Maximus, Rome’s greatest General, is chosen by Emperor Marcus Aurelius to hold his throne in trust after his death until Rome can again be made a Republic. The Emperor’s son, Commodus, however, has other plans. After Aurelius is slain, Commodus orders Maximus executed, along with his wife and young son. Maximus thwarts his attackers and escapes, injured and weary. He is captured and enslaved. In captivity, he is made a gladiator and must fight to keep his life and regain his honor.