In this clip from Gladiator, Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius informs his tortured son, Commodus, that he will not succeed his father on the throne. Ask yourself, what is right with this picture?
Strengths of Emperor Marcus
In choosing Maximus, a beloved general, over his own son, Marcus is in fact displaying a tremendous strength in addition to wisdom, prudence, citizenship, and integrity. Life could perhaps be considerably easier on Marcus were he to choose his own son, but he decides to promote Maximus to emperor because of a sincere belief that Maximus would be a better choice for the people of Rome.
Strengths of Commodus
Commodus is perhaps, above all else, a man born in the wrong time. The young man might have been an exceptional leader in a present-day business setting. He might have been a tremendous politician in times of peace, but during the conflicted and violent period in which the film is set, he simply lacks the strengths and virtues inherent in a leader.
But as he insists, these are not the only strengths that make a great man. Aside those he mentions himself, Commodus does not hesitate to express humility and gratitude at his father’s confession. This shows that his claim to devotion was not mere politicking: the connection he makes with his father is sincere and not lost on the young man.