Maximus is the central character of Gladiator. He is a farmer from Spain, who has become Emperor Marcus Aurelius' most trusted general. His hope after finishing off the military campaign against the Germanic tribes is to go home to Spain, but Marcus Aurelius has one more task for him. Marcus Aurelius plans to name Maximus as his heir when he returns to Rome. Maximus tries to decline because he does not like the trappings of power, but Marcus Aurelius asked him as a near son. Maximus had grown close to Marcus Aurelius and thought of him like a father and he couldn't turn him down, especially since he was wary of what would happen if Commodus became Emperor.
Maximus also has a history with Marcus Aurelius' daughter, Lucilla. They had been lovers about ten years before, but each had since gone on to get married to someone else and have a son. Lucilla was then widowed and still carries a flame for Maximus who remains married. The fact that his own family favored Maximus made Commodus naturally jealous of Maximus. When Marcus Aurelius tells him that he plans to name Maximus as his heir, Commodus is stunned and later becomes enraged. He then smothers his father. He gives Maximus a chance to swear allegiance to him, but Maximus refuses.
Commodus orders Maximus killed and also orders his family killed and his farm destroyed. Maximus manages to escape his execution, but he cannot reach Spain in time to save his wife and son. Maximus is later picked up by a slave trader and his wounds are treated by an African named Juba. Juba helps keep Maximus alive as they are sold to Proximo as gladiator stock. When Commodus reinstates the games at the Roman Coliseum, Maximus has his chance. He agrees to go along with Senator Gracchus and Lucilla's plan to remove Commodus. Commodus discovers the plot and allows Maximus to escape into a trap, then fatally wounds Maximus before fighting him to the death in the Coliseum. Maximus does get his revenge just before he dies.
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