I have come to realize that Commodus cannot become Emperor. If I name him my successor, I will doom all Rome. Commodus is not a moral man; he will use Rome to his own ends to satisfy his own lust for power and greatness. His ambition is his greatest downfall.
I wish I had decided upon this sooner, and had taken steps to ensure that my wishes are fulfilled. Unfortunately, it is only in the twilight of our lives that we realize the mistakes we make and the decisions that we are left with because of them. Although I find this difficult, Rome cannot suffer because of my oversights.
I cannot put my daughter in power – Rome is not ready for that. Nor, unfortunately, is she. Besides, I have another, more giant, goal. Our empire is to become a republic again, to fulfill the dream that was Rome. The reforms I have made over the past several years have been toward this goal, and it is time to finish the process. However, Commodus cannot do this; he will not do this. Neither can any of the senators, for their political squabblings will only make them more power-hungry. There are not enough honorable men in the senate to accomplish the transition without corruption. However, I know one moral, strong man whom I can count on.
I will name Maximus Decimus Meridius my successor. He has the necessary strength and honor to see my dream through. The army, too, loves him, and no one will dare oppose the man whom the army backs. Thus, Maximus will become the Protector of Rome, empowered to make her a republic once more. But now I stop my musings; he has arrived as per my request.
He does not want this honor – but he sees that is why it must be him. I was shocked to hear it, yet I should not have been. Maximus has no ambition, which is why he will be a just ruler. That is why he must rule. By sunset, he says I will have his answer. I know he will agree, no matter how little he wants this. He is has too much honor to do otherwise and he loves Rome too much. Maximus is the son I should have had.
Now, however, I must speak to the son I did have, and tell Commodus the news. He will not take it well, but he will do as I say. He cannot be Caesar. I would ruin Rome to leave it in his hands, and that I cannot do. I love my country too much to doom it that way, or in any way at all. My time will soon be gone, but perhaps my legacy will remain.
Fortunately, for me, that legacy will not be my corrupted son. Gods be thanked that I have other, better, choices. Death is the one inevitable thing in life; I can only hope that mine serves its purpose well. For Rome I have lived and for Rome I will die, trying to protect her with the last strength I have left in me – because I know there is not much left. I haven't much time, but there is enough to do what must be done. What I cannot finish, I know Maximus will complete for me. He believes in the dream that was Rome as much as I do. Perhaps he believes in it more, and that is why he does not want this. Still, he must accept, or Rome will cease to exist as we know her.
If only I had done this sooner and given him more of a chance to decide, more time to understand. I fear now that I will not live long enough to give him the support he will need to rule – for if my dream fails, which it very well may – he will need to rule. Whichever comes to pass, though, I know Maximus will be a strong leader. He always has been, and has a singular inability to admit defeat. That, I hope, will serve him well in the years to come, as I hope it will serve my dream… and Rome.