Demetrius and the Gladiators is a wonderful, sword-and-sandal classic from the ’50s. Released in 1954 in living color, it starred Victor Mature, Susan Hayward, Earnest Borgnine, Michael Rennie (as the Apostle Peter (!); also known also for his fine work in “The Day The Earth Stood Still”) , Debra Paget, Julie Newmar, Anne Bancroft and Jay Robinson, reprising his role as the slimiest “Caligula” ever portrayed on the big screen. It’s the sequel to “The Robe“, 1953, Richard Burton, Jean Simmons, Victor Mature, Michael Rennie, Dean Jagger, Jay Robinson and Richard Boone.
Over and above the deep pseudo-religious and political shenanigans, the story I like best in this movie is the affair between Victor Mature, a Christian turned gladiator, and Messalina (played by Susan Hayward), wife of Claudius, who is Caligula’s uncle. Got it?
Claudius finds out about the affair before being anointed the new Caesar. In the key scene at the end of the movie, Demetrius admits he had deeply wronged the Claudius. Instead of killing Demetrius, Claudius says,
“You wronged yourself. You merely disappointed me.”
This scene had a profound influence on how I see my life. Anger, blame…useless. Disappointment is a much more productive emotion.
Here’s the full scene from the script:
– You have made me emperor and l will try to serve Rome well.
l want it clearly understood that l am not a god,…
..nor am l likely to become one.
Nor am l quite the fool that l have pretended to be all these years,…
..in order to preserve my life. That is ended.
You have made me Caesar, and l will act the part.
– Hail Claudius!
– lt’s no secret from any of you that l’ve mocked my marriage vows,…
..that l’ve openly disgraced my husband and myself.
That, too, is ended.
l am Caesar’s wife, and l will act the part.
– Hail Caesar!
– Sire, l’ve deeply wronged you.
– You wronged yourself. You merely disappointed me.