Thursday, January 14, 2016

Gladiator: Shadows and Dust / pulvis et umbra sumus

Proximo, the owner of the gladiator school (Ludus) where Maximus is enslaved in the movie Gladiator tells the general, "We are all Shadows and Dust."

After he has sacrificed his own life to help Maximus oppose the tyranny of the Emperor Commodus, he knows that Praetorian Guards are storming up to kill him. He looks at the rudis, the wooden sword he got from Marcus Aurelius when he, as a gladiator himself years before, earned his freedom.

And he says again, "Shadows and Dust."

It turns out, this particular quote is drawn from an authentic Latin source.

The Roman poet Horace wrote:

pulvis et umbra sumus.
We are dust and shadow.
(Odes 4.7.16)

I show this movie to my Latin I class every single year. We just finished it today. And I never tire of it. 

This quote is made all the more poignant by the fact that the actor delivering this line, Oliver Reed, died during filming of the movie. They completed his part in the film using a combination of CGI and even a mannequin. 

Requiescas in pace, Oliver...


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