.
I knew a man who once said, "Death smiles at us all. All a man can do is smile back."
Maximus: You sent for me, Caesar?
Marcus Aurelius: Tell me again, Maximus, why are we here?
Maximus: For the glory of the empire, sire.
Marcus Aurelius: Ah, yes. Ah, yes, I remember. Do you see that map, Maximus? That is the world which I created. For 25 years, I have conquered, spilt blood, expanded the empire. Since I became Caesar, I have known four years without war, four years of peace in twenty. And for what? I brought the sword. Nothing more.
Maximus: Caesar, your life...
Marcus Aurelius: Please. Please, don't call me that. Please, come sit. Let us talk together now, very simply, as men. Maximus, talk.
Maximus: Five thousand of my men are out there in the freezing mud. Three thousand of them are bloodied and cleaved. Two thousand will never leave this place. I will not believe that they fought and died for nothing.
Marcus Aurelius: And what would you believe?
Maximus: They fought for you and for Rome.
Marcus Aurelius: And what is Rome, Maximus?
Maximus: I've seen much of the rest of the world. It is brutal and cruel and dark, Rome is the light.
Marcus Aurelius: Yet you have never been there. You have not seen what it has become. I am dying, Maximus. When a man sees his end... he wants to know there was some purpose to his life. How will the world speak my name in years to come? Will I be known as the philosopher? The warrior? The tyrant...? Or will I be the emperor who gave Rome back her true self? There was once a dream that was Rome. You could only whisper it. Anything more than a whisper and it would vanish... it was so fragile. And I fear that it will not survive the winter. Maximus, let us whisper now, together, you and I. You have a son. Tell me about your home.
Maximus: My house is in the hills above Trujillo. A very simple place. Pinkstones that warm in the sun. A kitchen garden that smells of herbs in the day, jasmine in the evening. Through the gate is a giant poplar. Figs, apples, pears. The soil, Marcus- black. Black like my wife's hair. Grapes on the south slopes, olives on the north. Wild ponies play near my house. They tease my son. He wants to be one of them.
Marcus Aurelius: Remember the last time you were home?
Maximus: Two years, 264 days, and this morning.
Marcus Aurelius: I envy you, Maximus. It's a good home. Worth fighting for. There is one more duty that I ask of you before you go home.
Maximus: What would you have me do, Caesar?
Marcus Aurelius: I want you to become the protector of Rome after I die. I will empower you to one end alone: To give power back to the people of Rome, and end the corruption that has crippled it. Will you accept this great honor I have offered you?
Maximus: With all my heart, no.
Marcus Aurelius: Maximus, that is why it must be you.
Maximus: But surely a prefect, a senator, somebody who knows the city, who understands her politics?
Marcus Aurelius: But you have not been corrupted by her politics.
Maximus: And Commodus?
Marcus Aurelius: Commodus is not a moral man. You have known that since you were young. Commodus cannot rule. He must not rule. You are the son that I should have had. Commodus will accept my decision. He knows that you command the loyalty of the army.
Maximus: I need some time, sire.
Marcus Aurelius: Yes. By sunset, I hope you will have agreed. Now embrace me as my son, and bring an old man another blanket.
Marcus Aurelius: Are you ready to do your duty for Rome?
Commodus: Yes, father.
Marcus Aurelius: You will not be emperor.
Commodus: Which wiser, older man is to take my place?
Marcus Aurelius: My powers will pass to Maximus, to hold in trust until the Senate is ready to rule once more. Rome is to be a republic again.
Marcus Aurelius: My decision disappoints you?
Commodus: You wrote to me once, listing the four chief virtues: wisdom, justice, fortitude and temperance. As I read the list, I knew I had none of them. But I have other virtues, father. Ambition. That can be a virtue when it drives us to excel. Resourcefulness. Courage. Perhaps not on the battlefield, but … there are many forms of courage. Devotion, to my family and to you. But none of my virtues were on your list. [choking up] Even then it was as if you didn't want me for your son.
Marcus Aurelius: Oh, Commodus. You go too far.
Commodus: I search the faces of the gods … for ways to please you, to make you proud. One kind word, one full hug … where you pressed me to your chest and held me tight … would have been like the sun on my heart for a thousand years. What is it in me that you hate so much?
Marcus Aurelius: Shh, Commodus.
Commodus: All I've ever wanted was to live up to you, Caesar, father.
Marcus Aurelius: [gets down on his knees] Commodus, your faults as a son is my failure as a father. Come.
Commodus: [crying] Father. I would have butchered the whole world … if you would only love me! [presses Marcus against his breast and asphyxiates him]
Gracchus: For you guidance, Caesar, the Senate has prepared a series of protocols, to begin addressing the many problems in the city, beginning with basic sanitation for the Greek quarter, to combat the plague which is already springing up there. So, if Caesar...
Commodus: Shh. Don't you see, Gracchus? That's the very problem, isn't it? My father spent all his time at study, at books and learning and philosophy. He spent his twilight hours reading scrolls from the Senate. And all the while, the people were forgotten.
Gracchus: But the Senate is the people, sire. Chosen from among the people, to speak for the people.
Commodus: I doubt if any of the people eat so well as you do, Gracchus. Or have such splendid mistresses, Gaius. I think I understand my own people.
Gracchus: Then perhaps Caesar will be so good as to teach us … out of his own, extensive experience.
[The Senate laughs]
Commodus: I call it love. I am their father, the people are my children. I shall hold them to my bosom and embrace them tightly –
Gracchus: Have you ever embraced someone dying of plague, sire?
Commodus: No. But if you interrupt me again, I assure you that you shall.
Gracchus: Fear and wonder, a powerful combination.
Falco: You really think people are going to be seduced by that?
Gracchus: [about Commodus] I think he knows what Rome is. Rome is the mob. Conjure magic for them and they'll be distracted. Take away their freedom and still they'll roar. The beating heart of Rome is not the marble of the Senate, it's the sand of the Colosseum. He'll bring them death…and they will love him for it.
Maximus: You ask me what I want. I, too, want to stand before the Emperor as you did.
Proximo: Then listen to me. Learn from me. I wasn't the best because I killed quickly. I was the best because the crowd loved me. Win the crowd, and you will win your freedom.
Maximus: I will win the crowd. I will give them something they have never seen before.
Juba: It's somewhere out there. My country. My home. My wife is preparing food. My daughters carry water from the river. Will I ever see them again? I think not.
Maximus: Do you believe you'll see them again when you die?
Juba: I think so. But then, I will die soon. They will not die for many years. I'll have to wait.
Maximus: But you would … wait?
Juba: Of course.
Maximus: You see, my wife and my son are already waiting for me.
Juba: You'll meet them again. But not yet. Not yet.
[They shake hands]
Maximus: Not yet. … Not yet.
Juba: Can they hear you?
Juba: Your family, in the afterlife.
Maximus: Oh yes.
Juba: What do you say to them?
Maximus: To my son, I tell him I will see him again soon. To keep his heels down while riding his horse. To my wife – that is not your business.
Commodus: "Maximus! Maximus! Maximus!" They call for you. The general who became a slave. The slave who became a gladiator. The gladiator who defied an emperor. Striking story! Now the people want to know how the story ends. Only a famous death will do. And what could be more glorious than to challenge the Emperor himself in the great arena?
Maximus: You would fight me?
Commodus: Why not? Do you think I am afraid?
Maximus: I think you've been afraid all your life.
Commodus: Unlike Maximus the invincible, who knows no fear?
Maximus: I knew a man once who said, 'Death smiles at us all. All that man can do is smile back.'
Commodus: I wonder, did your friend smile at his own death?
Maximus: You must know. He was your father.
Commodus: You loved my father, I know. But so did I. That makes us brothers, doesn't it? Smile for me now, brother! [stabs Maximus in the side, then turns to Quintius] Strap on his armour. Conceal the wound.