open to restructuring than GermanicrnProtestant ones. The human landscapernwas too cluttered, especially by a well-organizedrnChurch and tightly-knit families,rnto favor a central state or a revolutionaryrnideology demanding absolute power. Atomizedrnsocieties that stress individualrngratification are more promising terrainrnfor such an enterprise. For these reasons,rnLatin fascism turned out to be a highlyrnornate but rudimentary instrument ofrnmanagerial control. Listening recently tornone of the younger neocons, who was uprnin arms against the “fascist impulse” inrnliterary modernism, I was reminded ofrnBill Clinton celebrating our victor)’ overrn”the tyranny of George the Third.” Noternwhat Jesus said on the subject of motesrnand beams!rnPaul Gottfried is a professor of humanitiesrnat Elizabethtown College in Elizahethtown,rnPennsylvania, and the author,rnmost recently, of After Liberalism: MassrnDemocracy in the Managerial Statern(Princeton).rnWe, Who Are AlwaysrnAbout to Diernhy George McCartneyrnGladiatorrnProduced hy DreamWorksrnDirected hy Ridley ScottrnScreenplay by David H. Franzonirnand ]ohn IxiganrnReleased hy MCA/Universal PicturesrnFrequencyrnProduced hy New Line CinemarnDirected hy Cregory HoblitrnScreenplay hy Toby EmmerichrnReleased by New Line CinemarnDespite its flagrant historical inaccuraciesrnand its preference for spectaclernover drama, Ridley Scott’s Cladiatorrnis a triumph of popular entertainment.rnBefore the film devolves into a simplemindedrnrevenge story, it manages — almostrnin spite of itself—to invest its herornwith a genuine tragic dimension. He is arnman courageous enough to face thernworld’s treacheries in the full knowledgernthat they will inevitably defeat him —atrnleast in this life. Impressively played byrnRussell Crowe, this kind of hero makesrnone proud to be human.rnThe film begins with an enormousrnclose-up of a man’s hand, palm down,rnskimming across the tops of buddedrnstalks in a seemingly endless wheat field.rnThe scene is drenched in the golden pastoralrnhaze of a languorous, late-afternoonrnsun. Then the man stops to look at arnrobin nesting in his path. The camerarncuts to his f;ice for the first time, as a smilernbreaks forth from his weathered features,rnand then cuts to the same man nowrnstanding in the blue-gray light of a wintryrndawn on the Danube River, his facerngrimly reflective, even rueful. He stoopsrnto pick up some dirt, rubbing it betweenrnhis palms. We know he’s preparing for arnmajor task, but only when the camerarnpulls back to reveal another field, this onernpopulated by seemingly endless legionsrnof Roman soldiers, do we get a glimmerrnof what this might be.rnWith this simple montage, Scott introducesrnus to Crowe as Maximus, the generalrnwho is about to lead Rome’s armyrnagainst flie Quadi, a particularly irksomernGermanic tribe threatening to breachrnthe empire’s northern boundary in A.l^.rn180, during the reign of Marcus Aurelius.rnNothing has been said, but Maximus’rncharacter is revealed to us in his hands.rnAgain and again, we will see him measuringrnthe height of wheat under his outstretchedrnfingers, rubbing dirt into hisrnpalms, hefting weapons for their weightrnand balance, managing horses with easernand grace. The same hands that slaughterrnenemies are shown clasped in prayerrnat his homemade altar when he calls uponrnhis ancestors for guidance. “I will tryrnto honor yon with the dignity you taughtrnme,” he says, before taking up figurines ofrnhis wife and son in his battle-scarred fingersrnand kissing fliem. This is an extraordinarilyrncapable man who longs forrnpeace but is ready to shoulder his war-rnHme duty. The masculine honor withrnwhich Crowe invests all these gestures isrnpowerfully affecting.rnAlthough he seems a simple, straightforwardrnfellow, Maximus sees fliings as arnwhole. As the battle begins, his lieutenantrnsurveys the clamoring Germanicrnhordes with evident disgust. “Peoplernshould know when they’re conquered,”rnhe sniffs. Maximus asks with quiet reproach,rn”Would you, Quintus? WouldrnI?” The battle that ensues is feverish andrnshort, filled with men hacking away atrnone another in a tumult of rage.rnThrough it all, Maximus keeps his head,rnwading into the fray with controlled ferocity.rnOnce the foe lies vanquished, hernis more concerned wifli the welfare of hisrnmen than with any personal glory he mayrnhave won.rnMaximus understands his place, andrnhe equally understands and respects hisrnenemy. Subduing them is his job. Thafsrnall. He has no hankering for spoils or politicalrnpower. He is genuinely appalledrnwhen Marcus Aurelius (Richard Harris,rnplaying the sickly 59-year-old emperorrnwith touching fragility) chooses to rewardrnhis virtue by making him heir to thernthrone. Maximus protests that he wantsrnto go home to his wife and son. It’s beenrn”two years, two hundred and sixty-fourrndays and this morning” since he last sawrnthem, he explains. More poignant arernhis thoughts, which we hear in voiceover:rn”I live only to hold them again, forrnall else is only dust and air.” This phrasernwill echo through the film as a refrain accompanyingrnthe visual motif of his handrnskimming the wheat. His ambitions arernthe simplest and, hence, the noblest.rnWith his devotion to his family, hisrncommitment to honor, his contempt forrnworldly success, his constant awarenessrnof mortality, Maximus is the living embodimentrnof the philosophy of disinterestedrnidealism to be found in The Meditationsrnof the historical Marcus. It’srndramatically fitting that the film’s dyingrnemperor would choose such a man to bernhis heir. Of course, as they used to say inrnBrooklyn, it’s also baloney. The realrnMarcus Aurelius has been a puzzle tcrnhistorians precisely because he put asidernhis notions of stoic honor and chose hi;rnimworthy son, Commodus, to succeecrnhim. Obviously, this story wasn’t the outrnScott wanted to tell; he wanted somernthing more rousing. In the film. Comrnmodus (played with suitably warpecrnpettilance by Joaquin Phoenix) goes intirna pouting, sibilant rage upon learning ornhis father’s plan, killing him rather thairnletting the imperial purple pass to an unrnsophisticated general. The patricide irnfollowed by orders to execitte Maximurnand kill his family. In another film, thirnwould have set the stage for a crude nrnvenge drama, wifli some splashily heroirnbloodletting. Fortunately, by sheer forernof thespian will, Crowe disrupts what otlrn46/CHRONICLESrnrnrn