One of the hit films of 2000 was Gladiator, starring Russell Crowe. The film centres on the Roman General Maximus, a man who holds onto his integrity at all costs.
Just before his death Marcus Aurelius tells Maximus of his dream that power be returned to the people and asks Maximus to become the Protector of Rome who ensures this is achieved. Maximus responds that he cannot do this, for he is never live din Rome, nor is he of Senatorial rank. Besides, he doesn’t want power. He simply wants to get home from the war and resume life with his family on his farm. Aurelius replies “It is precisely because you don’t want it that you must take it.” Aurelius sees Maximus’ integrity.
This integrity stands in stark contrast to Aurelius’ power hungry son Commodius, who will do anything to gain the title of Emperor, even murdering his father.
Seeing Maximus as a potential rival Commodius orders him, his wife and his young son murdered. Maximus escapes, but is unable to save his family. He is captured, sold into slavery and forced to fight as a gladiator. He fights with vastly superior ability to everyone he meets in the ring and eventually comes to Rome where he grows famous among the people. Once his true identity is revealed his fame again makes him a rival to the Emperor. Commodius’ rivals, who like Aurelius wish to restore power to the people, plot to have Maximus released from slavery and returned to his army, whereupon he will march on Rome, take it, restore power to the Senate, then leave. As was Marcus Aurelius, so these senators are so confident in Maximus’ integrity they know he will walk away from power having gained it.
At the climax of the film Commodius himself fights the Gladiator Maximus with both killed and power thus restored to the people.
What holds the key to Maximus’ integrity. It is revealed early in the film where he cries to his troops, “What we do in this life leaves echoes in eternity”.