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definition - maximus decimus meridius

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Maximus Decimus Meridius

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Maximus Decimus Meridius
Portrayed byRussell Crowe
OccupationGeneral, gladiator

Maximus Decimus Meridius is a paramount protagonist in the 2000 film Gladiator, portrayed by Russell Crowe.

The character of Maximus was placed 12th in the Total Film list of 50 best movie heroes and villains[1] and 35th in the Empire's 100 Greatest Movie Characters.[2] The character of Maximus is featured on 55c "Australian Legends" postage stamp series.[3] Russell Crowe attended an associated ceremony to mark the creation of the stamps.[3]



The character is commonly referred to as Maximus and latterly as "Spaniard" throughout the film because he was born in Emerita Augusta and had a farm near Trujillo (Hispania). General Maximus is about to be given reigning authority over Rome by the aging emperor Marcus Aurelius and is thought to be based on Marcus Nonius Macrinus, who achieved major victories under Aurelius[4], as well as on Narcissus, Spartacus, Cincinnatus, and Maximus of Hispania (or possibly Magnus Maximus). The movie opens with a battle scene between Romans and German tribes (according to Daniela Rossi of Rome's Superintendency for Archaelogy, Macrinus was very close to Marcus Aurelius who wanted him in the war against the German tribe of Marcomanni[4]). Commander Maximus reminds his cavalrymen that "what we do in life echoes in eternity". However, as the stakes and responsibility may overwhelm his troops, Maximus counterbalances his address with humour: "If you find yourself alone riding in green fields with the sun on your face, do not be troubled, for you are in Elysium, and you're already dead!"[5]

Some time later Aurelius's son Commodus commits a patricide in order to establish himself on the throne. Commodus then orders the murder of Maximus and his family. Maximus escapes, but is sold into slavery. As a gladiator, he starts to seek the justice for his slaughtered family.

Maximus reveals his full name upon direct request from Commodus at 1:28:30 of elapsed time. Streaked with blood and dirt from the fight in Coliseum, Maximus takes off his helmet, introducing himself: "My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the armies of the north, general of the Felix legions, 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 ultimately scrapes the tattoed acronym SPQR from his arm, intended to identify Maximus as an army deserter. However such tattooing practice described by Vegetius occurred later than the film's 180 AD setting.[6]

The home of Maximus was shot in Tuscany.[7]

Role and reception

Crowe once said that Maximus is "a serious, noble person, and more than that he's been wronged and devastated in the worst ways imaginable".[8] Crowe thought that Maximus as Spaniard should speak with a Spanish accent. Ridley Scott however preferred the classic, vaguely British accent.[9] Nonetheless a melody that accompanies the scene where Maximus returns home to find his wife and child murdered suggests the non-Roman nature of the far-off reach of the Roman Empire.[10]

The name Maximus Decimus Meridius is inaccurate in terms of Roman naming conventions, that would use Decimus Meridius Maximus as Maximus was a cognomen and Decimus a given name. He is also called Aelius Maximus. It was also noted that the breed of German shepherd, used as Maximus's war dog in the opening scene, did not exist in antiquity.[11]


  1. The 50 greatest movie heroes and baddies of all time revealed
  2. The 100 Greatest Movie Characters Empire
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Oscar winning Aussies go postal". BBC News. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/7867661.stm. Retrieved 2010-01-13. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Gladiator" Tomb Discovered In Rome CBS News
  5. Keith Yellin. Battle Exhortation, Univ of South Carolina Press, 2008, p. 75
  6. Kathlyn Gay, Christine Whittington. Body marks, Twenty-First Century Books, 2002, p. 24
  7. Jill Nelmes. An introduction to film studies, Routledge, 2003, p. 27
  8. Gabor H. Wylie. Russell Crowe: a life in stories, ECW Press, 2001, p. 86
  9. Wylie, p. 85
  10. Fred Karlin, Rayburn Wright. On the Track: A Guide to Contemporary Film Scoring, Routledge, 2004, p. 219
  11. Martin M. Winkler. Gladiator: film and history, Wiley-Blackwell, 2004, p. 32

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