by Paul Douglas Marshall June 2005

He had won fight after fight, no matter how rigged against him, and for the moment he was the favorite of all Rome. The flavor of the moment, a bloody pop star. But still just an amusement: a slave, a Gladiator.

Now he stands in the middle of the blood drenched sand of the coliseum, waiting as the mad emperor Commodus comes toward him. He had known Commodus before. Commodus, who had killed his own father, Marcus Aurelius, to ascend to the throne; who had tried to have the gladiator,“ when he was a victorious general – murdered by his own troops; who had had the gladiator’s family crucified and burned.

After he had lost everything, the Gladiator had been captured into slavery and sold to fight in the arena. Another anonymous slave to hold a weapon, to kill or be killed. His face is hidden by a helmet, but he has become too popular to remain in anonymity any longer.

Commodus demands to know who he is, and the man replies My name is Gladiator, and he turns and walks away. The mad emperor is enraged, yelling, How dare you show your back to me? Slave! You will remove your helmet and tell me your name.

The Gladiator removes his helmet, then slowly turns, shoulders straight, eyes level. His voice had carried orders through battle and across legions of troops on the parade ground. Now his words wash across Commodus and all the way up into the cheap seats of the coliseum:

“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 in the next!”

It did not matter that Maximus was a slave, every bit of his bearing and manner said that he was a general, a warrior, and a leader of men. Those who had known him in the past knew that already, but to the mobs in the seats of the arena, Maximus had been a name connected to distant battles. But still, they saw and they believed, because of what they had seen him do already. They knew that this slave was a general and commander, and because they believed that, they believed the rest of what he said.

In the movie, Maximus was congruent. Nobody pointed at the crazy slave making wild claims. If you lost all the trappings of society, would you have an identity? If your job and your house and your car and your clothes were taken from you, if you were left humiliated and ruined, who would you be? Would your bearing and manner indicate that to those around you? Or would they think you a bit daft, making claims like that?

So, who are you? Christian? Father? Husband? Brother and Son? Worker? Leader? Minister or healer in the Church? Who are you?