In Gladiator, every time before a war scene, Maximus picks up a small quantity of dirt from around his feet and rubs it on his hands. Sometimes he smells his hands after the battle. What was the purpose of that scene?

Was it simply for the grip on his sword, or did Maximus had other reasons to do that?

  • 1
    I thought that was his way of remembering home. – LarsTech Jul 15 '12 at 15:53
  • @LarsTech How the dirt will help him to remember his home? – Vijin Paulraj Jul 15 '12 at 15:58
  • 3
    He was once a farmer, he loves the smell of the earth. You might say this grounds him. – Nobby Jul 15 '12 at 16:41
  • Perhaps this is Maximus' tradition before going to battle, a way to connect with the earth he is about to fight on. – Bernard Jul 16 '12 at 0:50

In her book Gladiator and Contemporary Society, University of New Mexico Professor of Classics Monica S. Cyrino writes:

When Marcus Aurelius asks Maximus after the battle in Germania: "Tell me about your home," Maximus delivers a sentimental speech about the simple beauty and tranquillity of his farm, with its fecund soil "black like my wife's hair." His wistful reverie evokes the modern individual's yearning for the simplicity of the land. Russell Crowe wrote this speech himself, drawing on his feelings of homesickness for his own ranch: "That's the way I feel about missing my home too."

Marcus Aurelius tells Maximus that his home is "worth fighting for" and thereby suggests that the protection of the small family farm is one of the purposes of Roman military conquest. The old emperor, beset by doubts about the legacy of his rule, has come to realize that the countryside, not the city, is the true Rome. Maximus' speech anticipates and fortifies his depiction as an old-fashioned man of the land in the rest of the film, one who has been brutally displaced. Maximus "has a farmer's vanity-free self-confidence." He picks up a handful of dirt and smells it before each fight, drawing strength from his connection to the soil. Franzoni explained why: "We wanted a character trait that humanized the hero before battle ... Some thought he did it when his life was in danger. But really, the impulse was, he does it when he's about to kick ass." Maximus cannot lose as long as he keeps in contact with the earth. (p.141)

David Franzoni was the screenwriter.

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