Question about film "Gladiator"

Another thread reminded me of this question.

In Gladiator Russel Crow’s character prays using little statues.

Who is he praying to? He says “Heavenly Father, Heavenly Mother” Could his character have been Christian? It would be odd for a Christian to be first so trusted by a Roman Emperor and then be a gladiator.

But, at the same time, I don’t believe that he could have meant “Jupiter and Juno” I don’t think they were referred to as mother and father.

Any ideas?

The historical accuracy of the movie is nonexistent. It could be that he was praying to Jupiter and Juno, but incorrectly, as you note.

The particular scene is not coming to mind since I have not seen it in awhile, but please (with those kinds of movies) do not ever eliminate simple inaccuracy as a reason.

:slight_smile: Thank you, I gess the most obvious answer could be the reason, poor research.

The statues are of his dead wife and son.

Actually, there’s quite a bit that’s historically accurate in the movie, although most of it isn’t with regard to politics. The portrayal of what gladiator fights were like, how gladiators were trained and treated, what the Coliseum of Rome looked like, and so on, was relatively good.

The portrayal of what gladiator fights were like, how gladiators were trained and treated, what the Coliseum of Rome looked like, and so on, was relatively good.

-ish. Historical inaccuracy aside, some of the gladiatorial stuff was good, but a lot of the details were off. I am happy to provide examples as requested. Overall, I liked the movie.

Minor pagan gods of his personal family. The character is not Christian.


Me too. I’m an Associate Professor of History, and I use scenes from the movie routinely in my classes. As with most historical movies, there are always going to be problems, and I make sure I identify them for my students.

The statues are most definitely of his wife and son. He is praying that they are in the Elysium Fields. This is made clear through the imagery in the film. Most Romans had busts or statues of their ancestors and families. If you were poor, or traveled a lot, they might be relatively small, crude, or nothing more than effigies.

That’s what I seem to remember too, and I have no recollection of “Heavenly Father” and “Heavenly Mother”. I’d have to watch the movie again though to have any confidence about that though.

As a general answer to the whole question, as others have said there is the fact that the moviemakers clearly were not interested in historical accuracy at all to take into consideration. Also remember that the main character was a Spaniard and a soldier, both of which set him apart from mainstream Roman paganism, and also remember that in general the Roman Empire was very religiously and philosophically diverse.

On the DVD of the movie, one of the Deleted Scenes in the “Extras” showed that they shot a scene of actual Christians being forced to die in the arena, and they show the hero, Maximus, watching this scene.

All in all, I think there is no doubt that Maximus is never depicted as being a Christian.

Recall that his personal motto in the movie is “Strength and Honor.” That is very Roman. No very Christian.

Plus, per my understanding, at the time period the movie is set in, NO Christian would have served as a General in the Roman Army.

Yet, I hold the view that the Maximus character is very Christian-like in some ways.

But in other ways, he is not. As I recall, Maximus tells the evil Emperor at one point, “I will have my revenge!” That is NOT Christian. At least a big part of the motive of Maximus was getting revenge for the murder and torture of his wife and daughter. He clearly had other motives too, eventually, however.

Yet, in my view, Maximus was working for a political solution to the world’s corruption. As such, Maximus is like the political Messiah that the Jews in the time of Jesus were looking for. They engineering the torture and death of Jesus precisely because he was a spiritual Messiah, not a political Messiah.

Yet, even today, many Christians see Christianity as being mainly or wholly a Political Program by which to win the Culture War against liberals and atheists and secularists.

Well, Spain was actually quite important and mainstream by the time of Commodus. Remember that both the Emperors Trajan and Hadrian were born in Spain (in Italica, near modern Seville). Trajan and Hadrian were among the “Five Good Emperors”, just like Marcus Aurelius was.

On the otherhand it’s interesting to see the evolution of Hollywoods portrayal of Christians from reverent in Quo Vadis (1950) to becoming the bad guys in modern films such as King Arthur. Maybe Gladiator is at the point where feelings are simply neutral and so Christians are not even mentioned.

By the way did any one read in Gibbon’s decline and fall that the bold Commodus actually favoured Christians as a contrast to the attitude of his “good” father Marcus, which was to persecute them? Surely typical enlightenment propaganda?

It has been some time since I watched the movie, and I don’t distinctly recall exactly how he treated the figures or regarded them.

But I will also say that in Roman society, particularly in rural society, there were, indeed, the 'big time" gods and goddesses which were sort of official morphs of Greek and Etruscan major deities. But ordinary people also had what were called “Lares”, which were gods of the home, the family, the fields, childbirth, fertility, etc…the everyday things. Among many, there was more devotion to the “Lares” than to the Greek semi-imported “big” gods and goddesses like Juipiter or Juno or Mars.

In excavations, they find a lot of little statues of “Lares”.


In fact, I remember some critics and ordinary moviegoers (me included) being mildly surprised that Christianity and Christians in general were not referenced at ALL in the movie.
DESPITE the fact that Marcus Aurelius, despite his greatness as a Stoic philosopher, persecuted the HECK out of Christians during his reign.

Interesting irony.

They were known in more common terms as “household gods,” Ridgerunner.

From what I remember.

There ya go.

There is actually a famous deleted scene where the film hints at him being a Christian.

The scene shows him watching, from behind the enterance gate, 2 young girls that are tied to a post as offscreen you hear Lions circling. He hears the lions getting closer and closer while the Young girl looks only at Maximus who hangs his head in shame for both himself and the corruption of Rome as the girls die(offscreen). It was too emotionally powerful to include in the final cut, but it was going to be before the scene where he yells “are you not amused? Is this not what you came here to see?”

So he may have actually been a Christian. The two girls are obviously inspired by Saints Perpetua and Felicity.

The scene that shows the 2 girls dying was going to be that major reference(and was going to specifically portray Perpetua and Felicity) and it was going to hint Maximums is actually an early romanistic Christian that simply referred to Heaven simply as what he knew of it under an earlier pagan name. But the scene climaxes the thematic elements of the film too early.

I didn’t see this at all in the film. Commodus was borderline psychotic and even though he committed atrocities against Christians, Marcus Aurilius was most definitely a very sane man.

The “good” of the film was really who was sane and who wasn’t. Commodus really did die in the arena at the hands of a gladiator.

Really? I’ve always heard that he was strangled either in his bath or his bed.

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