A man's walking through fields of tall grass (or wheat, or something or other). All we can see is his left hand. There's a ring on his finger.
The same ominous music is playing, but it's starting to pick up as the scene shifts out of this apparent vision.
Maximus looks up. He's dressed in some heavy-duty soldier's gear. It appears he was just in the middle of a reverie or dream or vision.
He's thinking about something, and looks around as the main theme of Gladiator kicks in. "Germania," the screen reads.
Roman troops on horseback ride into view, and pass a massive force of assembled troops.
A smaller group that definitely looks important looks on. The camera zooms in on an older gentleman, clothed in purple (the color worn by Roman emperors and other important folk).
Maximus walks by a line of troops—they all kneel as he walks by and acknowledge him as "general."
Battle preparations are underway as Maximus chats with a high-ranking soldier (Quintus). Somebody's been gone for about two hours.
Suddenly, a horse rides out from the forest. The rider's headless.
A bearded barbarian appears, holding a head (presumably the missing Roman emissary's), and shouting in a foreign tongue.
The barbarian throws the head towards the Romans, and the assembled barbarians who have emerged behind him begin cheering.
Maximus grabs some dirt, rubs it in his hands, and notices a dog nearby.
He rides off on his horse as the barbarians hanker for battle, and Quintus facilitates the Roman military preparations.
Maximus meets with a smaller group of cavalry in the forest and gives them a motivational pep talk (that same dog is there too).
The Romans begin the attack—with archers and catapults.
The cavalry, with Maximum in the lead, begins their charge. Maximus shouts "Hold the line."
The old man in purple's observing the whole thing, from a distance.
The Roman and barbarian infantries charge one another. When they collide, chaos ensues, with lots of hacking, chopping, and stabbing.
The Roman cavalry soon arrives…behind the barbarian line. Maximus kills a number of guys while on horseback, even as his counterpart on the other side (the bearded fellow from a few minutes earlier) does the same.
Maximus's unhorsed and fights from the ground for a while until he can get back up. He soon bumps into Quintus.
The barbarian leader is stabbed in the back as the fighting continues.
Maximus is almost killed, but a Roman cavalryman chops the guy down before he can stab him.
The friendly dog we keep meeting also does his part, and bites a barbarian's arm before it can harm Maximus.
The shouting dies down, and melancholy music starts playing as the Romans continue stabbing their enemies.
Many Romans are dead and wounded, but they've clearly won the battle.
Maximus observes the carnage, and shouts.
The old man from before has been watching it all. We notice that he's standing next to a sign that says "Praetorian."
If you're not a Roman history buff, that's okay because all you need to know about that word is this: the Praetorian Guard were basically the Roman equivalent of the secret service.
And that, folks, means this old dude we keep seeing who's wearing the royal purple is probably the emperor himself, Marcus Aurelius.
He seems relieved, but also a bit something else, after the battle. It's hard to read him.