The “sword and sandal” genre had been fallow ever since “Clash of the Titans” played in theaters. Then, along came a grittier film in 2000 that revitalized the genre of Greco-Roman dramas: “Gladiator.” Telling the story of an enslaved former military general, Maximus Decimus Meridius, the film received rave reviews and has become a pop-culture icon complete with quotable quotes. Let’s look at some of the most memorable lines and passages spoken in the film.
“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.”
After Maximus’ first successful fight in the gladiator ring under the Roman Emperor Commodus, he’s directly addressed by the usurper Emperor, who is responsible for the deaths of Maximus’ wife and child for failure to show obeisance when he assumed the throne. It takes some serious courage to make such a thinly veiled threat to the man who can order executions on a whim-and in fact, it nearly happens.
“Are you not entertained? Are you not entertained?! Is this not why you are here?!” -Maximus
Maximus quotes this line to the crowd at one of his first gladiator bouts when they show displeasure at his performance. He is a soldier, trained and conditioned to kill as quickly and efficiently as possible. Contrary to popular belief, the gladiator games weren’t usually to the death, and the crowd preferred to see a good fight rather than a simple slaughter. He has to learn about how to put on a show for the crowd, and he eventually gains the public’s approval for his climactic duel against Commodus.
“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 the green fields with the sun on your face, do not be troubled. For you are in Elysium, and you’re already dead! Brothers, what we do in life… echoes in eternity.” -Maximus
As far as rousing pre-battle speeches go, not many can match this one for sheer motivational power. The idea that seeing oneself in a peaceful situation will influence it serves as motivation for the soldiers, and Maximus has given his men some assurance of the afterlife, according to classical mythology. The fields of Elysium were the abode of the greatest heroes and most pious citizens of ancient Greece and Rome. It also tells them to remember that their actions, whether good or evil, will be told throughout history and that their actions have far-reaching consequences.
“Some of you are thinking that you won’t fight. Others, that you can’t fight. They all say that, until they’re out there.” -Proximo
Proximo is the leader and owner of the gladiators of Rome, and it’s his responsibility to recruit them, train them, and promote their fights. Historically, many gladiators were captured slaves, most of whom would not likely have had a combative disposition. However, as Proximo says, it’s easy for someone to say how he or she will act in a given situation until that situation arises. The potential for serious injury or death is a huge motivating factor in self-defense.
“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.” -Gracchus, on Maximus
Senator Gracchus supports what Maximus is doing in the gladiatorial arena. His quote shows a critical truth about many societies: the true representatives are not the politicians or other elite, but the peasants who compose the majority of the population. If Maximus could manage to sway the opinions of the people through his actions and charisma in the arena, they would provide a powerful collective force for the Roman army to contend with if necessary.
There are plenty of memorable quotes in the film, but these five tend to stand out for most people, even those who haven’t seen the full film. Maximus has some of the most often-quoted lines. His story of revenge is a compelling one, and Russell Crowe’s acting makes the lines even more powerful as befits an ancient Roman general. Proximo has some motivating lines as well, despite being a borderline villainous character in modern eyes.