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The Fall of the Roman Empire

The Fall of the Roman Empire

The Fall of the Roman Empire is a 1964 American epic film directed by Anthony Mann and produced by Samuel Bronston, with a screenplay by Ben Barzman, Basilio Franchina and Philip Yordan. The film stars Sophia Loren, Stephen Boyd, Alec Guinness, James Mason, Christopher Plummer, Mel Ferrer, and Omar Sharif. The film's plot is only loosely based on actual historical events. However, in the long-established view of Roman history, Marcus Aurelius is considered as the last of the Five Good Emperors whose time is considered the best of Roman imperial history. Commodus is generally considered to have fallen far below the standard set by his father and the four earlier Emperors, and his reign is considered as the beginning of the decline – though that would still take several centuries.

Plot

In the winter of 180 AD, the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius fights to keep Germanic tribes from invading his northern territories on the Danube frontier (a war which in fact had been ongoing for over a decade, with no end in sight as of 180). His deputies are the Greek ex-slave Timonides, a closet Christian, and the stern and honest general Gaius Livius. Livius has close connections with the imperial family, being the lover of Aurelius' philosopher daughter Lucilla and a friend of her brother Commodus. Nevertheless, he is amazed to hear that Aurelius wants to make him his heir. Despite his military obligations the emperor has egalitarian ideals, dreaming of a day when Rome grants equal rights to men of all nations. He knows that he will not live to achieve this end, and trusts Livius to do so more than his charismatic but brutal son. The discovery that his father has effectively disinherited him hurts Commodus immensely, and damages the almost brotherly relationship he had enjoyed with Livius.