Gladiator April 4, 1998 Script Draft: Page #6


INT. COLOSSEUM - MORNING

Narcissus sits face-to-face with Commodus across a tiny table. They have wine and bread. Just behind Commodus is Tribuus with the Praetorian Guard. Narcissus is flanked by Proximo and his gladiators.

COMMODUS
Endorse me in public. Do that and
I'll make you rich and set you free.
I'll return your estates. I know
you would give anything to be
outside again. Endorse me and you
will be free. Think of it. What
would you do with your freedom?

NARCISSUS
If you set me free I will find my
way back to the army, march on Rome
and depose you. Then, the army and
I will restore the Republic so that
animals like you will never control
human destinies again.

Outraged, Tribuus makes a move toward Narcissus -- immediately the gladiators pull their swords. For a second it looks like there's going to be blood shed... Commodus leans on the table between them and holds up his fist for emphasis.

COMMODUS
Is that how you want to spend your
life? You're trapped in the
Colosseum!

Narcissus GRABS his fist, locks it in his grip.

NARCISSUS
So are you...

Bad Teeth smiles at Tribuus again. Commodus pulls his hand free...

EXT. PALACE - PALATINE HILL - LATE AFTERNOON

In a small, circular marble space outside the gardens, Commodus oiled and stripped to leather shorts wrestles a really tough looking SLAVE. Commodus EASILY dominates the match, clearly becoming a DRIVEN MAN. Lucilla leads Tribuus with Jerses and Lykas in tow.

LYKAS
Caesar, I am here...

Commodus doesn't even break stride.

COMMODUS
Lykas, pick a man. Someone who will
look good. Jerses I want it built
up in the Daily Action...

LUCILLA
Do you want posters, too?

Commodus gives her an evil glare.

INT. PROXIMO'S INSULA - EARLY EVENING

Narcissus faces-off with Cos and Proximo across a table laden with food and wine.

NARCISSUS
"Bread and circuses," that's all the
great poet said we Romans need.

Narcissus sees that glazed look in Cos' eyes. Narcissus pours them both wine.

NARCISSUS
It's time for you to tell the
Citizens that Commodus stole the
money allocated for defending the
German border. It's time to tell
the citizens everything. Will you
write it?

COS
Yes, because I know they'll read it.

PROXIMO
Cos, what in hades is the emperor up
to? And don't tell me you don't
know!

COS
I don't know...

PROXIMO
AGH! Please! He's having a secret
device constructed for the circus.
The brass craftsmen are working
overtime.

COS
I'll nose around...

PROXIMO
You know there were riots last
night. Now the unrest has started
again and Commodus has sent for an
army division. You understand what
you are doing...

EXT. COLOSSEUM ARENA - DAY

Commodus -- hair sparkling with gold dust, wearing the Hercules lion skin -- struts into the arena at the head of the gladiator parade. This time the audience applauds.

Narcissus enters with the Proximo gladiators behind the emperor and the volume of the cheers DOUBLES. Forcing himself not to turn, Commodus ascends to the imperial box. Before he sits, two SLAVES carry what looks like a folding campstool with curved legs. Cheers as Commodus sits in it.

EXT. COLOSSEUM

Narcissus slowly puts on his garish armor as Dala sits beside him.

DALA
What's that stupid stool?

NARCISSUS
It's the curule chair.

DALA
What in Hades is the curule chair?

PROXIMO
Rome's most ancient symbol of
leadership. While all other kings
sat in great stone thrones, Rome's
leaders were always on the move with
the army. Some of her greatest
emperors barely had time to set foot
in Rome. So this cheap little
folding stool became a powerful
symbol.

All eyes on Proximo now, Narcissus must be touched to hear these words from "such an ignoble mouth." Proximo shrugs it off, turns to Narcissus.

PROXIMO
So, things change. The government
has moved to the circus. You're
going to fight last. And Commodus
is going to fight first.

NARCISSUS
You were a soldier, and then a
gladiator, weren't you?

PROXIMO
Was I?

They hold on each other -- then the crowd HOWLS.

DALA
Here he comes...

ARENA

Commodus struts onto the sand, muscular body oiled, golden hair glinting in the sun. A SLAVE trails behind, then gets on his knees and offers Commodus a vicious looking sword. Commodus holds up the sword CHEERS raining on him, the crowd going more and more with Commodus.

PROXIMO

joins his gladiators watching the spectacle.

COMMODUS

faces off with a heavily built PERSIAN and immediately attacks. The Persian hesitates, but then when he sees Commodus is serious he fights back. They swap blow upon blow and finally Commodus expertly topples the man with a swipe of his shield. Silence of disbelief from the audience -- then they break into prolonged cheering.

Commodus raises his sword, accepting the acclaim. Then he KILLS the Persian. And the crowd loves it.

NARCISSUS

turns away, watches as Commodus joins the Lykas gladiators in their own 'holding' area on the opposite side of the arena.

PROXIMO
Why don't you let me assemble a sort
of... how shall I put this,
'Package' of enterprises which you
could endorse while leaving all the
messy business to me? I don't want
to over-state the possibilities, but
I've been approached by cheese-
makers; a sandal manufacturer; at
least four wineries; gymnasium
machines...

Narcissus seems to measure the distance to his rival, then looks into a dark passage behind with the door left ajar.

NARCISSUS
I'm going to leave this all up to
you, Proximo. I trust you.
(off his look)
Just be prepared to do me a few
favors in return.

NARCISSUS...

Moves toward the butcher shop, but sees armed slaves at the doors of the passages beyond. Still he reaches in between two hanging racks of ribs for a flat cleaver... but his hand freezes.

On ice, in a mangled disorder is long hair bearing BELLS. It's the dismembered corpse of Crassus.

A sweating FAT MAN in a loin cloth sings as he hacks gladiator bodies to bits. He pauses, then crosses to the lip of a sunken CAGE where two lionesses pace. He heaves in two HUMAN LEGS, then wanders back as slaves unwrap two more bodies.

QUINTUS (O.S.)
You'd never make it.

Narcissus wheels to confront two Praetorian Guard... and Quintus.

NARCISSUS
You brought the army into Rome.

QUINTUS
I was summoned.

NARCISSUS
It's your job as a Roman officer to
disobey such a summons.

QUINTUS
It's my job to keep my job. And
that, by the way, is now head of
Praetorian Guard. Good ole Tribuus
has been retired.

NARCISSUS
Quintus, you've got at least a
division with you -- we could take
Rome away from Commodus and give it
back to the Senate!

QUINTUS
You seem to be doing a great job of
it single-hand! Narcissus, the
Republic is dead. You think those
Senators could govern? For the last
hundred and fifty years they've
worked hard at kissing an endless
succession of Imperial asses!

NARCISSUS
Then give the empire back to the
people... the children who will grow
up to become senators...

QUINTUS
The 'people'?, listen to the people,
they know what they want: A
government that gives them what they
need and doesn't bother them with
messy thoughts of issues. You know,
messy... thinking. They want a
dictator! As far as the children,
there is only one thing that every
Roman child dreams of: being you!
A famous gladiator!

Quintus gestures to the guards.

QUINTUS
We'll escort you back to your new
pals. Oh, and let's catch the next
act, guaranteed to bring the house
down. Everyone will be holding
their breath to what you come up
with in return...

COLOSSEUM MAIN GATE

As Narcissus turns away, Proximo pulls him aside. Adonis joins them.

JERSES RISES

As drums roll ROME PROSTITUTES are pushed out into a far end of the arena by armed arena slaves.

JERSES
In celebration the emperor Commodus'
triumph in the arena and the God's
recognition of his divine lineage,
these prisoners shall be -- in his
glorious generosity -- freed! Or,
Rome shall be freed of this
pestilence forever!

A DOOR SPRINGS OPEN --

Out roar a BULL and a BEAR chained together...

They're berserk crashing into each other. The chain is fastened by a LARGE BRASS LOCK. An Arena Slave shoves a Dark-Haired Prostitute into the arena and hands her a bright metal KEY.

JERSES
Prisoner number one!

Commodus stands in his seat and the audience roars its approval -- this is going to be good!

BAD TEETH
That pig!

JERSES
Part these raging beasts so that as
Titans of old they may retire to
their abodes! Do so and you part
the path to your own freedom! An
arena attendant waits on you at the
far end of the Colosseum...

Sure enough, an Arena Slave opens a small door. The Dark-Haired Prostitute moves forward toward the animals...

AND NARCISSUS --

Simply cannot believe what he's seeing.

NARCISSUS
Gods -- no!

THE PROSTITUTE

runs toward the shrieking beasts -- she lunges for the lock -- with a vicious snap of his neck the bull impales her on his right horn and flings the girl over his shoulder. The body lands like a twisted doll, bloody in the perfect sand.

JERSES
Prisoner #2!

Prostitute #2 is handed another key and the Arena Slave once again opens the far door.

PROXIMO
Commodus is a mad man, at home in a
mad world.

JERSES
Separate these beasts and be
separated from us!

Prostitute #2 takes one look at the situation and turns to bolt back inside.

QUINTUS
Now, there's a wise woman. Some
people recognize reality when they
see it. How's your eye sight these
days? Well, look at this: we have
a fresh offer for you from the
Emperor. Forget being his
supporter, fight in the arena side
by side. Imagine, the two greatest
gladiators on earth, shoulder-to-
shoulder against all comers! It
will remind everyone of your glory
days fighting alongside Marcus
Aurelius! And you'll be free and
rich!

Narcissus sends a fleeting glance toward the ARENA as Prostitute #2 claws at the marble walls.

COMMODUS
Now, now! Would you leave us in the
midst of our entertainment?!

CRAZED laughter and cheers from the mob. Arena Slaves appear with torches and whips beat Prostitute #2 until finally she rushes toward the animals, screaming...

Narcissus -- turns away as the ROAR OF THE CROWD signals another death in the arena, Now the Cute Whore is pushed into the arena and handed a key. Narcissus charges the opening but is violently shoved back by Arena Slaves.

QUINTUS
What are you fighting for in here?
The good of Rome? I can end this
madness now! Take the job for the
sake of the Gods, live!

NARCISSUS
Can you stop that slaughter?! Can
you free these men?

Quintus shakes his head in frustration. In the ARENA the Cute Whore drops the key and as the audience ROARS she walks to her death.

QUINTUS

turns to leave and Narcissus goes for him and is thrown to the ground by four huge Praetorian Guard. Vednas, Dala and Bad Teeth leap in between them and a sword that was homing in on Narcissus stops at the last second. Quintus clears out and his men follow. Proximo slumps down beside Narcissus.

PROXIMO
Jerses has you fighting a retiarius
from the school of Lykas.

VEDNAS
The net man!

NARCISSUS ENTERS THE ARENA

and the crowd begins its "surrender or die" chant for Narcissus and the retiarius HURLS HIS NET -- but timing his charge Narcissus dashes beneath the net before it even ettles behind him he's knocked aside the retiarius trident and killed him. It happens so fast the audience GASPS before CHEERING.

Narcissus rises, then bathed in cheers he holds his arms straight in the air and points his sword at Commodus.

NARCISSUS
I want you! I challenge you! Come
down here and fight me!
(to the cheap seats)
You may battle for the knights and
equates and Senators -- but I
challenge you in the name of the
ordinary citizen of Rome!

For a moment there's dead silence -- and for a moment Narcissus must wonder if he's gone too far. Then the mob EXPLODES to new heights of rapture. Laughing, Narcissus holds his arms up to the crowd as if to say: "Anytime, any place..." Then to roars, he struts out of the arena.

IMPERIAL BOX - NEAR DUSK

Commodus slumped in the curule chair. Quintus, Lucilla and Falco are with him.

COMMODUS
This is the only place in Rome where
I thought -- I believed -- I was
wholly in power.

QUINTUS
Narcissus will never support you,
Caesar, he has too much of a
philosophical temperament.

Commodus gets up, scowls at Falco and paces.

COMMODUS
Damn him! I should have killed him
on the front -- I let you talk me
out of that.

LUCILLA
You would have had a full scale
revolt on your hands.

COMMODUS
What have I got now? It's exactly
as if there were two emperors.
Because of this the people have two
minds. He is their champion.

QUINTUS
It's because he comes off as the
underdog.

COMMODUS
Underdog! How can he be an underdog
-- he wins all the time! I'm the
emperor why can't I kill him? He
could be poisoned, or somehow killed
to look like an accident.

QUINTUS
You don't want to kill him. If
anything happens to him now you will
be blamed... and he knows it.
Besides, that gladiator school is a
fortress. It would take the army to
break in there. What you want is
to... offer him the wooden sword.
If he takes it, he's no longer the
champion of the people, is he? He's
gone. And you are a hero for
awarding it.

LUCILLA
He wouldn't take the wooden sword,
not in a thousand years.

QUINTUS
You're so sure, aren't you? If I
were you I'd gleefully accept his
challenge. Despite those who would
thwart you, my agents have been
busy.

Commodus looks from Quintus to Falco and Lucilla; understands he means THEM.

INT. COLOSSEUM - MORNING

Narcissus sits with his group of gladiators watching Arena Slaves assemble on the floor of the Colosseum with their sand 'grooming' tools.

Four huge crates are eased onto the the field on wood rollers. The sides are cracked open and bright white SAND spills out. SOUND OF THE CROWD SEEMS TO RISE FROM THE EMPTY SEATS --

MATCH CUT TO:

PACKED SEATS

The mob well into a day's action. Dala, mounted on an ostrich, darts around the arena as he battles A GIANT OF A MAN who must be seven feet tall.

NARCISSUS

armored-up, checking his sword. Proximo arrives.

PROXIMO
Something strange; I still haven't
got your fight for the day.

Dala makes a final charge against the 'Giant' and as he raises his ax and he catches him in the stomach with his sword. The crowd thinks it's the funniest thing on earth.

Then two GLADIATORS approach from a side door and position themselves near Narcissus' entrance.

JERSES
Narcissus Meridas! Come forward!

PROXIMO
It's damned fix! They're going to
murder you -- I can't watch!

He GAWKS...

THE ARENA

Narcissus steps into the blistering sun and is stunned to see Commodus approach him, dressed in his lion's skin and carrying a long, shiny sword. He looks up at the Royal Box.

ROYAL BOX

Lucilla and Falco sit flanked by Praetorian Guard. Quintus enters with SELENE AND HER DAUGHTERS, puts a hand on each little girl's shoulder.

Narcissus looks as though he's physically struck. Selene stares down at him, fighting back tears: Themis weeps openly while Manto remains stoic. He lowers his sword... Commodus gets near.

COMMODUS
Narcissus Meridas! I accept your
challenge in the name of the
Citizens of Rome!

The audience goes crazy -- Commodus slashes out with his sword and Narcissus instantly parries the blow. For a moment Narcissus really turns it on and Commodus back-pedals... and slowly he lets Commodus get the better of him until Commodus knocks the sword from his hand. Humiliated, Narcissus drops to his knees and holds up his hand for mercy.

But Commodus is so enrage that he lifts his sword to kill him but... has just enough presence of mind to look up into the crowd.

THE PEOPLE

shocked... then it spreads from the cheap seats through the whole arena THUMBS UP! They chant for Narcissus to be spared.

AND COMMODUS...

The last circuit breaker of self-preservation in his brain kicks in and he RAISES HIS ARMS IN TRIUMPH. He walks around the arena receiving their cheers -- finally he feels like Emperor of Rome and tears streak his face.

NARCISSUS

Now, alone in the center of the Colosseum. Commodus returns to his box to an endless applause. This is his pure 'Triumph of the Will' moment...

COMMODUS
Narcissus Meridas. Such glory as
you have brought to the arena of
Rome is redemption for the deeds
which condemned you here and thus I
cannot find it in my warrior's heart
to kill you!

To wild applause Commodus lifts something that's wrapped in silk, unfolds the silk and holds up a wildly colored WOODEN SWORD.

COMMODUS
I honor you with the gift of the
wooden sword -- your freedom! What
say you citizens of Rome?!

The audience goes into a sustained roar of joy. Commodus hands the wooden sword to Quintus who heaves in onto the sand at Narcissus' feet. Then random voices demand that he "SPEAK -- SPEAK!" While from the cheap seats: "Don't leave us! Refuse the sword!" This open argument blurs into a cacophony of howls. Then the crowd falls silent.

VOICE
We love you, Narcissus!

NARCISSUS
I am honored that the citizens of
Rome, after trying their very best
to kill me for so long -- have
decided I am no longer worth the
effort and should be spared!

Roars of laughter. Narcissus looks around.

NARCISSUS
I am not bitter about you, afterall,
I have lived very much as you do!
In fear! But unlike you, I can lift
a sword and strike against that fear
-- and so you dream of being me!
Today I can walk out.
(locks eyes with
Selene)
Today I will walk out!
(to the crowd)
But you are condemned to stay...

Narcissus scoops up a handful of sand and holds it up for all to see, turning in all directions as the SAND MELTS THROUGH HIS FINGERS.

NARCISSUS
Your lives! Citizens of Rome,
consider your lives...

He looks up at Commodus -- and for just a second it seems he still might refuse -- got Commodus worried. But then he picks up the sword.

NARCISSUS
I accept... Caesar -- I accept your
generous offer!

CHEERS of support from the crowd mixed with shouts of dismay -- the sense that he's really abandoning a segment of the population.

Commodus glows, realizes that he has finally won.

INT. GLADIATOR WAGON - LATE DAY

Narcissus sits pressed between Dala and Proximo. Vednas holds the coveted wooden sword in his hands like it was a newborn babe. No one seems to be able to talk. Finally Bad Teeth GRINS.

BAD TEETH
Fuck a lot of girls for us!
(pause)
Boys too!

PROXIMO
I'll have your gold for you. Even
the third from the Olive oil.

NARCISSUS
I told you to keep the oil money --
but if you don't want it why don't
you give it to the men?

Adonis and Dala immediately fix on Proximo.

PROXIMO
Let's talk about this later. Right
now we have other things to settle.
You and your family will be leaving
with a supply ship returning in the
morning to Ostia. From there,
Caesar has decreed you be given an
estate in Paestum. It's beautiful;
an old Greek town right on the
ocean. Rich soil.
(pause)
Perhaps we could keep our financial
arrangements... although Caesar will
give you a sort of pension it's
always good to look to the future,
keep your hand in the arena... so to
speak.

NARCISSUS
I want nothing to do with the arena.

PROXIMO
Something else, then. Do the
chariot races interest you?

KIDS suddenly run alongside the wagon -- faces we've seen before. Dressed in their gladiator-esque costumes, but today looking pretty pitiful. They call Narcissus' name -- one reaches in and tries to take his hand but the wagon speeds up leaving them in the dust.

DALA
You beat the odds -- higher than at
either the blue or the red betting
booths!

Narcissus searches all the faces he's come to know so well in such a short time.

PROXIMO
So, we had a little spark, and we
both did very well. Think of me
when you're spending that miserable
pension... in the sticks.

EXT. TIBER PORT - LATE DAY

The door on the gladiator wagon slips open and Narcissus stands down. Praetorian Guard keep back a crowd shouting Narcissus' name. Quintus escorts him to the dock and the waiting boat.

NARCISSUS
Are you going to kill me here in
front of the people of Rome or in
front of my family?

Quintus stops and they stare at each other. Quintus flashes his characteristic smile.

QUINTUS
Come on... if you didn't make it to
Paestum... All Rome would know.
You're still safe, for now... Take
my advice, get on that boat and
don't look back.

Quintus gestures to a legionnaire who stands with his back to us.

QUINTUS
See he gets aboard.

Quintus rushes off with Praetorian Guard. Ten remain to keep back a crowd of kids and well-wishers who shout his name. Those people are mostly poor, living without hope, their cheers, the sound of damned souls.

The legionnaire turns and it's the CENTURION, SERVIS. Narcissus is about to react when Servis simply nods toward the ship.

EXT. SHIP'S DECK

as Narcissus climbs on board he spots his family waiting for him. Themis launches into his arms.

THEMIS
Daddy!

As Themis climbs halfway up his body the rest run to meet them and they EMBRACE. Then he sees that Mela and her son Masinissa are with them.

EXT. REAR DECK - NEAR DUSK

At a round table set up on the deck Narcissus, Mela, Selene, Manto, Themis and Masinissa stuff themselves with bread and fruit. CREW working the lines and cargo tie-downs pause to stare at Narcissus -- a super-star in their midst.

As they talk, Narcissus breaks off bread, passes olives, oil and fruit, he keeps looking back toward the city where again a plume of black smoke rises.

MELA
Quintus' escort attacked us when we
were ten leagues from the front.
All but Juba died there.
(she hugs her son)
We'll get out of Italy somehow and
back to Numidia. I'll raise him
like his father.

MANTO
Lucilla saved our lives, father.
Everybody wanted to kill us.

SELENE
Manto's right, the leading Senators
fell in with Commodus and wanted us
sacrificed.

MELA
If Quintus found us, Lucilla... her
days are numbered.

Servis returns with some charred lamb and as he lays it out Narcissus pulls up a stool so he can sit with them.

NARCISSUS
What's happening out there?

SERVIS
The Felix troops have gone over to
the Senate. Tonight will decide
everything. They're fighting the
Rome Legions and the Praetorian
Guard.

NARCISSUS
Why did Quintus bring in Felix
troops with the Rome legions?

SERVIS
He wanted to make sure Felix wasn't
strong enough back at the front to
revolt. But when these legionnaire
heard about you...

Narcissus rises to study the horizon. He looks like a General again.

INT. 'CABIN' - NIGHT

Narcissus and Selene wake to the sound of someone opening their door. Narcissus see it's Servis and follows him out. Selene watches the pair framed in the opening in silhouette. A THIRD MAN joins them.

IT'S PROXIMO

His slave sets a small chest down beside Narcissus. Then he hands him a large, thick piece of paper. Narcissus quickly reads it by lamp light.

PROXIMO
Your gold, general. Commodus has
gone crazy -- he's declared martial
law. People arrested after curfew
will be used as human torches to
light the Colosseum. I must get
back to seal up the school against
the riots. Spend this wisely.

Narcissus stops him.

NARCISSUS
Lucilla? Any word?

Proximo hesitates, but...

PROXIMO
It is my position to know that...
likely she is to be sacrificed in
the arena. Tomorrow.

Narcissus digests this, then:

NARCISSUS
Commodus must hate you. Free your
gladiators and come with us.

PROXIMO
Are you mad? With all this unrest
the Colosseum will be open day and
night! Anyway, I'm not political,
I'm in the entertainment business.

EXT. DECK - NIGHT

Narcissus watches Proximo scurry down the gang plank and as he does two crewmen pull it up and prepare to depart. Narcissus moves to the rail. Servis joins him strapping.

NARCISSUS
Let me have your sword.

He puts his hand on the gold chest.

NARCISSUS
When you get to Ostia, use this --
bribe passage to Africa or Spain.
Save my family. You should be able
to find a merchant ship that will
take you to Egypt then to Numidia.

SELENE
No!

Selene grabs Narcissus, unable to even think about losing him again.

SELENE
You're not going! You have to stay
with us!

NARCISSUS
How long do you think Commodus will
let us live once he's in power? A
month? Half a year? Paestum will
be a prison where he'll hold us
until it's time...

SELENE
Narcissus!

NARCISSUS
Do you want to see Themis and Manto
butchered? If I die fighting
Commodus he won't care about you.
If I live I'll come and get you.

SELENE
I don't want you to die!

Clinging to him she crumbles into tears.

NARCISSUS
I'll never die. You tell the girls
that. You honor our ancestors and
I'll be there. Every night. At the
table of life.

SELENE
Your daughters need more than some
vapors; they need you!

NARCISSUS
They'll have me. Teach them. Don't
let them become like these ignorant
heaps of citizens without history,
without philosophy, without meaning.
Teach them of the Greeks, the
Babylonians, the Hebrews, the
Numidians, the Egyptians and the
great Romans. Teach them, who we
are!

SELENE
You teach them!

NARCISSUS
That's what I'm going to do. That's
what I'm going to do...

Servis unbuckles his sword and hands it over to Narcissus. As the ship starts to move away from shore Narcissus crosses to the far rail.

RAIL

Narcissus embraces Selene who is no-way ready to let him go and Servis has to hold her back. Carefully he lowers himself over the side.

EXT. ROME - EARLY MORNING

Narcissus, face muddied, moves carefully through the narrow streets, trying to stay in the side alleys. Vigilant Guards move through the main streets like Brown Shirts -- they yank people into the street, lining them up.

VIGILANT LEADER
Caesar has declared this his
holiday! Don't you want to be in
the arena? All of Rome will be
there!

HILLSIDE

As Narcissus approaches Proximo's school he sees the great wooden door have been smashed aside.

INT. PROXIMO'S SCHOOL

Narcissus moves through smoke from a smoldering structure and into the courtyard. They're all here: Dala, Adonis, the others... as if they's gathered to make one last stand. All dead. Many have been shot with arrows.

INT. PROXIMO'S OFFICE

Proximo has died at his desk. Every drawer is broken into. Narcissus lays a hand on his head.

NARCISSUS
Looks like they got your money after
all, old friend.

Narcissus looks around the room, spots his Spatha Sword and getting it he uncovers the top of a broken crate and finds that Proximo had kept his MILITARY UNIFORM. Narcissus puts his hands on his old lorica segmentata, the decorations.

EXT. YARD

Wearing a full length toga, Narcissus moves down the hillside. Behind him FLAMES engulf the school.

SIDE STREET

Narcissus comes on a half dozen dead legionnaire with red 'shoulders' -- they're from the Felix Division. As he moves slowly he hears marching feet and ducks into an alley as Praetorian Guard pass. Narcissus comes back into the light -- then a HUGE CHEER -- like some distant NATURAL FORCE -- echoes through the air...

INT. COLOSSEUM - DAY

Something HUGE creeps into the arena from the depths of the Colosseum, sun glinting off it's sides as it emerges into the light... the audience GASPS. It's an ENORMOUS BRASS BULL dragged on wheels by slaves into the center of the arena.

The bull 'stands' on all fours, head back, horns rising from the skull like regular bull's horns but finish up as GIANT TRUMPETS AIMED AT THE SKY. The two sides of it's 'ribs' are open but BARS prevent anyone from getting out. The belly of the bull is filled with SENATORS... and Lucilla.

At first the mob is uneasy, but seeing these "high class men" in this absurd machine brings out the laughs.

FALCO

pushes through the senators up to the bars on one side and starts yelling for the crowd to listen to him... but the crowd roars all the more. Arena Slaves stack kindling and logs underneath the brass bull. Jerses stands.

JERSES
In the name of Caesar Marcus
Aurelius Commodus Antoninus
Augustus, the entire Senate has been
found guilty of conspiracy against
the emperor!

Again, a mixed response from the crowd. Commodus jumps up, throws off his robe revealing his imposing physique and leaps onto the edge of the lowest wall on the arena.

COMMODUS
These Senators -- and my own sister
-- have determined they should rule
Rome! The Empire! They better than
an emperor! They better than
Augustus Octavian! Better than
Trajan, Hadrian -- or even my divine
father, Marcus Aurelius! These
names echo down to us throughout
history! Name one Senator! One
Senator whose name falls from the
lips with the same power! I defy
you to name one! And as for my
sister -- shall we now have women
running the greatest empire in the
history of the world?!

That brings a loud outburst of "NO!" and a background of laughter from the mob.

COMMODUS
Since Romans are accused of not
spending enough time in the Senate,
I have brought the whole Senate to
the people! Let's show them how
real Romans treat treachery! Light
that fire!

The Slaves heave on a bucket of lampante -- highly inflammable olive oil -- and another tosses in a torch. Flames roar up around the bull.

INSIDE THE BULL

... like the end of the world. Smoke whips through the openings as SENATORS weep, lunge against the bars or walls and scream. Lucilla kneels, crying. Falco crouches beside her and they embrace.

ARENA

As the fire grows Arena Slaves close hinged panels over the barred openings using poles. Inside the screaming and drumming of fists on hot metal reaches a crescendo.

COMMODUS

stands on his imperial seat watching the last great moment in his final conquest of Rome.

THE BRASS BULL

shaking from the frenzy inside as its belly GLOWS. SCREAMS rise to SHRIEKS and as do the shouts and howls of delight from the crowd.

Finally the cries inside become the animal screeches of PURE PAIN -- and that sound is so DEVASTATING that the mob involuntarily goes quiet. As the sound reaches a horrific crescendo BLACK SMOKE SHOOTS OUT through the trumpets at the top of the bull and THE TRUMPETS SOUND...

EXT. STREETS OF ROME

Narcissus stops, hearing the horns and seeing the TWIN PLUMES rising over the Colosseum. Then the ANIMAL HOWL OF THE MOB...

Narcissus continues through the narrow streets between the high-rise 'insulae', housing the Roman underclass. They're slums with garbage in heaps outside the buildings rummaged by dogs.

He rounds a corner and comes across CHILDREN playing GLADIATOR among the filth. Three KIDS have made wooden swords and a fourth the trident of the retiarius; he even has a 'net' made from a cheap piece of cloth. Narcissus checks them out. Then he turns back to the main street.

EXT. COLOSSEUM - DAY

Narcissus stops yards away, sizing the situation up. Cages of ANIMALS are delivered by a dozen MEN. A ROAR goes up from the arena.

INT. COLOSSEUM ARENA

Carnage. Dead gladiators and animals have been left on the sand. An orchestra of DRUMS resound.

JERSES
Friends and citizens, you are
fortunate to live on the most
glorious day in the history of Rome!
The Fatherland's greatest enemies
roam Hades, sent on that eternal
mission by our beloved emperor, the
demi-god Commodus!

INT. COLOSSEUM PASSAGES

Narcissus sees there are plenty of armed guards at the main entrance into the halls. He turns right into a narrow opening that becomes an internal aqueduct. This he climbs, then leaps down on top of a CAGE. A LION inside leaps up at him and he jumps to the top of the next cage which holds a panther -- and another holding a POLAR BEAR.

Narcissus pauses to look down at the magnificent, pacing white animal; clearly never seen anything like it in his life. Then another cage RISES up on an elevator blocking his way. Narcissus almost does a double-take... Inside are CHIMPANZEES dressed as ROMAN SENATORS. He leaps down into a narrow passage.

ARENA

Jerses continues.

JERSES
To show his benevolence and his good
standing with all the Gods, Emperor
Commodus has negotiated a bargain
with Hades himself! The Senators so
lately late of Rome are to be
returned to us on condition they do
so in a form which will vex us no
more!

THE CAGE DOOR...

slides open and the Chimps rush out into the arena. When the audience sees them they crack-up.

JERSES
Go! Scurry on! Take your places in
the Senate! You have much work to
do -- for this day the City of Rome
is proclaimed renamed the City of
Commodus!

The chimps exit, trumpets blow and Arena Slaves run out onto the sand still strewn with dead animals and gladiators. As the crowd 'OOS' and 'AHS' they cover the floor of the arena with GOLD DUST until the arena dead seem SCULPTURED IN GOLD.

Drums roll and Commodus enters the arena. He stands in the golden arena and receives wave after wave of applause from the crowd.

BUTCHER SHOP

As the FAT BUTCHER raises his huge cleaver a LIVING ARM reaches out of the carnage and GRABS HIS THROAT. Narcissus shoves a body aside and HEAVES the Fat Butcher over the edge into the lion's cage -- his SCREAMS are drowned out by the CHEERS from the arena. Narcissus leaps onto the floor; he heads down toward the main entrance hall.

COMMODUS

faces a Thracian -- a man with a round shield and a curved dagger. Commodus easily chops the shield out of the inexperienced man's hand, knocks the man over, straddles him, holds a sword point over the man's heart. He looks up to the crowd. The upscale seats jab their thumbs against their chests... Commodus raises his sword...

NARCISSUS
I want you!

Commodus spins on his heels as the entire arena goes SILENT.

NARCISSUS

stands on the arena floor. He yanks off his cloak and the crowd sees he's wearing his old GENERAL'S UNIFORM. The Thracian runs off...

NARCISSUS
I accuse you, Lucius Aelius Aurelius
Commodus of betraying Rome; of
betraying her courageous soldiers
for the sake of personal gain! I
accuse you of murder: of the
Senators of Rome, of untold
citizens, of your sister and of
poisoning your own father, our
beloved Marcus Aurelius!
(Narcissus draws his
sword)
The punishment is death in the
arena...

Commodus stares at this apparition. He turns up toward the Imperial box where Quintus is about to come to his rescue when VOICES shout:

CHEAP SEATS
Let them fight! Narcissus!
Narcissus!

People in the upscale seats shout for Commodus. And at that moment Commodus holds up his hand stopping Quintus; can tell by the look on his face he is sick of Narcissus once again throwing his absolute ascendancy up for grabs.

When the audience sees he's going to fight a universal cheer goes up. But he holds up his hand and Quintus tosses down his gilt bow and arrows.

NARCISSUS

moves toward Commodus, a gentle wind stirs his hair and once again he's the noble Roman General -- all around is the surreal gold dust coated nightmare of bodies in hideous death poses, a golden 'Guernica'.

Narcissus goes straight for him as Commodus hurriedly cocks an arrow... Just as Narcissus is nearly within sword range Commodus hastily fires -- he hits Narcissus, but rushed his aim and the arrow sinks into his left shoulder.

Narcissus staggers -- cheers and cries of dismay rise together from the audience. But Narcissus manages to strike out splitting the bow... still it's plain he's badly hit. He staggers sideways.

Now Commodus is sure he's got him and holds his hand up stopping Quintus who again moves to enter the arena. Commodus draws his sword... Narcissus responds by BREAKING OFF THE ARROW IN HIS SHOULDER and going right for Commodus.

THE TWO BATTLE IN THE CENTER OF THE ARENA --

Wounded, Narcissus is slowly backed up. The crowd is on edge -- cheap seats solidly on Narcissus' side, their enthusiasm unnerves Quintus. He moves Praetorian Guard to flank the seats of the rich.

NARCISSUS

is getting the worst of it, his shoulder bleeds through his armor. Commodus gets stronger, anticipating finally killing his enemy with his own hands. Commodus slams the sword out of Narcissus' hand and Narcissus GOES DOWN...

Behind Commodus the crowd is going truly NUTS -- but he just doesn't care: he raises his sword to let the world know he's about to strike the fatal blow when Narcissus TACKLES him at the waist.

Commodus GOES DOWN -- sword flying away -- and Narcissus is on him, the two roll in the gore and gold dust and Narcissus gets Commodus on his back and starts strangling him with his one good arm.

The cheap seats GO CRAZY -- Quintus struggles to pull together a force to get into the arena but people rush into the arena blocking the troops...

AND NARCISSUS --

crushing Commodus down into the golden sand of the Colosseum. He speaks with serenity and power.

NARCISSUS
God, Janus, for saving my family I
sacrifice the emperor of Rome...

He crushes Commodus' throat with his bare hands. Quintus stands over him as the rest of the guard battles the crowd. Quintus raises his sword and slams it down... beside Narcissus in the SAND.

EXT. MERCHANT SHIP - OFF THE COAST OF AFRICA - DAY

Narcissus with Selene, his arms around Themis and Manto on deck watching the coast approach.

THE END


After Commodus' death the Praetorian Guard auctioned off the position of Roman Emperor to the highest bidder. In response the Army of the Danube marched on Rome, killed the new 'Emperor' and tried to establish a strong government... but the empire slipped into civil war.

The Colosseum and its slaughter of animals and gladiators continued -- even through two hundred years of Popes -- until German 'barbarians' toppled Rome and put an end to the circus.

---

(1) "The typical Acta Diurna (Daily Acts) might contain news of gladiatorial contest, astrological omens, notable marriages, births and deaths, public appointments, and trials and executions. Such reading matter complemented the usual fare of military news and plebiscite results also given in the Acta Diurna and presaged the future popularity of such newspaper
fillers as horoscopes, the obituary column, and the sports pages." It was started by Julius Caesar in 59 BC.

- Encyclopedia Britannica


(2) Borrowed from Fellini but may be an historical artifact.


(3) A satirical piece survives from the time of Pharaoh Akhenaton -- 1358 BC -- describing the wealthy young men of Thebes spending their "... patrimony upon a fast chariot and a span of mettlesome horses tearing around and showing off their prowess." Light, high-priced chariots were the Ferrari of their day.

- Akhenaten, C. Aldred