Study Guide

Gladiator Politics

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"There once was a dream that was Rome," is a line we hear several times in Gladiator. That "dream" is the politically ideal situation of a Roman Republic…and Marcus Aurelius wants to restore that dream.

Maximus ultimately helps realize that dream. Much of the drama of the film centers around Commodus' political machinations (his attempts to "bleed" the Senate), and Maximus and Lucilla's attempts to remedy Rome's deplorable political situation.

The film's presentation of this drama shows just how difficult it can be to achieve republican government, and how conniving, spiteful, and dangerous politics can be. In many ways, Commodus's ideological battle with the senators is the equivalent of carefully conducted gladiatorial battle outside the arena.

Questions About Politics

  1. What parallels can you draw between the politics in Gladiator and those in contemporary politics?
  2. What does Gladiator say about politics and government in general, if anything?
  3. How do you feel about the senators in this film? Are they really as ineffectual and worthless as Commodus thinks they are?

Chew on This

The best politicians are the ones who don't want to be politicians. This is why Marcus Aurelius wants Maximus to take over for him.

While real swords and spears aren't used that often, politics is in many ways just like gladiatorial combat, complete with careful planning and defense.

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