Quo Vadis (1951) Script

This is the Appian Way...

...the most famous road that leads to Rome...

...as all roads lead to Rome.

On this road march her conquering legions.

Imperial Rome is the center of the empire...

...and undisputed master of the world.

But with this power inevitably comes corruption.

No man is sure of his life.

The individual is at the mercy of the state.

Murder replaces justice.

Rulers of conquered nations surrender their helpless subjects to bondage.

High and low alike become Roman slaves...

...Roman hostages.

There is no escape from the whip and the sword.

That any force on earth can shake the foundations...

...of this pyramid of power and corruption...

...of human misery and slavery, seems inconceivable.

But 30 years before this day, a miracle occurred.

On a Roman cross in Judea, a man died to make men free.

To spread the gospel of love and redemption.

Soon that humble cross is destined to replace the proud eagles...

...that now top the victorious Roman standards.

This is the story of that immortal conflict.

In this, the early summer in the year 64 A.D...

...in the reign of the Antichrist known to history as the Emperor Nero...

...the victorious 14th Legion is on its way back to Rome...

...under the command of one Marcus Vinicius.

We can see Rome from the top of the hill.

Well, there it stands. Rome.

Three years is a long time, eh, Fabius?

Yes, Marcus, a long time.

Drusilla and the children. Tonight I sleep at home.

Man of the family to the bitter end.

It's not sleep I'll be looking for.

It seems we've been given an escort.

The least they could do.

Hail, Marcus Vinicius...

...in the name of the divine Nero, prince emperor and supreme pontiff.


Captain Flavius, Praetorian Guard, salutes you.

The news of your brilliant victories...

...has preceded you to Rome, commander.

We're rather anxious to be there ourselves, captain.

Lead us in.

I'm sorry, commander. I have orders.

Imperial orders.

By the body of...

A fine welcome after a three-year campaign.

We're ordered to pull up and camp here until notified to enter.

What for? How many days' wait?

I know nothing but the orders, commander.

Rome loves her brave warriors.

Give that man 10 lashes.

Fall out!

And double it for any more complaints.

Make camp here. Out of the way.

Where to, Marcus? To the palace, where else?

Out of the way!

Commander Marcus Vinicius. I request an audience with the emperor.

An immediate one.

I will report immediately, commander.

Commander, sir, if I might presume, sir...

...there's been much discussion of your unsurpassed victories.

Did you fight the Britons with a mass... We fought with our bowels.

Try it sometime. Yes, commander.

Yes, well, now you have it as I composed it.

Now, from the beginning.

O lambent flames O force divine O omnivorous powers, hail



O omnipot... Yes.

O omnipotent power, hail Seneca, don't you think omnipotent is better?

Far better, Divinity.

There's no conviction in your voice.

You disturb me.

Petronius, you're my arbiter of elegance. Which is it?

I find omnipotent most feeble, Divinity.

In fact, puerile.

Puerile? Feeble?

Omnivorous has your pure, inspired imagery in it.

It is vivid, comprehensive.

A genius, Divinity, should hold to his first thoughts...

...on any subject.

Petronius. Dear Petronius.

What would I do without your clear insight into...

You clumsy toad!

Isn't the inner agony of my creating enough without you carving me to bits?

Take her away.

Oh, where was I? What now?

Commander Marcus Vinicius. He wishes an immediate audience.

Marcus, here?

Vinicius? Who is Marcus Vinicius?

My nephew, Divinity. Just returned with his legions from Britain.

Oh, yes. Bid him enter.

There seems to be a disregard for orders here.

You sent word to Vinicius to remain outside the city.

So I did. That's true, Tigellinus.

Does this nephew of yours consider...

...that his conquests give him a right to override my...

I cannot believe that he entered with his army, Divinity, knowing Marcus as I do.

Doubtless he has merely come to make obeisance and pay homage...

...to his emperor and his god in private.

Oh, yes. Yes, of course.

I fear that a natural humility often blinds me.


Hail Nero, emperor.

Commander, hail. Come forward.

Your proud uncle has been explaining the impetuosity of your devotion to me.

It's a joy to be such an inspiration to my commanders.

My loyalty and my life always, Caesar.

My men have been away a long time.

They have fought and died for their emperor.

They have gladly accepted weeks of forced marches to reach home.

They're anxious to see their families, their women.

Just as you said, Petronius.

Such loyalty, such devotion.

You see Caesar, the delay in my men reaching their homes...

...it's a question of morale.

Didn't you explain in...

Maybe good Tigellinus left the reason out of his orders.

An oversight, perhaps... Reasons are not given in imperial orders.

Oh, Tigellinus, how boorish.

How ungrateful.

We desire that you wait until you are joined...

...by the legions coming from Africa and Asia...

...which I understand should be a matter of hours.

Tomorrow you will enter Rome in triumph.

More and more the people need diversion these...

Or rather, shall we say that this too is a question of morale?

They demand a spectacle.

A look at heroes. Bear with me in this, dear commander.

It is now clear to me, emperor. Divinity, may I retire with my nephew?

We have much to talk over.


I shall expect you at the feast after the triumph, Vinicius.

We shall try to make it diverting.

An added honor, emperor.

Now, again.

No arms missing? No legs?

No. I picked up a good healthy slash in the side here.

You seem to be faring well, uncle. Oh, indestructible.

You're gonna spend some time with me now...

...before rushing out to your estates in Sicily?

I intend a full month's relaxation in Rome.

And as I remember, your house is the best place for it.

Marcus, I've recently purchased several new delectable slaves.

There's one from Spain. Skin like cream.

Hair with the sheen of a young raven. She's yours.

I might stay two months.

Now, tonight I've arranged for you to stay at Plautius' country place.

It's near your camp.

Aulus Plautius, the old retired general?

That's a gloomy outlook.

I know. And his wife's not young either, besides being virtuous.

Still, it's better quarters than a tent...

Body of Bacchus, I've been listening to that since noon.

He seems in rare voice.

Tell me, is it true what I heard while I was gone?

That he murdered his wife and mother?

My dear boy, you must learn the language of privileged government.

Let us rather say that poor Agrippina and Octavia were removed...

...for the good of the empire.

The new wife, Poppaea, sounds interesting.

A harlot for an empress.

My dear commander, what a proletarian observation.

You must realize that a woman has no past when she mates with a god.

Well, he's our emperor.

There are some in the senate who are not so pleased with him.

They would like to replace Nero with General Galba.

I know nothing of politics.

Just as long as there's money to pay the army...

...Rome will stand forever, that I'm sure of.

I bid you welcome, Marcus Vinicius.

I salute the general.

We traveled the splendid roads you built in Britain and Gaul.

My wife, the Lady Pomponia.

Our house is honored to have you as guest, commander.

My tribune, Fabius Nerva.

These young men must wish to wash and change.

The baths are ready. Will you show them, my dear?

This way, commander.

Dinner is at the 9th hour.

You're expecting other guests this evening, general?

We're not intruding on any festivities, I hope.

Oh, no. We live a quiet life here.

"Oh, no. We live a quiet life here."

Here we are, transforming ourselves into sweet-smelling flowers...

...only to bloom in a hay field.

You know, Marcus, Drusilla last sent word...

...that the oldest boy is almost as tall as she is now.

When I left, I carried him around on my shoulder.

That little slave from Spain Petronius told me about...

...I'll let her sit on mine.

Speaking of things that grow, cast your eye on this one.

For your bath.

Stand up, fellow.

Body of... What a prospect.

Tell me, what's going on in the arena these days? Is Croton still champion?

I do not know.

You mean general Plautius never thought of having you trained as a gladiator?

He'd win enough gold to fill your sandals.

I do not fight.

You don't fight?

Why, with one arm strapped, you could kill 50 Nubians an hour.

I'll speak to your master about you. I can make you a champion.

It is a sin to kill.


Grew so fast, his brain hit the top of the stable.

"Behold, she stands with her gown hung loose.

Framed is her face in golden tresses...

...reflecting the milk-white beauty of her shoulders.

So it was that Venus stood before Mars, welcoming her lover."

Nothing do I see that is not perfection.

You're in service to this household, I take it?

Very much so.

Your name? Lygia.

Lygia. Lygia, you're a windfall.

I shall sacrifice a dozen white doves to Venus to commemorate our meeting.

Your sacrifice will be in vain, commander.

By the gods, the old general must know a good slave market.

Not only beauty, but spirit as well.

There are no slaves in this household.

The old general, as you call him...

...well, I have the honor and the joy to be his daughter.

I crave your pardon.

Three years in the field have dulled my perceptions.

Truly, I'm sorry, Lygia. Will you forgive me?

You've done nothing to ask forgiveness for.

See, for a long time, the only women I've seen or known...

...have been poor, dull barbarians, very uninspiring.


I've heard the women of Britain and Gaul are most beautiful.

Lygia, I'm forced to tell you...

...that the women of Britain cover themselves with deer fat.

I'd say that was an understandable desire to be warm.

The warmth is not transferable, I assure you. Only in its aroma.

And as for the women of Gaul...

...well, their hair is like the frazzled ends of rope.

Not a soft, red-gold crown with stars in it.

And their palm was the hide of a wild boar.

Not like this soft... At least that proves they are diligent.

Yes, at building mud huts.

But not in bringing a man's thoughts to life.

I'm not sorry at all.

Sorry? That Petronius arranged my stay here.

If things go as fate surely meant, the man should be decorated.

If you will excuse me, I must decorate the table.

And so you see, sir, you can understand my problem.

We were outnumbered at least...

Well, wouldn't you say three to one? Easily.

I drew up the spearmen in a formation much like the Macedonian phalanx.

Let me tell you, your barbarous Briton...

...is as worthy an opponent as I've ever engaged.

They impaled themselves on the spearheads like meat to the spit.

We were standing ankle deep in their blood.

Can you understand the strategy, Lygia? Can you see it?

I can only see the awful necessity of defending one's home.


They were in revolt against Rome.

But as I say, I credit courage.

A general's daughter can surely understand it gives no pleasure to overcome weaklings.

The battle loses its zest.

Right, general?

I find I've outgrown that zest. Don't be modest, general.

Look here, you don't seem to be excited by the glorious exploits of your legions.

That's an odd attitude for a woman of Rome.

I am not a Roman, I am a Lygian.

A Lygian? I thought...

She's our adopted daughter.

Oh, I see. Lygian, Lygia.

She was named Callina, but she prefers to be called Lygia.

As a child, she was taken prisoner during my campaign in Lygia.

A slave, then. Oh, no, no. Her father was king of Lygia.

She was assigned to me as a hostage.

We've tried to erase the wrong done her...

...with the love we have for her.

You should envy me such love, commander.

Lygia, I envy the roof that covers you.

This one or any future.

May a traveler interrupt with his greetings?

Paul. Paul, you're here.

We've been counting the days. Pomponia. Lygia, dear.

One need not pray that peace be with this house. It's written in your faces.

Paul, our two guests.

Tribune Fabius Nerva and Commander Marcus Vinicius.

You must have seen their army camped along the road.

Ah, yes.

Gentlemen, our friend Paul of Tarsus. Our very dear friend.

You mustn't let me interrupt your meal. We've done with it.

Come, let's sit in here.


You must be tired, Paul. Will you have food? A cup of wine?

No, thank you, my dear. I supped along the way.

And the rigors of travel always fall away rapidly here.

I take it, like us, you've just returned from a journey of some sort.

Oh, yes. Antioch, Corinth.

You're Greek. No, I'm a Jew.

A citizen of Rome, though I was born in Tarsus.

Oh, yes, Tarsus. North of Palestine.

That's correct.

Well, you come from a troublesome part of the world, aren't you?

Much unrest down there in the past.

You're a merchant of some sort? No, I'm a rabbi.

Well, I'm just a heavy-skulled soldier. What in the name of all Jupiter is a rabbi?

I... Paul is a teacher.

Oh, what do you teach?

He teaches...

He teaches philosophy. Yes.

Yes, I suppose you'd call it that.

Did you know that all this time, I've been teaching you philosophy?

I don't know a great deal about philosophy...

...and lovely women shouldn't have the time to think that deeply.

As for me, Lygia, would you ever think that I was fond of flowers?

I should like to see the garden.

You have the evening tour of the camp to make, commander.

You must see to the disposition of the men.

Will you excuse me?

I shall be back early. In time for the flowers, I hope.

Now, tell us the things we've been waiting to hear.

Did you see Peter? Yes, how is our big fisherman?

I missed him all along the way.

Wherever I went, Peter had been there before me.

At Antioch, they said he'd gone on to Jerusalem.

Others said that he'd set out for Persia and the East.

Finally, in Corinth, I learned he was on his way here...

...and that he would come to us any day now.

Peter? In Rome? Magnificent.

All of us.

To be able to speak with a man who talked with Christ, our Lord.

I saw results of seeds Peter has planted.

Green shoots are sprouting. There will be a good harvest.

Everywhere, strangers approached and drew the sign of the fish before me.

And we spoke of the great work ahead.

The work is difficult and dangerous now, Paul.

Ever since you were tried here, even though you were acquitted...

...Christians are under constant suspicion.

I noticed you seemed worried in the presence of your two guests.

Believe me, I would have exercised caution.

Though at times, I admit the desire to cry the message aloud.

But I suppose tactics must be applied even in the spreading of love and faith.

Be patient, Paul. Your time will come.

Those two vital young men, for instance. They are Rome.

If we could teach them, we could teach the world.

Marcus Vinicius?

You are asking for miracles.

I am.

I am, indeed.

There is still nothing I see that is not perfection.

However, if you're thinking of me, as you undoubtedly were...

...do I look that much like a fish?

It wasn't anything to do with you.

You're too lovely to be a lonely artist, Lygia.

But then, I did ask you to wait up for me.

It was merely that I couldn't sleep. Nor can I.

I'll tell you what, Lygia. The night's still young.

And this place is unworthy of our first meeting.

Let's go into the city to Petronius' house.

There will be gaiety there you've never dreamed of.

Dancers, musicians, singers. The best in Rome.

My uncle's house was built by the goddess of love herself.

No. No, it's too late, I...

I mean, it's impossible.

Well, we could plan it more discreetly, perhaps.

What about tomorrow? You'll come see my triumph, won't you?

And tomorrow night, at the palace...

...there will be a feast to tempt all the gods.

No. No, I don't wish to watch your triumph.

I must go in now. Good night, commander.

Tell me.

What is it? What?

What is it you see that you don't like?

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't attracted by what I see, Marcus Vinicius.

Well, then... It's what I hear I don't like.

You see, a man's fame always brings him fresh enemies.

Who has been telling you stories about me?

You have, from your own lips.

Ugly stories of conquests and bloodshed.

Conquest? But what's conquest?

It's the only method of uniting and civilizing the world under one power.

I Have to spill a little blood to do it. No.

There's a gentler and more powerful way of doing that.

Without bloodshed and war.

Without slaves and captives bound in chains to your triumphal chariots, commander.

There will always have to be slaves.

Who will do the work?

Paul speaks of a world where there would be no slaves.

That beggar-faced philosopher...

...shouldn't be stuffing your luscious little head with such nonsense.

How could I expect you to understand?

I wish you were a slave, as I first thought.

I'd offer a price for you. A king's ransom for a king's daughter.

And taken me to your estates in Sicily with all the others?

On a special ship.

What a way for a conqueror to win a woman.

To buy her like an unresisting beast.

What false security you must have in your heart and soul.

In your manhood, Marcus Vinicius.

What hidden scorn you must have for yourself.

You're forgetting you're a hostage of Rome, aren't you?

Here, you, hostage, come back here.

No, commander. Out of my way.

I guard her, commander.

By whose orders? Who are you?

I am Ursus. I guarded the king, her father.

I guard her now.

Guard her well, my gray-haired colossus.

Guard her well.

Romance seems to have been short-lived.

There's always a weapon to bring down a flighty dove, my friend.

And please, dear Lord, forgive me my anger and my spite.

I do not know what came over me.

It was temptation, perhaps.

A selfish desire that this man might see Your light.

For my sake rather than for his.

And yet I pray that one day, he shall feel the joy of Your love.

I pray with all my heart.

Captain, what's the delay here?

The emperor has not yet appeared on the balcony.

You will hear the trumpets, commander.

Gods of Rome.



Beneath whose auspices, Rome rules the world.

Hear us.

We worship you.

We worship you! We worship you!


...goddess of love.

We worship you! We worship you!

Mars, god of war.

We worship you! We worship you!

Juno, goddess of heaven.

We worship! We worship!

Jupiter, father of the gods.

We worship! We worship!

And Nero, his divine son.

They are impatient, Divinity. They hunger to see you.

They're impatient? What about my patience?

A triumph to divert them? Who diverts me?

I slave, I agonize for them. I have no privacy.

You are the sun in their heavens. Does the sun have privacy?

The sun has the night. They expect me to shine daily. Hourly!

And for whom? For the people!

For that foul-smelling rabble!

It's so hot today.

This heat of Rome oppresses me. It stifles me.

They demand too much!

I tell you, this mob, this mob tortures me!

I hate it second only to Rome itself!

The foul breath of that mob floats in my house!

In my garden!

I wish...

Oh, I wish...

Your wish, Caesar. Tell me, that I may execute it.

I wish it had but a single throat, that mob, that I might cut it.

It could be done if your wish were a command.

A typical butcher's solution.

Tigellinus would deprive you of the one thing an artist must have:

His audience. But they irk me, those people!

They irk me!

Do I live for them or do they live for me?

Unfortunately, Caesar, as a ruler, you must have subjects to rule.

Sheer population is a necessary evil.

It is easy for Petronius to talk, but the burden is on you.

On the only shoulders in the world strong enough to bear it.

That's true, isn't it, Petronius?

It's lonely to be an emperor.

It is lonelier still to be a genius.

You're the only one who understands the complications of my tortured nature.

Is that not a theme for a poem, Petronius?

It is a theme for an epic, Divinity.

But to write it, you must suffer it.


Where is Poppaea? Where is my empress?

Here, lord. Always at your side.

Come. Petronius, you were right.

I must feel it, know it, live it.

Come, Petronius, attend me closely.

Attend me closely in my ordeal.

Hail Nero, son of Jupiter!

Look at him, my darling, the emperor.

Wife killer. Mother killer. Quiet, woman, you'll have us all...

Everybody knows it. He's a beast.


No man is a beast.

Look at him and know that he is but sick.

Sick in heart and spirit, in his soul.

You were right, Petronius. How they love me.

How, indeed.

Remember, thou art only a man.

Remember, thou art only a man.

Marcus Vinicius.

Isn't he the one who came to see Nero yesterday?

An arrogant man. He bears watching.

From what I hear, he might bear watching at much closer range.

Poppaea, what are you muttering about?

Come closer.

Look, they march as they fight. Strong, brave, relentless.

Our unconquerable children.

We must take them to our breast.

Yes, my lord.


The hero at last.

You know, Marcus, usually one is rather embarrassed by one's relatives...

...but today I was proud of you.

Hot work in that sun. A hippodrome.

The emperor positively adores you.

He called you his brave, relentless child.

If you play your hand well, you can have a military governorship. Egypt, perhaps.

Sit down. Relax before you take your bath.

Oh, very well.

And taste this. Straight from the vines of Olympus.

Your Sicilian vintages will pale to nothing.

Well? What's the law regarding hostages?


Yes, can they be bought, reassigned, what?


I take it this hostage is female.

Head to toe, hip to hip. What's the law?

When you see what I have for you, you'll think of nothing else.

Now, this is the...

Ah, here she is.

Bring her here.

Your exquisite wildflower from the hills of Spain, Marcus.

What's her name? I've forgotten. You called me Eunice, my lord.


Oh, yes.


Lift your chin, Eunice.

Did you ever see such skin, Marcus?

Turn around, slowly.

Flawless proportions.

Fold your arms behind your head.

Makes one wish one were a sculptor.


Enough of my collector's enthusiasm. She's the commander's now.

Take her to his apartment.

I won't go.

What did you say?

Don't give me away, my lord.

Whip me, beat me, but don't send me from here.

Don't send me from you, my lord.

You can stay here, girl. I don't want you.

You don't want her?

And I refused an offer from Seneca of six Arabian stallions.

Keep her, Petronius. She's yours.

Well, by the body of Juno!

Nevertheless, give her five lashes for impertinence.

You won't give me away, then, lord?

That depends on your future conduct.

Oh, yes. Yes, my good lord.

Ply the lash carefully, now.

Don't damage her skin.

No, master.

Tell me, now, can one purchase a hostage?

Where is this precious gem?

At Plautius' place. You should see her.

A fiery young Lygian. She throws flames at you.

A Lygian?

Yes, I do recall a child assigned to him.

It was some years ago, I'd forgotten.

How can I get my hands on her?

Hostages are wards of the state. She belongs to Nero.

Perfect. He would give me Egypt?

He can keep Egypt and give me Lygia. We'll go to the palace.

Plautius may not be in accord with this.

Well, she will be.

They've sentimentalized her into an adopted daughter.

Philosophers, teachers, fools.

This one wasn't born to think, she was born to feel.

But, Marcus, with Plautius regarding her as his daughter, I mean, is this ethical?

After all, he was a general of the empire.

I'll have her if I have to abduct her.

I sense a certain frustration.

Is your little barbarian entirely in sympathy with your plan?

She'll be cooing like a pigeon in the right circumstances.

I wish I had your confidence.

I've never been able to discover an honest warmth in any woman.

Oh, my dear, beautiful lord.

I love you so.

Please, how can I let you know?


Open in the name of the emperor!

I have an order from the emperor.

Yes? For the hostage, Lygia.

My orders are to take her to the women's quarters...

...in the imperial palace.

She's not a slave.

She is our daughter.

My orders are to take her at once.

Wait here.

You are the hostage, Lygia?


Welcome to Nero's house of women.

My name is Acte, I am in charge here.

May I ask why I am here?

I would say you have attracted the attention of the emperor.

And you have been commanded to the feast.

But the emperor has never seen me.

There must be some other reason.

Nero ordered you brought here, just as I was brought here seven years ago.

He loved me then, more than he knew.

Prepare the bath, oil of lilies.

Bring me the beaded cloth from Persia, mostly blues, I think.

And, yes, the strand of fine gold at the waist.

I am not honored by this.

You were brought up in the home of Plautius' wife, Pomponia, weren't you?

Yes. Yes, do you know them?

I know of them.

Lygia, child, listen to me. Yes, yes, yes, chatter, chatter, chatter.

You'd think each one had the hair of a queen.

Well, this one has possibilities at least.

What were you going to tell me?

Simply that you are the chosen guest of Nero.

You are in the hands of the master of the world.

You will have to consider that your good fortune and your fate.

The hostage, Lygia.

Aren't you coming?

The emperor did not ask me.

She needed a poet, not a soldier, to describe her.

Everything's there but the smile.

I leave that to you.

Petronius is quite right.

I wish I were a poet.

But I had you escorted here in great honor.

I deserve a smile for that.

It was gracious of you.

Ten big, strong Praetorian Guards to support my eagerness to come.

Well said, Lygia.

But you know a caravan of rare merchandise is always well-guarded.

And you belong here, Lygia.

A king's daughter in a royal palace.

That's something you should have a natural appetite for.

I can tell you, you have other natural appetites too.

Hasn't old Dull-Beard, your philosopher friend, Paul...

...told you about those?

Or has he lived in a cave all his life?

You should have seen my triumph today. It was quite a display.

I looked for you, but then, I imagine they had you chained to a peach tree.

Here. The panacea for all reticence.

You're right.

Your mouth has its own sweetness.

I know I'll find it so.

Don't look so frightened, Lygia.

I'm no heartless, unfeeling machine of war.

I won't rush upon you like a boulder from a catapult.

You've only to relax, smile at me a little, and before you know it...

I can think of nothing...

...pray for nothing but that this is over soon...

...so that you can send me home again.



Hail Nero!

Hail Nero!

Hail Nero!

Have you ever seen your emperor and your god this close before?

No, I have never seen Nero this close before.

Same faces.

Same noses.

All green.

Just for variety, Divine Lord, try a ruby.

Is that the hostage I brought for Vinicius?

Oh, yes. Yes, Divinity.

Vinicius has an eye. She's exquisite.

You are generous, lord.

Perhaps you've overlooked something for yourself.


What do you think, Petronius?

Put a dress on an olive stump...

...and my poor, untutored nephew would call it beautiful.

I know your incomparable judgment, Divinity.

And I'll wager you've already decided, even from here...

...that she is too narrow in the hips.

Yes, yes, that's exactly what I think.

Dear Poppaea, one woman should never judge another.

She hasn't the glands for it.

Isn't that witty, Petronius?

Among the gods, your humor is unique.

Dear Petronius.

Oh, yes.

Too narrow in the hips.

Sing for us, Divinity. Sing for us.

Sing for us. Sing for us.

I had almost come to a tragic decision.

I had decided not to sing for you tonight.

We beseech thee.

My throat hurts.

And when one has been given a divine gift, one should not jeopardize it.

But I am not the only one afflicted.

My empress has a headache.

And the only thing which will bring her relief...

...is the sound of my voice.

You promised to sing, or I would not be here.

I'm totally unprepared.

So I must compose as I sing.

O lambent flame O force divine O omnivorous power hail None is the swifter To bring destruction Yet, carefree as a child Thou with wild breezes playing The old Troy Shall be no more because of thee Thou harvester that strips The soil for men To sow new crops O lambent flame O force divine O omnivorous power hail Bravo!

You must be content with that.

My throat.

Watch Croton. He's killed over 300 opponents.

He could twist the head off your Ursus before he knew what touched him.

Orpheus at this moment must be as yellow with envy as our poet Lucan.

I am as a candle next to the sun.

And you, Petronius, what do you say?

I say that your verses are common and fit only for the fire they celebrate.

Farewell, Petronius.

What defect do you find in them?

Well, your verses would be worthy of Ovid, of Virgil, even of Homer.

But they are not worthy of you.

The conflagration you describe does not blaze enough.

It is not all-consuming.

Had Lucan here written these verses, I should acknowledge him a genius.

But you can create a work such as the world has never known.

Therefore, I say this to your eyes.

Take greater pains.

The gods have given me a certain talent, but they've given me something greater.

A true judge and friend.

I thought it sufficient to equal Homer. You have opened my eyes.

Then all men, born and unborn, are my debtors.

You're right.

My conflagration does not burn enough.

And do you know why?

I've never seen a burning city.

You said one must suffer an experience to re-create it.

A sculptor has his model. I had no model.

To burn a city in order to create an epic.

That's carrying the principle of art for art's sake too far.

Soon the spring will be over.

The summer heat will begin.

What stenches will arise from Rome?

I shall move the court to Antium.

You did not observe Croton's masterful stroke.

I was not the only one.

Vinicius has hardly taken his eyes from her.

She must be truly exciting.

I must see this for myself.

But it was a fair match. It could have been one or the other.

You seemed pleased with my gift, commander.

Is it enough, in the light of your service?

Or isn't it?

Do you know, lovely one?

Has he told you?

No, Caesar, I thought it should come from you.

Know then, Lygia, that I have given you to Marcus Vinicius...

...as a reward for his devotion to me and...

...his brilliant service on the battlefield.

Henceforth, your guardian is no longer General Plautius.

You belong to the household of Vinicius.

On closer inspection...

...I find it a fair reward.

Perhaps... excessive.

Except, of course, as you so wisely observed, Divinity.

Oh, yes.

Too narrow in the hips.

Let us go and greet my guests.

Now you know, Lygia.

And there were moments when I thought I could love you.

Make use of your beauty, live it with me. Love as you were made to love.

What difference does it make whether I love, now that you own me?

You have but to give the word, the command.

The small, empty command.

Yes, I own you. You realize that, don't you?

And you realize I can take you to my house...

...and have you flogged until you bleed to love me?

Take me, then. Take me to your house, anything.

Take me and you'll hear nothing from me but a prayer for you.

Lygia. Commander Vinicius.

The empress requests your presence at once.

Very well.


Take this girl to the house of Gaius Petronius.

Put her in charge of Anaxander, master of slaves there.

Yes, commander.

Tears have but one use, Lygia.

As a prelude to joy.

Remember that while you wait for me.

You seem to have been having difficulty in proving your ownership.

A young mare often enjoys fighting the bit, empress.

I've always found conflict between man and woman a waste of time.

It consumes so much...

So much vitality.

Well said, empress.

I am not your empress.

I'm a priestess of Amon, and you are the serpent.

Therefore, poison is in your mouth.

And I have a taste for poison, Marcus.

To change to a serpent, that might take time.

I can bring that about.

Those are Commander Vinicius' orders.

Here. Oh, how clumsy of me.

You see, I know your symbol, even though I'm not yet one of you.

Have courage, child.

Come along.

Bear in mind, your fate is determined by the greatest power in this world.

His will be done.

Aulus, my dear, you must get some sleep.

I'll call you as soon as Ursus sends word.

We should be hearing from Ursus soon no matter what happened.

Good morning.

You're right, perhaps we'd better ignore the formalities.

Will you tell Lygia I have come for her?

We've not seen Lygia since she was taken from us.

Bring Lygia here at once.

I tell you, we don't know where she is.

You're lying, general. I do not lie.

On my oath as a Roman officer, so that you can understand, I do not lie.

You may search the house if you wish.

You refuse to say anything more?

Only this: that you've violated our hospitality...

...in the cruelest way a man could.


You're overlooking our law of hostages, aren't you?

The emperor assigned Lygia to my care. She's my property.

You're overlooking what's happening to Rome.

To the world, Vinicius.

It's such laws as this that will tumble its foundations.

Your emperor, your god, Nero, bathed in his own infamy.

Aulus, my dear, please. I understand your concern.

I hope I shall continue to forget what I just heard, general.


My dear young Marcus.

I want to call you that because for all of your rank, you could be my son.

A woman of my years is not unaware of things.

Lygia's eyes were drawn to you. I saw that.

And they would not have been if deep down inside of you...

...you were this cold, this relentless.

Look in your heart, Marcus, and recognize the truth of you that should be.

Well, as long as you return empty-handed...

...sit down and fill your obviously empty stomach.

They claim to know nothing of her. Plautius is lying.

Forget the whole undignified whim and come with me to Antium.

Something is strange about Plautius and that household.

By the gods, they don't even talk like Romans.

And their friend, a fellow from Tarsus named Paul.

Paul, you say? Of Tarsus?

Yes, he's some fool philosopher I met there.

Paul of Tarsus.

My poor Marcus.

This is drama for the ages.

You picked the cherished egg in a nest of Christians.

She's a Christian, and Christians have spirited her away.

Christians. Are they the ones who worship some dead carpenter?

Yes, that's right.

A rebel against the state, a Jew called Christ.

Crucified in Palestine, as I remember.

The sect is a secret one.

Consists of Jews, Greeks, and many others...

...who meet in secret and spread their superstitions among the Romans.

They are a constant worry to Nero and the senate.

Tigellinus is always collecting a group of them...

...from here and there for questioning...

Well, this calls for a detachment of Praetorians.

I'll simply tell Tigellinus to start to search for them.

Now, wait.

My dear boy, that not only lacks dignity, but...

...these Christians are known to be resourceful.

An open display of force will only bury your little hostage deeper in the nest.

What do you suggest? That I join the scurvy group?

Listen, I know of a Greek, a man called Chilo.

He's a self-styled soothsayer, astrologer, and diviner of mysteries.

I've no doubt he'd show the way to your escaped Lygia before nightfall.

Anaxander? Yes, master?

You know the house of Chilo?

Yes, master. My nephew has urgent business there.

Escort him. Yes, master.

Well, your advice has certain merit. I'll give your Greek a chance.

If you find her, bring her to Antium. I'll send you word.

You have heard, Eunice? ls not love a madness?

Do not ask me, lord. I am among the mad.

You love someone?

It was once prophesied by an old woman...

...that both pain and happiness would visit me.

That's a safe prophesy about any human.

She spoke a rhyme, in which she said my true fate was hidden.


Anon shall Venus rise From out the violet Roman sea And bear two lovers in her arms Towards eternity

Whom do you love? Anaxander?


Oh, your beloved is not of this house?

He is, my lord.

What if I said that today you should go with me to the violet Roman sea?

I'd swoon with happiness. Only you haven't said it, my lord.

Then go ready yourself for Antium.

You haven't yet swooned. I have no time, my lord.

I have no time.

I have no time!

Yes, yes.

Hearing all this, I vow you've come to the right man, Marcus Vinicius.

Speak. Can you find this girl?

Patience, lord. I must first verify if she is truly of this Christian breed.

My lord, do you read Greek? Passably.

Look here, then. What does that say?

"Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior." Exactly.

So it's the name of their dead god. I've seen no such symbols.

Ah, but observe the first letters of each word.

What do they spell?

I-C-T-H-U-S. Icthus.

The Greek word for fish.

Have you seen the symbol of a fish in all this?

Fish. Why should I have seen a...

She once drew one. Their sign of recognition.

Fish are caught with a bait and Christians with a fish.

How do I find her?

Where are the gatherings of these Christians?

They practice foul rites at night...

...in certain caves and old ruins outside the city.

Is there a gathering tonight? Possibly, lord.

But it is most dangerous. There are hundreds of them.

Very well, I'll hire Croton the gladiator to protect you. Does that suit?

Croton? Why, yes, lord.

We'll meet you here at sundown.

But, my lord, I shall need... other arms.

A small weapon in advance, perhaps?

Jesus Lord, sweet Jesus Kyrie eleison. Kyrie eleison.

On us thy children Christe eleison. Christe eleison.

Have mercy, Lord Holy savior...

You see how they gather, lord? In stealth, like thieves and murderers.

Shed thy light on our darkness Shed thy light...

That's the man I met at her house. Yes, she's here, without a doubt, lord.

I baptize thee in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost.

What's he doing now? They call it baptism.

An evil bath of black water.

I know there are some here who still hold back in doubt.

A few who have not accepted baptism.

Our Lord Jesus understood that...

...and he welcomed questions, as the right of free men.

But at last, there is one among us tonight for whom we have long waited.

Who was there when the people gathered about Christ and questioned him.

Who heard the answers from his own lips.

A man who saw the face of Jesus and touched his hand.

He comes from Jerusalem. The fisherman, Simon, called Peter.

The first apostle of our Lord.

Unworthy though I am, Jesus said to me:

"Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church."

He has guided my feet to Rome...

...so that together we can begin to build his church here.

I give thanks for the faith you have in him whom you have never seen...

...but whose voice you have heard and answered in your hearts.

I heard his voice by the Sea of Galilee.

My brothers and I were fishermen.

All the night through we had been fishing and had caught nothing.

We were cold and very tired.

As our boat was coming into the shore, I heard someone call my name.

I looked up and a man stood there.

At the sight of him, the cold and weariness left me and my heart grew light.

I answered, "Yes, friend?"

And he called and asked that he might come into our boat...

...so that he could speak better to the people who were...

...pressing around him on shore.

We bade him enter.

He spoke to the people about the Kingdom of Heaven at hand.

And suddenly, my heart leapt in my breast and I knew that he was the Christ to come.

When he had finished, he said to me:

"Go out into deep waters and let down your nets."

In a moment, the nets were full as if by a miracle.

He looked at my wonderment and said:

"Do not be afraid. From henceforth, you shall be a fisher of men."

He told me to follow him, and I did.

I and my brothers, James and John.

Throughout the length and breadth of the land, we followed him.

Others joined us until besides himself, we were 12.

To the hungry and thirsty, he gave food and drink.

To those who were sick and worn and weary, he gave hope and peace.

Who but the Son of God could have brought such gifts to man?

Who but the Son of God could have commanded the storm to be calm?

Who but he could have raised Lazarus of Bethany from the dead...

...and given peace to the heart of Mary Magdalene?

And yet, I... I lived to deny this man.

He himself foretold that I would on the night of our last supper.

"Lord," I had said, "I am willing to follow you both to prison and to death."

But he answered:

"Peter, this night, before the cock crows...

...thou shalt deny me thrice."

And I did.

Three times outside the house of his judges.

When they accused me of being with him, I said:

"I know not the man."

With a curse for the weakness of my body in the face of death.

Then they weighed him down with a cross and scourged him.

And at a place called Calvary...

...they crucified him, with a crown of thorns upon his head.

But even in the midst of his suffering, Jesus said:

"Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."

Only the Son of God could have forgiven them...

...as he forgave me for my denial of him.

But he who raised the dead could not be conquered by death.

The room in which we later sat, in silence and in sorrow...

...was filled suddenly with a great light and the risen Lord stood before us.

We saw his hands that the nails had pierced and his wounded side...

...and we knew indeed that he was the Lord.

And we heard his voice say, "Peace be unto you."

And he commanded us to preach to all men his holy word.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.

Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness...

...for they shall be filled.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers...

...for they shall be called the children of God.

But beyond these things, Jesus asks us to obey the commandments...

...which God gave to the prophet Moses.

Obey those who govern you and the laws by which they govern you.

Even though, under them, you suffer cruelties...

...and witness maliciousness beyond your mind's dimensions...

...make no threat of violence in return.

And in the words of Jesus, I further say to you...

...whosoever shall smite thee upon thy right cheek...

...turn to him the other also.

Love thy neighbor as thyself.

Whatsoever you would that men should do to you...

...do ye even so to them.

Love your enemies. Bless them that curse you.

Do good to them that hate you...

...and pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you.

Oh, believe in him.

Endure all things in his name, so that you may dwell in blessedness...

...even from everlasting to everlasting.


Amen. Amen.

Endure all things in his name, that you may dwell in blessedness.

If I smite him on one cheek, the old rat will have no chance to turn the other.

I don't know.

The old rat has courage of sorts.

Will you both come to our house tomorrow to see Peter and Paul?

We must bide our time, we may be watched.

Good night, Father. Good night, Mother.

There. There she is.

Well, commander? Come along.

That giant looks as though he had the strength of a Cretan bull.

Do you think you can down him? I'll squeeze the seeds out of him.

Wait. We're being followed.

I don't hear anyone. Three times I have heard.

They stop when we do. Go on to the house.

But what will... Go to the house.

Go no further, commander.

Step aside. My lord, you haven't paid me.

It's only a small cut in the scalp, but they always bleed the most.

Hot water.

I'll get some ointment.

Look. Did you do that too, Ursus?

No, dear. That's an old scar.

A scar? What from?

Probably some battle wound.

That's right. He's one of Nero's best generals, isn't he?

Here. Come, Nazarius, it's time you were asleep.

But, Mother, did you see the big sword... Yes, dear.

Wash the wound thoroughly first, Lygia. Yes.

Come, Ursus.

Ursus wishes to speak to you.


I want to ask the commander's forgiveness.

I killed his friend.

You killed Croton?

Good man. I told you you'd be a champion. Kill the old Greek too?

The other man disappeared.

I'll wager he did, and fast.

Please say you'll forgive him.

For what? Croton faced his chances.

Killing was his profession.

Of all the gods, why didn't you kill me?

In our faith, it is a sin to kill.

I seem to remember.

He should have killed me.

You should have had him kill me.

But instead, you bring me in and patch me up, all of you who hate me.

You've defeated me, Lygia.

Go on home. Stop hiding.

I won't come pursuing you about the countryside any longer.

You're free and rid of me, Lygia.

You could look happier about it.

Well, so be it.


Oh, Marcus, you know I don't hate you.


Oh, Marcus, Marcus. The sweetness of you.

Oh, this is the beauty, I knew it.

I should have known it had to happen when I watched you leave the gathering.

You were there? Yes.

I should have known what I really wished. You with me always as my wife.

Will you do that, Lygia?

Will you give me the greatest triumph a man ever had? Be my wife?

Oh, yes, Marcus.

Come now, gather what you need. Let's be gone from this plummy den.

Hurry. Yes, Marcus, I'll hurry.

We'll go to Antium. Petronius will outdo himself.

A ceremony and wedding feast such as never has been seen.

And even that will be lost moments.

Marcus, Paul will be here soon.

I would like so much to ask his blessing and perhaps let him say the words over us.

What words? You've heard enough of his words.

They've deafened your ears to everything life has to tell you.

But you heard Peter and Paul speak.

Did you hear anything that was ugly or wrong?

I heard a childish old man speak in riddles.

Believe as they do and you'll think a...

...cow is a bull and a bull is an ox and an ox is a goat.

Oh, Marcus, dear.

I thought, having heard, you might begin to know...

...to understand why.

Here, now.

Is this the symbol of your god, your Christ?

The cross on which he was crucified.

I'm willing to accept your god, if it makes you happier.

I don't demand it.

In our gardens in Sicily, we'll put up a big cross, higher than the roof.

More than that, I'll put up a special pedestal...

...and crown it with a figure of your Christ...

...carved from the finest marble.

Of course you'll have to have Peter tell the sculptor what he looks like.

Marcus, listen to me... Why not? It's no trouble.

There's such an army of gods these days we can always find room for another.

I'm not asking it as a condition of our having one another.

I just hope and pray that one day...

...the image of Christ will appear in your heart.

My heart is only for you.

There won't be room for him there.

There will be.

I always carry him in mine with you.

Well, take him out if he means that much, Lygia.

Do you hear me? Get rid of him. Well.

I'm glad to see you on your feet again.

Last night and this morning, you had us quite concerned.


Marcus has just asked me to be his wife.

I'm sure that this has brought her great joy, Marcus.

You could see, Paul, that I loved him.

I was just trying to explain to him that...

Well, that there are other things. I mean...

I understand. I don't.

I offered to accept the symbols of her god into my house.

I don't ask her to accept mine.

What more can I do or say to prove that I'm not an enemy of her god?


For some of us it takes months, years of thought...

...of contemplation, of looking back on our lives...

...on the course of mankind and suddenly realizing...

Tell me what more I should do.

Well, you own slaves, do you not?

Hundreds. Good ones too. Why?

Jesus wishes no man to be in bondage.

You should set them free.

Set them free? But they're mine, I own them.

But you can't buy human beings, Marcus.

Faith in Christ is based on love.

He asks all people to love one another.

Yes, so I heard your old fisherman say.

You want me to love the whole human race?

You want me to love Parthians, Egyptians, Persians...

...and all the rest who wanna put a blade through my ribs?

Has it occurred to you to put down your sword...

...and renounce war against these people?

Has it occurred to you, that you might conquer them with love?

Yes. Yes, you tame a pack of wolves with a feather.

It's occurred to me you've a whining beggar for god.

A cringing god for slaves, aliens, and outcasts like yourself.

But that's not Lygia.

Let's be gone from this idiocy of words. Get your cloak, Lygia.

Marcus, dear, a moment more. We've lost too much time as it is.

You're going to be the wife of Commander Marcus Vinicius...

...not the miserable slave of some crucified carpenter.

Oh, Marcus, try to understand my faith, my beliefs, my very deep beliefs.

Don't force me to choose.

You mean, between me and your Christ?

Yes, choose.

Because I'd no more share you with your Christ...

...than I would with any other man.

But, Marcus, don't you see?

Unless you try to understand, what we feel for each other will destroy itself.

Destroy us.

My son, your love for Lygia, great and beautiful as you feel it...

...is small compared with your love for all mankind.

What sort of love is it that acknowledges a force greater than itself?

What runs in your veins, philosopher, blood or water?

What sort of poison are you spreading?

Are you coming with me, Lygia?


No, my dear.

Twice today, I've been a fool.

But I'll not go back on my word.

You can go your way. I'll not disclose what I've seen or heard.

Something is hidden behind your meek words, philosopher.

Yours and your fanatical fisherman's. They strike at Rome and Roman law.

I warn you, if ever Roman rule is threatened, you'll feel my sword.

I almost... I wanted to go with him, Paul.


Even our Lord knew temptation.

Your strength too will prevail and be rewarded in this.

I know that.

Yes, yes.

These will be the imperial gardens, where the cattle market now stands?

Yes, Divinity.

Each palace rising out of its own lake...

...surfaced with water fowl of the rarest plumage.

No longer will the stench of pig and oxen rise up the slopes of the Palatine.

No. It shall be landscaped with Damascene roses.

Oh, Phaon, you are an architect who could have laid the plans of Olympus.

My lord, I have brought food. Take it away.

Yes, it comes to life... You've not eaten since morning, my lord.

Be gone with it, all of you!

You irritate me!

Why do you stare at me, Acte?

My lord...

...I can only say whe...

When all this sets with the final sun...

...remember the look of Acte.

Why should I remember you?

No one loves you as I love you.

I command you to stop loving me!

I cannot, lord.

Forgive me.

For years, she has been a thorn in my flesh.

Now that thorn will be removed.

Henceforth, you are banished from Rome and from my sight.

One day, Nero, you will need me.

And I will come to you.

Is it not disgusting when common bovine solicitude...

...replaces the fire in a woman's body?

Ah, but what pulsating purity there is in fire.

My new Rome shall spring from the loins of fire.

A twisting, writhing, breathing flame.

What do you think Petronius will say to this?

You doubt his approval, my lord?

I too remember his strange look at the feast...

...when the thought first came to you.

I should be careful lest... No, no.

Petronius appreciates my genius even more than you, dear Phaon.

It's just that he may not fully understand the method...

...the means I must use to bring this...

...greatest of my accomplishments into being.

He seems to be well-occupied at the moment.

When I have news of Tigellinus coming, I shall summon him with the others.

This must be disclosed to him with intelligence.

With... With sincerity.


There you are.


Well, it's your game.

Only two games you've won in three weeks, Marcus.

Does the play bore you?

I fear I have met my superior.

I fear you might have met something else.

Other than a glare of distaste...

...I've been given no details concerning your sudden renunciation...

...of your little Christian hostage.

Your well-bred curiosity now breaks its bounds, eh?

It shatters me.

Well, uncle, it happened quite simply.

Your valiant Greek led me to Lygia and a swarming hive of idiots.

Their black honey choked my mouth and I said...

...strange words I never thought I would utter.

And but for their mammoth stupidity I should have been broken in half...

...and dropped piecemeal into the sewers.

Fascinated? In a way.


The empress requests your presence in her pavilion, commander.

At once.

I leave you to your fascination.

I have been summoned to mine.

None of this bodes well.

My lord, wouldn't the emperor be angry if he should...

Poppaea's indulgences merely stimulate him to his own.

But I sense a fresh preoccupation in Nero.

For some time now, he has avoided me.

My lord is troubled?

A doubled guard and yesterday...

...Tigellinus and a squadron of his butchers left for Rome.

I feel a strange and heavy breeze.

Oh, my dear lord.

Even your little song is sad with its note of death.

It is just words.

And I sing it joyfully.

Because love such as I feel cannot ever die.

As always, your entrance is proud and aloof.

I come proudly, as fast as my hands and knees will carry me.

And as always, sardonic and unassailable.


I've never been so readily, so happily, so expertly vanquished in my life.

I believe everything except the word "vanquished."

I should like to vanquish you, Marcus.

Like the spider who eats her mate when he is no longer a necessity?

Something like that.

I heard today you're planning to leave for Sicily.

I must. Three years away, there's much to look after.

Will you sail from here or will you go via Rome?

Rome? That's rather an indirect route, isn't it?

Then I shall be direct.

I know about your little Christian hostage vanishing.

I've eyes and ears in the Praetorian Guard.

And an arm or two to fit your waist, no doubt?


Did you find her, Marcus?


Only to find myself a fool and sever her chains, I might add.

You severed them thoroughly?


I'm glad.


Because you know how I consoled myself...

...when you vanished from the feast that night.

Spare me names, dear empress.

I consoled myself with the thought of your death.

I fondled your bodiless head...

...running my fingers through your hair, making you smile and frown.

May I ask what stopped you?

It is foolish to kill those you hate, because once dead they are beyond pain.

And I hated you, Marcus.

I welcome your change of heart, at least.

But if ever she bewitches you again, I shall know.

And since I have no hatred for her...

...I do not care whether she feels pain.

You'd never turn the other cheek to me, would you?

I don't know what you mean.

But my mouth is here.

Where is Petronius? Have you summoned him?

Have you called Petronius? Yes, Caesar.

Well, summon him again! Tell him I...

As ever, I'm impatient for you.

I have missed you, Divinity.

Dear Petronius, you must forgive me if I seem to have slighted you of late.

I have been steeped in my genius beyond all description.

I sense a fresh inspiration.

Your senses shall leap to it.

Attend me. Attend me, all.

My lack of consideration for you during the past few days...

...in keeping you from my presence, forces me to impress upon you once again...

...the tribulations of the true artist.

When I play and sing, I have visions of things I never dreamed existed.

The world is mine.

And mine to end.

Music opens up new worlds for me.

Draws back the veil from new delights.

I can see Olympus...

...and a breeze blows on me from beyond the Earth.

And in those moments...

...I, a god, feel as diminutive as dust.

This is a day for sincerity.

Let me open my soul to you.

You think I do not know that there are...

...people in Rome who call me a matricide, a wife killer?

Hold me a monster?


But there is something they do not realize.

A man's acts may be cruel while he himself is not cruel.

For there are moments, my dear Petronius...

...when music caresses my soul.

I feel as gentle as a child in a cradle.

Believe me?

All men should know you as we do, Divinity.

Only then would they be able to appreciate you.

Yet there are those who say that I am mad.

I'm only seeking.

The flatness and misery of common life depress me.

I seek because I must exceed the stature of man in both good and evil.

I seek because I must be greater than man, for only then will I be the supreme artist.

Do you know...

...why I condemned both my wife...

...and my mother...

...to death?

I did it in order to lay at the gates of an unknown world...

...the greatest sacrifice a man can put there.

Now, I thought, doors will open...

...beyond which I shall catch a glimpse of the unknown.

Let it be wonderful.

Or let it be awful.

So long as it is uncommon.

So now...

...behold, dear Petronius.

My new Rome.

It shall rise in gleaming white beauty.

Master gem of the world's crown.

Shall have a new name.

Neropolis. City of Nero.

Magnificent! Hail, Divinity! You have outdone yourself.

Something the world has never seen.

But what of the Rome that has stood for a thousand years?

After all, Divinity, the old Rome, our Rome...

...dirty and magnificent, but still our beloved Rome...

...it still stands.

Does it?

It still stands.

We never thought of that, did we?

Or does it, Tigellinus?

Rome is a sea of flames! It burns from rim to rim!

You hear that? That is my epic!

To change the face of the world! To demolish and create, and create anew!

Now, to your chariots, all of you.

You shall come with me to the funeral pyre.

This very night you shall hear my dirge over burning Rome.

Its flames shall carry me higher than the gods.

All of Rome is burning? All but the Palatine area, naturally.

What of the section across the river? A creeping inferno.

Thousands of roofs going up like tinder. Marcus!

Stop, Vinicius! Hold him!

Now, indeed, Nero has his place in history.

Look, there's one of Nero's soldiers!

He burned Rome!

The people in this house here...

...the girl with the giant, have you seen them?

They left. Don't kill me. Don't kill me.

Mama! Mama!


Mama! Mama!

Here, go on! Take care of her!

The sewers! The sewers lead to the river!

Into the sewers!




Oh, Marcus. Marcus, I prayed to see you.

Marcus, Miriam is dead, in the fire.

She... My mother.

A wall fell on her.

We'll get you out of this, son.

The Praetorians are holding the bridge.

Open up!

Who's in command here? I am!

Open this barricade!

Imperial orders! We're to keep them from entering the Palatine area!

Break ranks! Let them through!

Hold your line there!

I'm in charge here, commander, and by the...

Break ranks, I say!

Petronius, look what I've created!

Tigellinus, my robe of grief.

Terpnos, lyre.

History will judge my song, Petronius.

Will it be great enough to match the occasion?

I'm seized with the sudden fear that it will not be great enough.

You will be worthy of the spectacle, as the spectacle is worthy of you.

You encourage me, Petronius.

But I'm aware that I must compete with those who sang of the burning of Troy.

My song must be greater, just as Rome is greater than Troy.

Silence, ye spheres Be still, ye hurtling stars Open wide-vaulted skies above me Now, at last, lo, I see Olympus And a light from its summit Doth illumine me I am one with the gods, immortal I am Nero The artist who creates with fire That the dreams of my life May come true To the flames now I give the past To the flames and soil Take thou this Rome Oh, receive her now, ye flames Consume her as would a furnace Burn on, O ancient Rome Burn on, burn on

The mob from burned areas.

They want to survive.

Who asked them to survive?


The palace is fully guarded, Majesty. They will never pass my Praetorians.

The night is chilly.

Let us withdraw.

Is it possible that human beings can produce such a sound?

Yes, when they've been driven too far.

Death to Nero! Death to the incendiary!

They'll break through.

Summon all the detachments from the barracks!

Death to the incendiary!

They're shouting something. What are they shouting?

They have given you a new title, Divinity.


I've sent for reinforcements. I hope they arrive in time.

I would speak to the mob, Caesar. Make them some promises.

I do not ask favors, I confer them.

You go. Speak to them in my name.

Not until other detachments arrive, then I'll speak to them with steel.

They'd stone me to death now.

In what better cause could you die?

This was your architect's dream. Go and tell them, Phaon.

This is all for them.

How can we admit that, Divinity?

You're right, we must never admit it.

How can I expect that mob to share my vision?

Seneca, what do you advise?

The mob is a wild animal, and with an animal you cannot reason.

I'm surrounded by eunuchs.

Why do you stand aloof? You're my counselor.

Why don't you counsel me?

Let them enter, we shall all die.

All except you. You, of course, being a god, are immortal.

Your levity is ill-timed, Petronius. They'll destroy you also.

I do not share your passion for self-preservation.

I love Rome, and I am not eager to survive it.

Petronius, you're not like these other people.

They think that you're their friend.

Speak to them, make promises.

Grain, oil, wine.

They will take them, Nero, without your permission.

Insatiable and thankless mob.

What do they want? Justice.

No mob ever wants justice. They want vengeance.

A victim.

Tigellinus, it was you who burnt Rome.

At your command, Nero.

Tigellinus, do you love me?

You know it, lord. Then prove it.

Go to the mob, bare your breast to them and your guilt.

I would do so gladly, Nero...

...but I am head of the Praetorian Guard and the Praetorians love me.

If I die, they may turn against you.

I cannot subject you to that danger.

Are you threatening me, Tigellinus?

Do you hear him threaten me with the Praetorian Guard?

You're all willing to desert me. I know it.

I feel it.

Nero, my beloved, you were right.

Give the people what they want. Give them blood and vengeance.

Not one victim, but a hundred, a thousand.

Victims? What victims?

A group who worship one they say is higher than you.

They are the enemies of the human race, and of you.

Who are these people?

They despise our temples and our gods...

...and prophesy that the end of the world shall be caused by fire.

Well, then, make their prophesy come true.

Let it end for them.

Who are they?

They call themselves Christians.


Yes, I've heard of them.

The empress speaks rightly, Caesar. The people hate these Christians.

They are the enemies of Rome and of the state.

The people want vengeance, Nero. Let them have it.

The people suspect you.

Let their suspicion turn in this more beneficial direction.

Surely, my lord, you shall not... They should pay, Caesar.

They must pay.

Do you hear?

The Christians are plotting to destroy me.

You have often reminded us, Nero, of the judgment of history.

What will its verdict be if you punish the innocent...

...and betray your own greatness?

Let future ages, looking back at this time...

...regard Nero with wonder and amazement.

Let history say, "Nero, the ruler of the world.

Nero, a god, burned Rome because he was as powerful as Jupiter.

He loved poetry so much that he sacrificed Rome for a song."

History need not say that the burning of Rome was good...

...but it must say that it was colossal, uncommon.

I cannot listen to any veiled suggestion that my emperor is a coward.

That is amusing.

You, who were too cowardly to risk your life for him yourself.

Petronius is right. You refused to die for me.

He wants to preserve your enemies. I want to kill them.

Why do you defend these people? I'll tell you why, my lord.

Because his nephew, Vinicius, loves a Christian girl, Lygia.

And it may be Petronius is himself a Christian.

Petronius, are you a Christian?

I am not.

I have heard that the Christians teach you to love your neighbor.

And as I see what men are...

...I cannot, for the life of me, love my fellow man.

He does not love you, gentlemen.

A tablet, Phaon.

The people shall have their vengeance.

"I hereby proclaim that the guilt of the burning of our beloved city...

...rests with the foul sect which calls itself Christian.

They have spread the lie that it was Nero who burnt Rome.

I will exterminate these criminals...

...in a manner matching the enormity of their crime.

Their punishment will be a warning.

A spectacle of terror...

...to all evil men...

...everywhere and forever...

...who would harm you or harm Rome...

...or harm...

...your emperor...

...who loves you."

Pause, Nero, before you sign this decree.

Rome has given the world justice and order.

Sign that, and Roman justice will receive a blow...

...from which it may never recover.

Condemn these Christians and you make martyrs of them...

...and insure their immortality.

Condemn them, and in the eyes of history...

...you condemn yourself.

When I have finished with these Christians, Petronius...

...history will not be sure that they ever existed.

When I grow up, I'm gonna be a sailor.

Nothing burns at sea. There's too much water.

Nero can burn the whole ocean.


Did you rest well?

I was impatient to see the sunrise, and here you are.

You should have slept longer.

Your journey from Antium and last night must have...

I've been asleep too long in many ways, Lygia.

I must return to the city at once, meet with Nerva and the others.

Yes, Rome and what it stands for.

Something must be done about this maniac.

There must be an answer to this, quickly, decisive.

You do know the answer.

You do understand.

There can be no turning the other cheek now, Lygia.

If I have not returned by nightfall, I'll send word.

Marcus Vinicius?

We have not met, but I have heard of you.

You must realize how grateful we are for what you have done.

For your concern for Lygia.

My only concern is for Lygia.

Hold yourself straight, youngster.

A man must be a soldier.

I don't want to be a soldier.

Let's talk about our journey.

We'll be meeting Paul in Greece, you know.

That's good.

You will like Greece, Nazarius. You'll help me to fish for men there.

And I think we'll have time to fish for fish too.

Are we leaving soon?

As soon as we eat. We shall be starting within the hour.

I'm glad...

...because I don't like it here anymore.

Yes, indeed.

We shall be fishermen together.

Please, my lord, do not trouble yourself so.

It is a moment for thought, Eunice.

Yesterday, I could have gone to the mob and told them that Nero burned Rome.

I could've offered them a new emperor in General Galba...

...and so set my seal upon the times.

But I did not.

Do you know why, Eunice?

I know nothing of these things, my lord.

Because I love Nero, perhaps?

He fills me with loathing.

No, because out of force of long habit...

...I've become content only to be an amused cynic...

...a selfish onlooker, leaving others to shape the world.


Gods be praised. I was worried about you.

You know Nerva, here. My third in command, Justin Scipio.

We meet in a ghastly hour, gentlemen.

We've made our decision.

The time has come for Galba to replace Nero.

Justin is taking this message to him and tasked me...

...asking him to come with his legions in all haste.

Your signature added to these will make Galba confident of his reception.

I know you will give it.

I sign it with humility.

On your way.

You took a risk in coming here.

You're a marked man. You scorned Poppaea.

She has death in her eye for you and your Lygia.

I'll chance that.

Take Lygia and leave Rome as quickly as possible.

At least you'll be spared Nero's final horror.

He is about to extinguish his conflagration in a sea of blood.

Whose blood?

Did you not hear his orators at the street corners?

Already the people are being given the story, along with grain and wine...

...that it was the Christians and not Nero who set fire to Rome.

They won't believe such a lie. But they are believing it.

People will believe any lie if it is fantastic enough.

I'll meet you at your house by midday.

We will keep you informed.

Farewell, Marcus.



What do you mean, my lord?

My dear, this morning Nero sent to inquire after my health.

A Praetorian officer brought his solicitude.

It is easy to see that he means to amuse himself...

...by making a sport of my extermination.

But then you must... No, no, my dear.

I have the means to disappoint him.

Send Anaxander to me.

I will give him the names of those few I love.

He will go and ask them to dine with us tonight.

General Plautius, his family, where are they?

You're late if you want them. Nero already imprisoned them.

The Praetorians came and collected the whole scurvy lot.

Me, raising my children right by the house of dirty Christians.

Burn the city, will they?

Put them in Number 4.

Have you the family of General Plautius here?

I do not know, commander. See if we have them.

Have an order for their immediate release.

A signed order? By whom?

I do not accept questions, Praetorian. I transmit orders.

A seasoned campaigner trapped by love.

We've been expecting you.

As soldiers, we've always hoped to die a quick and noble death...

...haven't we, Vinicius?

But Nero has in mind for you something more leisurely...

...and certainly ignoble.

Put him with his Christian friends.


Oh, why did they take you? This is none of your doing.

I carry my share of the blame.

We knew they were looking for you, but we had no way to send warning.

This is a sad reward for your friendship.

Marcus, I once accused you bitterly.

I'm proved wrong.

It's no triumph for me to find you here.

General Plautius, I...

The lions!

It is the lions!

No, no, please, God!

No, I can't stand...

No, dear, no.

We must be strong in Him, in each other.

Where is he, then?

If he is so all-powerful as you say, why do we find ourselves here?

My friend, stand firm.

My two babies and all of our children to be sold into slavery.

Is that what the redeemer promised us?

Only by strength in faith...

...will we be able to endure the ordeal.

I thank God Peter and Paul were spared.

But I miss their spirit and their courage.

I think it's going to rain.

We'd better look for a place to take shelter.

Peter, don't you think so?

What troubles you? You've hardly said anything all morning.

Oh, I'm sorry, Nazarius.

Are you very tired?

Oh, my mind is as heavy as my body.

There is something wrong, with our people, perhaps.

I do not know.

It is at such times I need our Lord's counsel.

There is within me a decision that I cannot find.

If only he would speak to me, I...

Look, those treetops there, they do not bend with the wind.

Yes, that is so.

And that sudden brightness coming, do you see it, Nazarius?

It is the light of the Lord.

I have seen it.

Christ Jesus, you are here.

What is wrong, O Lord?

What should I do?

I am weary.

How should I follow thee now?

Quo vadis, Domine?

Whither goest thou, Lord?

My people in Rome...

...have need of thee.

What did you say, Nazarius?

My people in Rome have need of thee.

If thou desert my people...

...I shall go to Rome to be crucified a second time.

Nazarius, blessed child, speak on.


Oh, Peter, you've stumbled. Here.

The words you said, say them again.

I didn't say anything.

You said, "If thou desert my people...

...I shall go to Rome to be crucified a second time."

But I said nothing.


He has again spoken to me.

Come, Nazarius.

Where are you going?

To Rome.

I have invited you here tonight, my friends...

...you who have been steadfast through the years.

That you have come proves not only your recklessness...

...but your devotion.

You pay us too much respect.

We know you have the wit to bring yourself into his favor again.


Tigellinus has won.

Nero, our master...

...is at the moment anticipating how he will make me suffer.

But I shall deprive him of that pleasure.

This is an evening of farewells.

Where will you go, my lord?

Your lord?

You've called me that for long enough. My name is Gaius.

And you've worn this emblem of slavery for far too long.

Henceforth, you are legally free.

And this villa, with its treasures, its slaves, its gardens, will be yours.

Why do you say this?

Because this evening, with its warmth and feeling...

...this evening is my signature.

The last flourish.

Tell the physician to come in.

It is not enough to live well.

One must die well.

No, my lord.

No! Please don't let him!

I understand the Christians say that...

...death is but a transition to a better life.

It will be interesting to discover.

Oh, my lord.

My dear, no tears before our guests.


If the Christians are right...

...this will be but a brief parting.

We can't... We can't part.


Did you think I could live without you?

No, no. Bind her wrist.

For the first time, Gaius, I disobey you.

What have I done...

...that forever I should hear the sweet thunder of your heart?

You have given me your love.

Now, my friends, I wish to write a letter to our emperor.


Will you permit me?

Let us hear it, Petronius.

"To Nero, emperor of Rome...

...master of the world, divine pontiff.

I know that my death will be a disappointment to you...

...since you wished to render me this service yourself.

To be born in your reign is a miscalculation...

...but to die in it is a joy.

I can forgive you for murdering your wife and your mother...

...for burning our beloved Rome...

...for befouling our fair country with...

...the stench of your crimes.

But one thing I cannot forgive...

...the boredom of having to listen to your verses...

...your second-rate songs, your mediocre performances.

Adhere to your special gifts, Nero.

Murder and arson, betrayal and terror.

Mutilate your subjects, if you must.

But with my last breath, I beg you...

...do not mutilate the arts.

Farewell, but compose no more music.

Brutalize the people...

...but do not bore them...

...as you have bored to death your friend...

...the late Gaius Petronius."

Seneca, I entrust to you the delivery of this letter.

I will deliver it.

Farewell, Petronius.

With you perishes the best of our Roman world.



By his own hand?

I don't believe it. I witnessed it, Divinity.

I shall never forgive him for this! Never!

Without my permission?

It's rebellion.

It's blasphemy.

He left you a message of farewell.

Then he did think of me.

His last thoughts were of me.

How I loved you, Petronius.

You were my one friend.

You alone understood my soul.

Tigellinus, the weeping vase.

Who will listen to my songs now?

Who will appreciate the true value of my verses?

I weep for you, Petronius.

One tear for you.

One for me.

Seal up these fruits of my sorrow...

...so that posterity may know how Nero grieved for his dearest friend...

...and truest critic.

And now for his tender words.


Destroy his house, every stone to dust!

Burn his books!

Slaughter his animals!

Kill his servants! Male, female, eunuch, every one of them!

Beat his memory into the ground!

Where is the emperor?

Let Nero start the games.

The lions are getting hungry.

Bring on those house burners!

They're crying for blood.

I doubt if we can chance anything today.

Nothing will change the temper of this mob.

Have you heard any news of the commander?

Only that he's been taken. That's all.

O holy gods of Rome...

...in the name of Nero, emperor and supreme pontiff...

...we beseech you to receive in sacrifice...

...the lives of those who sought to destroy...

...this sacred and eternal city.

Have strength as he did.

It will not be long.

Oh, dear Lord Jesus, help them.

Help them.


Don't torture yourself.

I'll be as close to her as I can.

You may give the signal, Divinity.

Peace to the martyrs!


Peace, peace to them.

Take thy children, Lord.

Numb their wounds, soften their pain.

Give them strength, O savior.

Seize that man.

Blessed are you, my children, who die in the name of Jesus.

I say to you that this day...

...you shall be with him in paradise.

Here, where Nero rules today, Christ shall rule forever!

Who is that man?

I think he is their leader, a man called Peter.

He escaped us before.

But he said Christ would replace me. What sort of...

By the light of the dawn on a glorious...

They're singing. ...day In his triumph The Son of God arose.

And the trumpet of angels will greet him Christ is King! Christ is King! Hallelujah!

Lift your eyes and your hearts To the Glory on high These dogs have effrontery even in death.

The lions will sing louder, I think. To the Lord...

...who arose on a Paschal Day He shall reign He shall reign erernal

Oh, Peter, could our Lord at least not have saved you?

Oh, Peter, why did you come back?

It was the Lord's will.

Nazarius is safe.

Some good people sheltered him outside the city.

By the light of the dawn On a glorious day In his triumph The son of God arose Yes, sing to him as he now opens his arms to you.

Sing to the welcome of Christ, our Lord.

Christ is King! Christ is King! Hallelujah!

More singing. Why aren't they afraid?

They irritate me.

They should have been tortured first, their insolence destroyed.

What of Marcus Vinicius and the girl Lygia?

Shall we bring them after these? Yes.

Alone, with one lion.

The hungriest. Not yet, my lord.

I should like Vinicius and his little flower held in reserve.

I am planning something most unusual.

A surprise for you.

What is it, Poppaea? Tell me.

It will not be a surprise, then.

Please, Poppaea.

My lord, have I ever disappointed you in conceiving new delights?

New thrills?


You haven't.


How can they?

It's beyond understanding.

Don't have the arena cleared at the end of the day.

I'm most curious.

No face on this one at all.

Oh, look, there's another one smiling.

It's monstrous of them to die smiling.

It's inhuman.

Yet they look no different from other people.

The man, Peter, he put an evil spell on them.


The man, Peter.

Something singular must be done with him.



"Nothing do I see that is not perfection."

That night you said it, even though you were most predatory about it...

...even then, my heart must have told me:

"That is the man you will love."

Only, then, you wouldn't let me hear my heart talking, Marcus.

I said a great deal, I remember.

All of it loud and empty.

I would so love to have given you a son.


Oh, Marcus.

No matter what, I want to be your wife now.

Peter will say the words over us. Lygia, you know I...

I want it to be that way before they take us...

...so that it will be that way when we are together again.

You would never wish me to pretend, would you?


That I feel myself Christian.

It's still strange, new.

Something I can't quite...

I mean...

Yes, it's proven good...

...full of courage, right here.

But there are many things I cannot believe, understand.

Christ is within you, Marcus.

You feel him more strongly than you know.



Before I die, I want to marry Marcus.

This is a holy thing, my son.

It concerns Lygia.

I look upon it as holy.



May he who blessed the marriage at Cana bless you also.

Love one another from this moment forward...

...as man and wife in his holy name.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.

In this life and the next...

...now and forevermore.


My husband.

Here he is, Your Majesty.

He meets with your approval?

Very much so.

It will be like a fresco from Crete.

The maiden sacrificed to the Minotaur.

It will be a spectacle worthy of the eyes of the emperor.

Superb conception.

You seem sad and restless, my little black friend.

But do not grieve.

I promise you a rare playmate for your lonely horns...

...to fondle and caress.

You are the man Peter?

I am Simon, called Peter.

"The man called Peter has been heard to preach rebellion and blasphemy...

...against the rule and the divinity of the emperor.

It is accordingly decreed that he be taken to Vatican Hill...

...where it has been confessed he made his first preachment...

...to be crucified and left there as a warning to all and any...

...who henceforth wish to call themselves Christians."

To die as our Lord died...

...is more than I deserve.

We can change that.

You'll notice, Divinity, they've stopped singing.

They have, haven't they?

I seem to know that man.

General Plautius.

He conquered Parthia and the north countries...

...when you were a boy.

Rome made him famous, and he repaid her with treason.

What a dramatic reversal.

Now he faces his first defeat.

I shall write a poem.

People of Rome.

I am Aulus Plautius...

...once general of your armies.

Rome is ruled by a monster...

...who tells you the Christians burned Rome.

But he lies!

You lie, Nero. You are the incendiary.

Nero kills Christians to deceive you.

He alone is guilty.

I swear it by my death and by my...

I begin to envy Petronius.

I have envied him long since.

I tell you, this is a horrible blot on Roman justice.

The mob isn't as happy as it was.

Have you noticed?

Heaven's Son

Eternal Lord Who reigns above We pray to thee As night goes on O shield us They are singing. With thy fatherly love

Securely sheltered From all fear Thy grace abounding Let us rest

He said something to Nero.

I could not hear the words.

Nero's looking at a man that knows how to die.

Take him.


They're not parting us.

Prepare her.

Here, my lord, is our honored guest.


Why is he not in the arena? He will be, very much so.

In spirit.

It's a giant.

It's Hercules himself.

He has guarded the Lygian girl from birth.

Now let us see him guard her from death.

But what is the contest?


They've brought Marcus here to face this.

By the...

Do not fret, Vinicius.

Remember, I said I did not hate her.

I wish her no pain.

Lasting pain, that is.

I am devastated dear Petronius is not here...

...to witness our pleasure, Vinicius.

"Sing no more," he said.

Upon these lilies I heap now Red roses upon red A blood-red tide shall surge Upon her milk-white flesh

Like your uncle, you do have a certain amount of taste.

But I still think that she's too narrow in the hips.

These people know how to die, Nero.

In death, you will squeal like a hog.

Give him the sword! Let him...

No, stay!

My lord, would you deprive him of his final pleasure?

Superb, Poppaea. Magnificent.

A fair contest.

Nero's justice is proverbial.

If the bull kills the giant, so much for the girl.

But if our Hercules should be cruel enough to destroy the poor animal...

...I shall have to spare her life for Vinicius.

To breed more Christians.


Christ, give him strength.

Seize him!

Burner of Rome! Thumbs up!

Burner of Rome! Thumbs up!

Ready up there? First line, follow me.

Citizens of Rome.

I am Marcus Vinicius...

...commander of your 14th Legion.

This man who burned Rome...

...who killed innocents for his own crime...

...the rule of this madman is ended.

Rome is yours again.

Tonight, General Galba marches from the north.

Your army has risen.

Hail Galba!

Galba, new emperor of Rome!

A sword from Plautius.

Where are the Praetorian Guard?

Dead or in revolt.

Dead, all dead.

My dear mother. Octavia, the wife I loved.

My friend Petronius, all dead.


You alone are left.

Kill the Christians, you said.

It was you.

It was you who turned my people...

...my faithful subjects...

...against me.

You are my evil genius.

What are you doing here?

I banished you! I didn't recall you!

I told you that when you needed me...

...I would come to you.

You defied me! Begone!

Acte, what will they do to me?

They will kill you.

They won't get in.

You've lived like a monster.

Now die like an emperor, by your own hand.

I didn't wish to be a monster.

The gods willed it.

Now, or they will find you here.

Is this, then, the end of Nero?

Yes, my lord.

To be lord of the earth and my own executioner.


Oh, how dull, how tasteless life will be for them without me.

How can they face such a world?

How can they endure it?

Now, my lord.

Help me, Acte.

Hail Galba! Hail!

Hail Galba!

Hail Galba!

Hail Galba!

Hail Galba!


Hail Galba!

Galba has a task ahead of him.

Rebuild Rome and bring back Roman justice.

I fear the glory that was Rome will never fully be reached again, Marcus.

Babylon, Egypt, Greece, Rome. What follows?

A more permanent world, I hope.

Or a more permanent faith.

One is not possible without the other.

What is it, commander?

It was right in this very spot that Peter and I turned back to Rome.

It was here the Lord spoke to him.

It's a blessed spot.

I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.