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My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions and loyal servant to the TRUE emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.
~ Maximus' most famous quote as he reveals his identity to Commodus, whom he then declares vengeance upon for murdering both his family and his emperor.
Whatever comes out of these gates, we have a better chance of survival if we work together. You understand? We stay together, we survive.
~ Maximus rallying his teammates when he found out they all were to be slaughtered by chariots.

Maximus Decimus Meridius is a fictional character and the main protagonist of the 2000 epic historical film Gladiator.

He was played by Russell Crowe, who also portrayed Jor-El in Man of Steel and Bud White in L.A. Confidential.

History

Maximus was a Roman Legatus (General) from Spain who Emperor Marcus Aurelius asked to succeed him instead of his son, Commodus, as Commodus was seen as corrupt. Maximus had won many battles for Rome with his Felix Legions, although the recent battle against the Germanic tribes left him scarred despite it being a victory too due to the loss of men close to him. Although Maximus initially refused to be emperor, he belatedly accepted the offer.

However, in a fit of rage, Commodus kills his father, then sends his men to kill Maximus' wife and son. Maximus, having escaped his own execution, arrives too late to save his family and is captured by slavers. He is then sold off to be a gladiator in North Africa and is now owned by a former gladiator called Antonius Proximo who was granted freedom by Marcus Aurelius a long time ago. Commodus then consolidates his power with help from Quintus, another Legatus who betrayed Maximus.

While participating in gladiatorial combat in a North African city, Maximus used his military experience to easily win fights, even single-handedly killing everyone else in one battle, and has made friends with some fellow gladiators called Juba and Hagen along the way. His combat ability means that Proximo would send him and his compatriots to Rome for the grandiose games prepared by the current Emperor Commodus.

When he arrives in Rome, Maximus plans to kill Commodus, but first must win the crowd in order to obtain his freedom. He is designated the legendary figure "Hannibal" and his fellow gladiators are designated the "Carthaginians" to be slaughtered by "Romans" in chariots in an imitation of the Battle of Zama. However, Maximus, being an experienced general, rallies his allies in the arena and form a circular shield formation impenetrable to chariot attacks, then had them flip over one of the approaching chariots with their shields. Maximus then obtains one of the horses to ride on and his team then overwhelmed the remaining chariots via teamwork.

Commodus was angry that the "Carthaginians" managed to win, but is curious to meet the leading gladiator while followed by General Quintus and his Praetorian Guard. but was reluctantly compelled by the crowd to let Maximus win after the latter revealed himself. It was also the moment that Lucilla, the sister of Commodus and former lover of Maximus, had fallen in love with him again. Her son Lucius Verus also became a fan of Maximus'.

The next battle in the arena would pit Maximus against a retired gladiator known by the name of Tigris in an attempt by Commodus to have him eliminated. The two clash, with workers at the edges unleashing tigers against Maximus specifically. However, he managed to evade the tigers and even kill one despite still fighting an experienced gladiator. The duel continued until Maximus managed to pin down the retired gladiator but not kill him. The crowd called on Maximus to kill his opponent, but he instead spared him by dropping his axe, in an act of defiance against the current emperor. The crowd cheered Maximus on regardless.

Maximus had committed actions in the battles in complete defiance of Commodus, and both Roman citizens and senators are seizing on this opportunity to mock Commodus for his corruption and weakness and praise Maximus for his daring feats. Maximus chose to conspire with Proximo, Lucilla, and senators such as Gracchus and Gaius and the Felix Legions via Cicero. Maximus would be freed and sent back to his still loyal legions to lead them and take Rome back from the current emperor. Commodus finds out about this and Maximus is captured, despite the efforts of other gladiators to defend him against the attacking Praetorian guard. Proximo and Cicero were also killed in the skirmish but Juba and Hagen survived.

He is then forced to fight Commodus, who rigs the fight in his favor by stabbing Maximus in stomach before the fight begins. Despite the disadvantage, however, Maximus manages to disarm Commodus in the middle of the duel, with the latter forced to ask for a sword from General Quintus. The general refused, having seen their emperor being dishonorable, and prevented the Praetorians from giving their swords to Commodus. Although this left Maximus an easy attack option against Commodus, he chose to do a knife fight by dropping his sword too and eventually stabbed his opponent in the neck. Having claimed vengeance against Commodus and fulfilling his true emperor's legacy, Maximus succumbs to his wounds and dies - finally being able to be with his family. Lucilla declared Maximus to be a soldier of Rome and General Quintus had the Praetorians escort his body being carried by workers out of the arena, while leaving the body of Commodus behind. Juba, Hagen and other gladiators who had fought under the command of Maximus were freed upon his dying wishes, and Juba had buried effigies of his wife and son where Maximus fell in an act of respect.

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