Revised by John Logan
October 22, 1998
"While stands the Colosseum, Rome shall stand.
When falls the Colosseum, Rome shall fall.
And when Rome falls -- the World."
EXT. FOREST - DAY
Germania. The far reaches of the Roman Empire.
Winter 180 A.D.
Incongruously enough, the first sound we hear is a beautiful tenor voice. Singing. A boy's voice.
CREDITS as we hear the haunting song float through dense forests. We finally come to a rough, muddy road slashing through the forest. On the road a GERMAN PEASANT FATHER is herding along three sickly looking cows. His two SONS are with him. His youngest son sits on one of the cows and sings a soft, plaintive song.
They become aware of another sound behind them on the road -- the creak of wood, the slap of metal on leather. The Father immediately leads his cattle and his sons off the road. They stand-still, eyes down: the familiar posture of subjugated peoples throughout history.
A wagon train rumbles past them. Three ornate wagons followed by a mounted cohort of fifty heavily-armed PRAETORIAN GUARDS.
The young boy dares to glance up at the passing Romans. His eyes burn with hatred.
INT. WAGON - DAY
Mist momentarily obscures a man's face. Frozen breath. The man is in his 20's, imperious and handsome. He is swathed in fur, only his face exposed. He is COMMODUS.
He glances up.
Do you think he's really dying?
The woman across from him returns his gaze evenly. She is slightly older, beautiful and patrician. A formidable woman.
She is LUCILLA.
He's been dying for ten years.
I think he's really dying this time.
A beat. Their breath turns instantly to mist.
He has to be bled every night now.
How do you know that?
I've been so informed.
She arches an eyebrow.
If he weren't really dying he
wouldn't have sent for us.
Maybe he just misses us.
And the Senators. He wouldn't have
summoned them if --
Peace, Commodus. After two weeks on
the road your incessant scheming is
hurting my head.
The first thing I shall do is honor
him with games worthy of his
The first thing I shall do is have a
The wagon rumbles to a halt. Voices are heard outside.
Commodus leaps out...
EXT. WAGON - OUTPOST - DAY
Three Roman SOLDIERS guard an outpost, a watchtower, on the roadside.
Why have we stopped?
PRAETORIAN GUARD MEMBER
We're here, sir.
(to Soldier #1)
Where is my father?
He's at the front, sir.
Is the battle won?
Don't know, sir. They've been gone
for eight days.
Commodus tosses off his furs -- beneath them he wears a beautiful set of Lorica Segmentata -- the traditional formed armor of Rome. He moves to a horse as:
(to Soldier #1)
My sister wants a bath, take her to
(to Soldier #2)
Take me to my father.
He leaps onto the horse and canters back to the Praetorian Guard unit.
Soldier #2 climbs on his horse and leads them. Commodus rides off with most of the Praetorian Guard unit.
Lucilla peeks her head from the wagon. She glances at the remaining soldiers. Distinctly unpromising.
Civilization at last. Gods preserve
EXT. HILL - TWILIGHT
The mighty catapults dwarf the humans. Soldiers from the elite Felix Regiment -- a legion of the Roman Army -- haul the monstrous machines up a hill.
The commanding General of the Felix Regiment, MAXIMUS, walks between two of the catapults. He is a striking and intense man in his 30's. Like all the soldiers who surround him, he is caked with mud and exhausted.
He trudges up the hill with his two lieutenants, TITUS and QUINTUS.
You would do as well to read the
mind of a rhinoceros.
These barbarians would rather drown
in blood than yield an inch. If I
didn't hate them so much I would
They have reached the top of the hill. Stunning martial preparations are underway. The catapults join ten others. Archers are taking up position. Brutal "Scorpions" -- devices for firing multiple crossbow bolts -- are being loaded. Soldiers are also loading the catapults with enormous "Greek fire pots" -- large, round terra cotta pots.
Maximus and his lieutenants gaze down from the hilltop. Below them they can see a German encampment.
They simply will not surrender.
A beat as Maximus gazes down at the German position.
A people should know when they are
At the first signal release the
catapults. We'll use the cavalry to
cut off the retreat.
General, I don't recommend that.
Our cavalry might be caught in the
I hope not, because I'm going to be
A beat as he gazes down at the enemy.
Why don't they know they're already
EXT. TREES - TWILIGHT
Maximus and Titus are on their horses, the cavalry of two hundred Felix Regiment warriors surrounds them. Steam flares from their horses' nostrils. They wait in a thick stand of trees -- the German position can be seen across a muddy plain.
A large wolf -- "The Wolf of Rome" -- waits at Maximus' side.
Maximus nods to an archer. The archer lights the tip of an arrow and sends it flaming into the night sky.
EXT. HILLTOP - TWILIGHT
Quintus waits. The catapults are loaded and waiting. So too the Scorpions. So too the 200 archers of the Felix Regiment.
He sees the flaming arrow flying up from below.
The mighty catapults are released. The Greek fire pots arc dramatically through the air. A moment later soldiers release the Scorpions and hundreds of bolts streak through the sky. The archers fire a murderous barrage of flaming arrows.
EXT. TREES - TWILIGHT
The screaming is almost immediate.
Maximus and his cavalry watch as the fire pots crash down into the German encampment.
EXT. GERMAN CAMP - TWILIGHT
The fire pots shatter -- pitch splashes everywhere -- seconds later the bolts and flaming arrows slice down and ignite the pitch -- FLAME EXPLODES -- it is a hellish, napalm-like vision -- the conflagration illuminating the twilight.
The deadly rain of flaming arrows spreads terror through the German camp --
EXT. TREES - TWILIGHT
Maximus watches the German camp.
(to his men)
Hold steady... steady...
He can see the nightmare destruction of the encampment continuing -- fire pots and Scorpion bolts and flaming arrows -- panic in the German encampment.
He sees the Germans begin fleeing across the plain. He quickly raises his sword and whispers a prayer, then turns to his men:
Brothers -- I salute you! For Rome!
He spurs his horse and races out of the trees to the plain...
EXT. PLAIN - BATTLEGROUND - TWILIGHT
Maximus leads the terrifying and relentless cavalry charge -- Titus at his side -- the Felix Regiment screams out fearsome war cries as they gallop across the muddy plain toward the Germans --
Fire pots and flaming arrows are crashing down everywhere around them --
The cavalry SLAMS into the Germans at full gallop --
It is carnage.
The Felix Regiment warriors slash ruthlessly with short swords -- slicing a path of sheer destruction through the Germans -- but the Germans fight with equal brutality -- and the Germans also fight with the desperation of a hopeless last chance -- they pull and spear Roman soldiers off horses whenever they can --
Maximus spins his horse and swings his sword with expert efficiency -- a spear stabs through the neck of his horse and it immediately collapses forward --
Maximus sails over the horse's head and crashes to the muddy ground -- he jumps up and is in the midst of the battle --
The flaming arrows and exploding fire pots create a ferocious inferno everywhere around the battle -- the flames silhouetting the fighting --
On the ground, Maximus proves his absolute worth as a warrior -- he hacks and dodges -- ghastly images of true ancient warfare -- Maximus' eyes burn with a zealous fire as he fights for his life --
He finds he is momentarily at a terrible disadvantage -- Germans are surrounding him from all sides -- as he fights he looks for an advantage -- for his soldiers -- for anything -- he is doomed --
Then -- an almost mystical image -- Maximus' wolf leaps through a wall of flame --
"The Wolf of Rome" savages several Germans around Maximus -- giving him the help he needed.
The wolf and his master fight, side-by-side.
EXT. HILLTOP - TWILIGHT
We see an old man's face, staring down at the battle. The face is weather-beaten, ailing. The roaring flames from the battlefield below flicker in his sad eyes.
MARCUS AURELIUS, the Emperor of Rome, is on a horse. A metal brace extends from the back of his saddle. He is strapped to the brace with thick, leather straps.
He watches as the Felix Regiment below concludes the battle. The cheering of the Regiment can be heard as the final, isolated pockets of Germans are cut down.
Behind Marcus the sun is setting, painting the world blood red.
EXT. BATTLEFIELD - SUNSET
Maximus, bloody and spent, walks through the aftermath of the carnage. The Wolf of Rome is at his side. Dead and dying by the hundreds are scattered everywhere. Roman surgeons are attending to the wounded.
Marcus walks to him, embraces him warmly.
Maximus, you prove your valor again.
Let us hope for the final time here.
I don't think there's anyone left to
There are always people left to
Marcus takes Maximus' arm and they walk through the masses of bodies. Maximus holds Marcus' arm firmly, quietly supporting him as they walk.
But this night, at least, Germania
is at last defeated... What will you
do now, my friend?
Should Caesar permit, I'll go home.
I've been away too long. I've
forgotten my wife's face and I
barely know my son.
Suddenly, a tethered GERMAN PRISONER they are passing calls out to them:
THIS BLOOD MEANS NOTHING, CONQUEROR!
Maximus and Marcus stop. A soldier moves quickly to silence the German Prisoner.
... You speak our language?
You have been in my homeland for
twelve years. Of course I speak
your language. So did my son, who
you murdered. So did my daughter,
who you raped.
No. Let him speak...
... I am Rome, what would you say to
(points to sunset)
You are that sun, Rome, and your
time is over... You can slit a
thousand throats here, and you can
put a thousand babies to the sword,
but it will always be our home.
Now it is Rome.
It will never be Rome. Not as long
as one German breathes.
The soldier moves to kill the insolent Prisoner.
No... Release him. Give him safe
passage. Let him go to his family.
The soldier leads the German Prisoner away.
Maximus and Marcus continue walking in silence for a beat. Then:
Tell me again, Maximus, why are we
For the glory of the empire, sire.
Yes. I remember.
They continue walking through the mountains of bodies...
EXT. ROAD - SUNSET
Maximus and Marcus are now walking along a road through the dense forest. Slaves follow behind them, leading their horses.
Both sides of the road are filled with the men of the Felix Regiment. As Maximus and Marcus pass, the battered and bloody soldiers drag themselves to their feet, raising their swords, paying silent homage.
They honor you, Caesar.
I don't think they're standing for
me, Maximus. They honor you.
Just then Commodus canters into view with his Praetorian Guard escort. He watches the army honor Maximus with rank envy as he nears.
He rides up to Maximus and Marcus.
Have I missed it?
He leaps from his horse.
Have I missed the battle?
You've missed the war. We're done
Commodus embraces him, awkward.
Father. Congratulations. I shall
sacrifice a thousand doves to honor
Spare the doves and honor Maximus,
he won the battle.
Commodus embraces Maximus, even more awkward.
General, Rome salutes you and I
embrace you as a brother.
They walk, Maximus still supporting Marcus, as:
Your Spaniards seem invincible. May
the Gods favor the Felix Regiment
now and always...
(to his father)
Here, Father, take my arm.
Where's your sister?
She's at the camp. She had no
desire to see the gore of the
Lucilla would eat every corpse here
if it brought her one step closer to
Caesar, you do the lady injustice.
It's a foolish old cobra who doesn't
recognize his own off-spring...
(he suddenly stops,
not feeling well)
I think... I should ride now.
Maximus waves for Marcus' horse. It is brought up. Several soldiers carefully help the old man into the saddle. He is then tethered to the brace on his saddle. It is a slow, graceful and embarrassing ordeal for the Emperor of Rome.
When at last he is strapped in, he looks to Maximus.
So much for the glory of Rome.
Without a word to his son, Marcus nods and the horse is slowly lead away.
Commodus and Maximus watch him go.
Poor old man.
If you'll excuse me, Highness.
He turns and stalks away.
EXT. TENT CITY - NIGHT
We see the Roman encampment, a sea of tents. Hundreds of campfires burn before the tents.
INT. HOSPITAL TENT - NIGHT
Maximus enters a large tent and is met by a spectacle of the dead and dying. Roman surgeons are working feverishly to save lives. Limbs are amputated, the bloody stumps quickly cauterized with hot irons. Leeches and bronze cups are employed for blood-letting to balance "humours."
Anesthesia as we know it is nonexistent. Wine amphoras are passed around and orderlies fan narcotic smoke toward the patients. Mostly, though, they just hold down the writhing patients.
Maximus moves through the tent, offering a word of comfort here and there. All the wounded are delighted to see him.
He goes to an older soldier, GALLUS, who has one wooden hand. His other hand is bandaged.
What, Gallus, losing your other
Aye, General, they're going to make
a bronze one for it. Long fingers
And the women of your village will
crave your touch even more.
Ah, then you know the women of my
Maximus smiles and moves on.
He stops at a young soldier, VALERIUS, whose head has been shaved. A hole has been bored into his skull to relieve the pressure on his brain. The young soldier is dying.
What's your name, son?
The name suits you.
Why am I dying?
A beat. Maximus sits by his cot. He takes Valerius' hand.
You're dying because you love Rome,
as I do.
I've never been to Rome.
Neither have I. Rome for us lives
(he touches his
... it's a thing inside us that came
from our ancestors and that we give
to our children.
It must be glorious, Rome. I've
only seen pictures. Is it a
Yes, it's a glorious place.
It must be.
He smiles. And he is dead.
Maximus sits for a moment. He gently closes Valerius' eyes. And Maximus finds that he is weeping.
He is not ashamed of the tears.
INT. MESS TENT - NIGHT
An immediate swirl of noise. The grand mess tent is crowded with soldiers. They are still filthy with caked-on mud and blood. Wounds are bandaged and tankards are raised in celebration of the victory.
Marcus sits in a central position and receives visitors. Currently two Senators, FALCO and GAIUS, are bowing before him.
Hail, Marcus Aurelius.
Stand up, Senators. That unfamiliar
posture doesn't suit you.
We live in supplication to your
All the while conspiring with that
fat man in Rome. How is the old
Senator Gracchus is hale, sire.
Still damning me to the four winds?
Still eager for your triumphant
return to Rome, Caesar.
I would have silenced him decades
ago -- but I just like him too much.
Meanwhile, Maximus stands with his lieutenants, Titus and Quintus. A wound on Maximus' arm has been bound.
If you want to stay on, I support
you. So do the men. I'll ask the
Emperor to appoint you in my place.
It won't be the Felix Regiment
I'll return after a season at home.
That means after three or four more
And you'll be too fat from Vibia's
cooking to get on your horse by
Should the Gods so bless me. I
would be thankful.
Commodus perambulates up to them.
Hail, warriors. My congratulations.
TITUS AND QUINTUS
My old friend, my father tells me
you're returning to Spain?
A pity. I'll need men like you in
An awkward glance between the soldiers. This sort of talk is offensively premature.
There are larger division that might
appeal to you. Even the Praetorian
Guard. You've never been to Rome.
Imagine arriving as head of the
Praetorians! They have really
I'm going home.
Senators Gaius and Falco join them.
... And why not apply for entry to
A war hero with a handsome face and
a strong heart could go far.
General Maximus, may I present
Senators Gaius and Falco. Beware of
this Gaius, he'll pour a honeyed
potion in your ear and you'll wake
up one day and all you'll say is
"Republic, Republic, Republic..."
Have you never considered Rome?
You've had my ear since we were
children. You could be a valuable
ally in the Senate.
Are you a believer in Republicanism?
There -- I warned you.
I'm a soldier, not a politician.
Meanwhile, a dark eye is studying the men through a hidden slit in the tent wall. The eye is particularly drawn to Maximus.
If your heart lies with the people,
I would back you for the Senate.
I'm sure Gracchus would as well.
Not a word about that sodomite
(smiles to Maximus)
The august Senator Gracchus has been
rather a gadfly on the flesh of the
He's a damned provocateur.
He lives under the antiquated
assumption that the Senate should
represent the people with vigor.
I won't tolerate it. His incessant
criticism exhausts me. The man can
speak for five hours without taking
He serves Rome best when he serves
it with honesty.
Enough... Maximus, I would like to
inspect the Felix Regiment at dawn.
Please arrange it.
I can't do that.
My men have been fighting for five
solid days. They're too busy dying
to go on dress parade.
A beat. Commodus' eyes flash fire at this public rebuke. He very quickly gets control.
Of course, how foolish of me. Some
He notes his father being helped out of the tent by several body slaves.
Caesar retires early tonight.
INT. TENT CORRIDOR - NIGHT
Marcus is helped out of the mess tent into a tent corridor attached.
He sees his daughter Lucilla in the corridor, spying in through the slit in the tent wall. He watches her, smiles.
If only you had been born a man...
She turns to him. He leaves his body slaves and goes to her.
What a Caesar you would have made.
I think you would have been strong.
I wonder if you would have been
I would have been what you taught me
A beat. They stare at each other. He finally smiles.
Well, pretend to be my loving
daughter tonight and walk with me to
She smiles and takes his arm. They slowly walk down the tent corridor as:
This is a pleasant fiction, isn't
They disappear into darkness.
EXT. TENT CITY - DAWN
Maximus is slogging through the mud and snow that blankets the Rome camp. He stops to observe an unusual sight.
Commodus is stripped almost naked, his chiseled body covered in a fine sheen of sweat. He and his six CENTURION BODY GUARDS are going through their daily ritual. They defy the sub-zero temperatures and hack at small trees with swords.
It is an eerie, zen-like workout. Commodus' intense concentration is unnerving.
Maximus watches for a moment then moves on. He approaches a large network of tents. He enters.
INT. MARCUS' TENT - DAY
Maximus enters Marcus' darkened tent. Flickering braziers provide the only light in the enormous Imperial tent. Heavy beams support the canopy and they creak like the timbers of a ship as the tent sways slightly in the wind.
Marcus stands before a map of the Roman Empire.
Marcus holds out a scroll.
I never acquired the art, sir.
Of course. No matter. In this
letter I denote my intention to
nominate you to stand for the
Emperorship after my death.
A stunned pause. Maximus stares at him.
My son is not a moral man. You have
known this since you were young. He
Caesar, I am honored but --
For twenty years I have been
spilling blood. For twenty years I
have written philosophy and
ruminated and conquered. Since I
became Caesar I have only had four
years without war. Four years of
peace in twenty. So perhaps I can
A long beat.
While I have been fighting, Rome has
grown mad and corpulent and
diseased. I did this. And now I
shall make it right.
Sire, you brought the light of the
Gods to barbarian darkness. You
brought civilization and justice to
the farthest --
I have brought the sword -- nothing
more! Rome is far away and we
shouldn't be here. What matter is
it to the Gods if we subdue one more
tribe of Parthians or Gauls? What
matter is it to Rome if a thousand
more barbarians bend to our lash?
Marcus sits. He doesn't look at Maximus.
Winter, Maximus. It's winter now...
There was a dream that was Rome. I
can only whisper of it now.
Anything more than a whisper and the
dream vanishes. It's so... fragile.
The true glory of Rome is in a very
fragile idea. Imagine a place
devoted to the rights of the
citizen. Where every free man has a
voice. That was the dream... And I
fear it will not survive the winter.
He holds out a hand to Maximus. Maximus takes his hand, deeply moved, kneeling.
Let's just whisper here, you and I.
If the dream is ever to live again
the people must have a true voice.
The voice I took from them. That
all the Caesars took from them, bit
by bit, conquest by conquest. And
now that I am dying I am going to
give them that voice again.
You're not dying.
I am, Maximus. It's strange... I
find as I near the end I think
little of the waning moments around
me... instead I think much of the
past... and of the future. How will
the world speak my name in years to
come? Will I be known as the
philosopher? The warrior? The
tyrant? Or will there be a more
golden sounding to my name? Will I
be the Emperor who gave Rome back
Before I die I will give the people
this final gift. I will give them
the Senate reborn. The voice of the
people empowered again, as it was
always meant to be. It is my design
that they will elect the next
Emperor. And I would put forward
your name with my backing.
Caesar, you do me honor -- but your
son has pride of place for
You are the son I should have had...
Although I fear in my deepest heart
that if you had truly been my son my
blood would have polluted you as it
did Commodus. We're a cursed
bloodline. We have lived so long in
power and depravity that we no
longer remember a life without it.
We can no longer even imagine a life
Look at me, son.
Maximus looks at him.
Son... I know that one grove of your
vineyard is worth more to you than
all the treasures of Rome. I know
one loving word from your wife is
worth more than the accolades of an
Empire. But... a fond old man, who
loves you more than he can say, begs
you to at least think about what he
has said tonight.
I shall, Caesar.
I'll keep this letter to myself. I
hope that with the sunrise you will
agree. And embrace me as a father.
Maximus nods and rises. He begins to go. Stops.
You have always been my father.
INT. TENT CORRIDOR - DAY
Maximus emerges from Marcus' tent into a long tent corridor, deep in thought.
He always favored you...
He turns. Lucilla is waiting. She glides to him.
Even over his son.
That's not true.
Let me see your face.
He turns to her.
You've been crying.
I lost too many men.
What does my father intend?
He turns and walks. She walks with him.
I don't know.
You're lying. I could tell when you
were lying even when we were
children. You hate it.
I never acquired your comfort with
True. But then you never had to.
(he stops again)
... Is it really so terrible seeing
No. I'm sorry. I'm tired from the
And you are hurt to see my father
He will announce Commodus'
succession. That's why he summoned
us. Will you serve my brother as
you served his father?
I will always serve the ideals of
Do you know I still remember you in
my prayers...? Oh yes, I pray...
Ever since that day you saved me
from drowning off Capri. Do you
Commodus was so angry that a mere
peasant -- a Spaniard no less --
touched the royal person, do you
remember his anger?
Mark this, Maximus: that is the man
who will be Emperor.
May I be permitted to go, Highness?
She smiles sadly.
There was a time when you didn't
call me "Highness."
And there was a time when you were
just a little girl drowning in the
sea. All that was a different life.
Very different... I wonder if it was
It was more honest.
A moment between them. We sense there is much to be said, much that could be said.
I thank you for your prayers.
He goes. She watches him walk away.