When Maximus is first taken out to be killed up in Germany somewhere at the beginning of Gladiator and they ride out until dawn and are to slay him, he goes all amazing and escapes.

Now at this point he decides it is in his best interest to race home and try to beat whatever envoy/runners the emperor has sent to kill his family (and doesn't make it.)

Now I know if he did this there wouldn't have been a movie, but why not ride back into the main camp (even if it was mobilizing it's not like a camp of that size could disappear in a day) wrangle up your loyal army, rout the small contingent of soldiers loyal to the emperor, and slay him, then send your best and and fastest riders to catch up to the runners and inform them NOT to relay the death order for your family.

  • 1
    Is this really a plot inconsistency, or really just a discussion point for an alternate plot? This seems a bit broad, and opinion-based.
    – wbogacz
    May 9, 2014 at 1:23
  • What movie is this this? Gladiator? Then please add the movie name tag May 9, 2014 at 5:21
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    It is highly unlikely that he could have rounded up the army AND prevented his family from being murdered. He did the only thing that anyone would have done - try to reach his family.
    – bobbyalex
    May 9, 2014 at 6:59
  • @KharoBangdo And also in the actual question of course.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    May 9, 2014 at 7:08

4 Answers 4


Although @John Smith Optional has covered this answer extremely well, I would also add this...

You say:

...why not ride back into the main camp (even if it was mobilizing it's not like a camp of that size could disappear in a day) wrangle up your loyal army, rout the small contingent of soldiers loyal to the emperor, and slay him, then send your best and and fastest riders to catch up to the runners

Since Maximus rode as fast as he could back to his family and was too late, it seems unlikely he could get back to his army camp, somehow convince them to side with him, then send runners from said camp back to his family and somehow still arrive before his family were killed.

The fact Maximus goes straight to his family suggests that he truly understands the immediate peril they are in and realises only he can act.


Maximus had been labelled a traitor to the empire: now led by Commodus, after the death of Marcus Aurelius.

Maximus had been tasked by Marcus Aurelius to reform the Roman state as a republic, handing rule over to the people; this removed Commodus' birthright, hence his slating Maximus for execution.

An Army is loyal to its head of state, in this case Commodus. If Maximus were to return to the command tent of the Germania campaign, he would be doing so to start insurrection and revolution, not simply 'rounding up those loyal to him'.

Even Quintus, his former captain, is utterly powerless to stop his arrest and performs his duty in arresting Maximus (even though he knows he is innocent of the crimes leveled against him).

When common wisdom believes in divine appointment, that Commodus has been appointed ruler by the gods, it would take a huge amount of persuasion to gather any notable sympathy within the camp.

He'd be dead as soon as he showed his face, undoubtedly.

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    You forget that "Maximus" was the (beloved) general of that army. So the army is more likely to be loyal to their old general instead. As history has shown. Commodus wasn't appointed by the gods (he never makes that claim during the movie), he just was the son of the previous Caeser, which just died.
    – invalid_id
    May 9, 2014 at 8:58
  • Commodus doesn't make any such claim, because all Roman emporers automatically possess 'the mandate of heaven'. It's his birthright. I find it highly dubious to assume that an army would so willingly commit insurrection against their institution for a charismatic general, spontaneously: the entire purpose of an Army is to carry out orders without contesting them. The Roman army would be loyal to Rome, which in this case is Commodus. Maximus, whilst 'beloved', isn't cicero. May 9, 2014 at 10:24
  • I agree, but coupes were happening during the Roman empire. Julius Caesar became the Caesar by means of a military coupe. Furthermore, Commodus is not beloved at all, that's why he starts wasting the vast amounts of money like he does. I'm just saying that he could've had a process if he returned which might have been in his benefit. So I guess the "rescue his family" motivation is the correct one here. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…
    – invalid_id
    May 9, 2014 at 10:59
  • I'll give you a +1 for the overall idea of the answer, but I have to disagree with the insurrection/revolution part. He was the one carrying out the Emperor's command, whereas Commodus was the one disobeying. The problem would be PROVING that, while also saving his family. It just wasn't possible, given the situation, even with the possibility of the sister supporting him (which she probably wouldn't have at that early point).
    – Omegacron
    Mar 14, 2017 at 21:21

For one thing, the army had likely moved. Roman armies were strategically effective because of their mobility -- they could take down their camp, march 6-8 hours, and set up a new camp each day. This despite their camp including a ditch, earth rampart, wooden stockade, slit trenches, and a standardized layout for all of the legionnaire tents.

For another, the army's loyalty to Maximus is... questionable. Maximus was wealthy, but not "pay an army" wealthy. Commodus had a better claim on legitimacy, as Maximus had not been publicly proclaimed to be the adopted heir of Aurelius. Had Aurelius made that announcement in front of the army, the sheer number of witnesses -- and the fact that adopted heirs were common in Roman society, and Aurelius himself had become emperor based on adoption (as had the previous three emperors, going back 60 years) -- would have made Commodus the fugitive.

And, on the gripping hand, in reality Commodus had been co-emperor with his father for the last two years of his father's life. Commodus already had the titles of "Imperator" and "Augustus".


Because he rushed to save his family first.

He passed out from exhaustion later on and captured by slave traders.

Perhaps if he could save his family, he would return to the camp, or even it was moved he will try to find it.

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