Inciting Event: Aurelius tells Maximus he wants him to become the Lord Protector of Rome after Aurelius’s death. Maximus’s Normal World has been that of Rome, as ruled by the wise and benevolent Marcus Aurelius, but it’s already beginning to crumble: Aurelius is dying and his unstable son waits in the wings. Throughout the First Act, Maximus is faced with the choice of returning home to his family or remaining to protect Rome. (This is a good example of an instance in a flat arc, in which the Thing the Character Wants and the Thing the Character Needs actually stand in conflict, just as in a positive change arc—if only briefly.)

First Plot Point: Commodus murders Aurelius when he learns his father has refused to name Commodus as his successor. After Maximus refuses to join hands with the patricide Commodus, his wife and son are also  murdered and Maximus himself is enslaved as a gladiator.

First Pinch Point: Maximus is forced to fight in his first gladiatorial battle. He stumbles through the First Half of the Second Act, apathetic to life. Even though he is disgusted by the blood he is forced to spill for the sake of entertainment, he goes through a period in which he struggles to find the strength and conviction to fight for his Truth.

Midpoint: Maximus arrives in Rome to compete in Commodus’s gladiatorial games. He tells Commodus, to his face, that he won’t rest until he can remove him from his father’s throne. His motives are further cleared up and brought back into alignment with the Truth when he agrees to help Lucilla take down Commodus—not for the sake of vengeance, but for Rome’s peace and security.

Second Pinch Point: Maximus is forced to fight an undefeated arena champion (and tigers). Throughout the Second Half of the Second Act, he victoriously battles his way through Commodus’s desperate attempts to kill him. With every victory, he rallies the people nearer to his cause.

Third Plot Point: Maximus and Lucilla rally senators and soldiers to their secret plan to overthrow Commodus. But they are discovered, and several key members of the plot, including Maximus’s loyal servant (making the defeat even more personal to Maximus), are murdered. Maximus himself is captured.

Climax: Commodus stabs Maximus, then battles him, one on one, in the Coliseum.

Climactic Moment: Maximus rallies to defeat the emperor—only to finally succumb to his own mortal wounds.

Resolution: Maximus turns Rome over to the Senate and frees the gladiators. He then dies, and the people honor him. He leaves behind him a Rome that is a better place, even for the gladiators. As Juba says in the final line, “Now we are free.”

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