The movie "Gladiator" explores the complex political problem of one man's rapid transformation from general to slave, slave to gladiator, and gladiator to liberator. The bulk of the movie takes place in Ancient Rome, during a time of war and the emergence of Christianity. It delves into segments of Roman culture, political conflicts typical of the era, and a myriad of different social classes.
The story begins in Germania, where General Maximus is but one battle away from completing Rome's conquest of the area. After winning the confrontation (portrayed in as bloody and graphic a manner as possible, of course), Commodus seeks out Maximus and asks for his military support in the future. Maximus politely declines, and then Emperor Julianus summons Maximus to his tent. There he questions Maximus, and informs him that he means to declare him Emperor after he dies. Maximus protests, and Emperor Julianus insists, saying "Commodus is not a moral man. You have known that since you were young." It is possible that a Roman Emperor has left the empire to a non-family member while his son still lived, but improbable because of the likely political upheaval that would follow.
As soon as Prince Commodus learns of his father's designs, he kills him. Killing a political rival was a common practice in Ancient Rome, along with blackmail and bribery, tools the use of which has persisted to this day. Maximus, aware of Commodus' patricide, refuses to swear fealty to him, and is ordered to be put to death. Maximus kills his would-be executioners and, wounded and loosing blood, flees home to his wife and son. Upon his arrival, he discovers that his little family has been tortured and crucified, his fields burnt and sown with salt. He lies down in his ruined fields and is picked up by slave traders headed to the Roman province Zucchabar.
In Zucchabar, Maximus is sold to Proximo, a retired gladiator and gladiatorial trainer. As he...