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Gladiator at the Millennium

From: Arethusa
Volume 41, Number 1, Winter 2008
pp. 185-204 | 10.1353/are.2008.0001



The blockbuster hit of the year 2000 reached theaters less than six months before the contentious U.S. presidential election. Gladiator spoke directly to the issues that haunted the 2000 campaign, using the Roman empire of 180 C.E. to stand in for a contemporary America longing for moral leadership and republican values. But the restored Roman republic will presumably be utterly unlike the democracy promised by the film's Marcus Aurelius. Gladiator used allusions to the 1960 Spartacus in order to appear progressive before finally giving the people, a dull lot addicted to the violent entertainment of gladiatorial combat, the custodians they clearly need—good men in the aristocratic senate supported by a loyal military. This paper explores the parallels between the Republican strategies of 2000 and the republican sympathies of the film.

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