Title: 'I, Commodus'

Author: Anna Rousseau annadelamico@yahoo.co.uk

Fandom: Gladiator

Genre: Drama/Tragedy

Rating: PG-13

Set: Post-Gladiator

Summary: Ridley Scott has signed up for a Gladiator sequel, and this is my interpretation. After Galen's healing, Commodus lives and reclaims his title of Emperor. However, there are concerning matters to attend to in the Northern reaches of the Roman Empire, Caledonia, and Lucilla is not content to see her brother remain Emperor of Rome.

Historical Notes: Marcus Aurelius, emperor AD161-AD180; Commodus, emperor AD180 until murdered in AD192 and succeeded in AD193 by Septimius Severus, and not Lucilla's child. Galen lived until AD199 and was court physician under Marcus Aurelius from AD169. I shall try within my capacity to be utterly historically accurate. I'm piecing together facts from Commodus' life (apparently he went mad at one point and thought he was Hercules and was murdered by Narcissus, the template for Maximus in Scott's film) and creating my own story.

Movie in Historical Context: As Commodus supposedly murdered his father AD180, we are supposed to believe that it took Maximus 12 years to seek revenge on Commodus, killing him in AD192. I diverge from the apparent ending of the film, and propose that Commodus was not killed by Maximus, but lived. Therefore I date the death of Maximus as AD184; if this does not converge with the date given in the film, please excuse me.

Note: My first Gladiator fic, so I hope for some reviews to tell me what you think.

Disclaimer: Gladiator is not my creation, I am merely borrowing it. Joaquin Phoenix is not mine either, but I'd be his if he wanted.

'I, COMMODUS'

=============

AD 184

ROME

A warm, sand licked breeze sweeps across his face, stinging his skin as he braces his eyes shut against a perceived light pouring over his body from the same direction as the wind. His dry lips are half-open and he tastes the sand, the sand of Persia, of Cairo, of Alexandria, the taste of Empires, this taste mingled with blood. The taste of an Emperor, so much blood split from his body that he feels as if bathed in it, like milk and honey.

He tries to speak, his throat is parchment. Dry as winter leaves. He opens his eyes slowly, the light piercing as a lancet. He bears this pain as he has borne the pain of his open wounds which have bled themselves dry, as his throat. Galen always said he had an excess of this fiery humour. Blood, the humour of ambition, of pride, of an Emperor such as him, Commodus. Maximus the General, Maximus the Gladiator had done him the favour of purging him of this superfluous humour. Perhaps his character will have been changed by these ablutions, this purification, this baptism of fire.

A smile creeps over his pale lips. He is the victor, the triumphant, the conqueror. Maximus is defeated, he can feel it.

"Ave Caesar," a voice says, and a cool hand takes his wrist to feel the blood remaining there pulsate weakly. "You have awoken, I see."

Commodus' voice is quiet but not weak. "Yes, Galen. But what of Maximus?"

"He is dead, your highness," replies Galen, to the point, as always, that is what Commodus desires in his physicians. "Rome awaits news of Caesar's recovery, shall I inform the Senate?"

He rests; his eyes fixed on the ceiling's plaster mouldings, embellished with scenes depicting Julius Caesar's campaigns in Gaul. "I expect they mourn their General," Commodus whispers bitterly, the feeling of betrayal he had experienced in the Coliseum assailing him. The betrayal of an Empire.

"The Senate presumes me gravely ill?" he says more audibly.

Galen pauses before replying. "The Senate presumes you dead."

Commodus' lips rest parted, a breath knocked from his lungs as if a fatal keen blade has been pushed between his ribs.

"I took your body from the arena and treated you as best I was able under the Coliseum, then removed your highness here, to my villa where I had the necessary instruments to treat you. We are outside Rome's walls."

Struck by yet another blow, mental though physically felt by his weak body, Commodus realises a lack of footsteps echoing over polished marble, being as they are replaced by the sound of birds.

Rome no longer wanted him. Rage sweeps over his body as a flow of Vesuvius' lava. They dare defy him. Defy their Caesar. Yet they mourn Maximus. Maximus the Defiant. Maximus the Betrayer, in league with his father. All of them treacherous. Maximus, Marcus Aurelius, Lucilla. And the Senate it seems.

His anger is tempered by his illness, his lack of bloody humour. Maximus has drained him, of blood, of support, of power. He robs Commodus of his family; his rightful position as Caesar, even though his body is cold and impotent, resting in the soil, worms devouring his carcass.

"And my successor," Commodus asks, his voice drips the blood of his wounded pride. "Lucilla's son, I presume. Even the mighty Roman Senate can not make Maximus rise from Hades to take the position my traitor of a father wished for him."

Galen is mixing a compound, the scent of crushed rosemary reaching Commodus' nostrils as if tempting him back into the world of the living. "The Senate acts as protector of the Empire until your nephew comes of age. Lucilla sits as Empress in the palace unaware of your existence in this world."

Commodus' lips are moved by a smirk in spite of his anger. "At this moment, perhaps, Galen."

***

R/R, what do you think so far, more, much more is still to come.

annadelamico@yahoo.co.uk or via ff.net

www.angelfire.com/indie/anna_rousseau/index.htm

***