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Gladiator 2 Character Guide & Breakdown

Serving under a Roman Emperor was no joke. Being the head of their security (a group called the Praetorian Guard) was a particularly high-pressure gig, even though it had its perks. Serving as the Imperial Bodyguard for an emperor as megalomaniacal as Caracalla was probably unbearable. It’s no surprise, then, that on April 8, 217 AD, the head of the Praetorian Guard, a fellow named Macrinus, organized a plot to have a lower-ranking officer dispatch the emperor. So low was their respect for Caracalla that the assassination happened right along the roadside when the emperor, suffering from dysentery, stepped behind a bush to relieve himself. With Caracalla out of the way, Macrinus took over and ruled Rome for two years before he, too, was overthrown, captured, and executed. (Big surprise, right?)

In the interim, however, Macrinus played a fascinating role in Roman history. He was the first leader of non-senatorial rank to don the purple reserved for emperors. His unprecedented seizure of power is a hallmark moment in oligarchical Roman society, and it opened the way for men of even more capability and lower cultural status to aspire to the purple in the future.

In the context of “Gladiator 2,” Denzel Washington’s character will doubtless play a central role. However, the promotional material has thus far only positioned Washington’s iteration of the bodyguard-turned-emperor as a rich power broker with a stable of gladiators. This works, since Macrinus was from an equestrian,┬ábasically upper middle class family. Whether he will follow the historical arc and become a treacherous leader of the Praetorian Guard or not remains to be seen. But we do know from the trailer that, like the real person, the aspirations of Washington’s Macrinus have no limits.

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