Quo Vadis (1951)
Petronius: [in his dying letter to Nero] 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. Fare well, 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.
Emperor Nero: [none of his closest men will die for him in light of the mob's anger over Rome's burning] I'm surrounded by eunuchs!
[on being told the Christians are being blamed for the burning of Rome]
Vinicius: The people won't believe such a lie!
Petronius: But they are believing it. People will believe any lie, if it is fantastic enough.
Vinicius: [speaking of Nero] His new wife, Poppea, sounds interesting - a harlot for an empress?
Petronius: [sardonically humorous] My dear Marcus, what a proletarian observation! You must know that a woman has no past when she mates with a god.
Narrator: 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, the 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 thirty 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 atop the victorious Roman standards. This is the story of that immortal conflict. In this, the summer of the year 64 A.D., in the reign of the antichrist known to history as the emperor Nero, the victorious Fourteenth Legion is on its way back to Rome under the command of one Marcus Vinicius.
Petronius: It is not enough to live well. One must die well.
Vinicius: [as the Christians file into the arena, singing] These people know how to die, Nero. In death you will squeal like a hog!
Vinicius: [when asked how his army defeated the Gauls and the Britons] We fought with our bowels! Try it sometime!
Petronius: [Nero begins to sing again, and his voice is horrible] Body of Bacchus, I've been listening to *that* since morning!
Vinicius: [amused] He seems in rare voice!
Emperor Nero: [annoyed] Why do you stare at me, Acte?
Acte: My lord, I can only say... when all this sets with the final sun, remember the look of Acte.
Emperor Nero: [snidely] Why should I remember you?
Acte: No one loves you as I love you.
Emperor Nero: I command you to *stop* loving me!
Emperor Nero: Is it possible that human beings can produce such a sound?
Petronius: Yes, when they've been pushed too far.
Petronius: [after seeing Rome consumed by flames] Now indeed, Nero has his place in history.
[Nero is exasperated with the mobs]
Emperor Nero: Do I live for the people or do the people live for me?
Petronius: You are the sun in their sky! Does the sun have privacy?
Emperor Nero: The sun has the night! These people expect me to shine daily - hourly!
Emperor Nero: [During the burning of Rome] What do they want?
Emperor Nero: A mob doesn't want justice - they want revenge!
Petronius: [to Eunice] You ask why I do this. Because I love Nero, perhaps? He fills me with loathing!
Petronius: [to Nero] A genius, Divinity, should hold to his first thoughts on any subject.
Emperor Nero: Poppaea, one woman shouldn't judge another. She hasn't the glands for it. Ha-ha!
Vinicius: [to Lygia about Paul] That beggar-faced philosopher shouldn't be stuffing your head with such nonsense.
Poppaea: [as Marcus enters] As usual your entrance is proud and aloof.
Vinicius: I came proudly as fast as my hands and knees will carry me.
Poppaea: And as always, sardonic and unassailable.
Vinicius: So happily, so unassailable? I've never been so readily expertly vanquished in my life.
Poppaea: I believe everything except the word vanquished.
Poppaea: [Suggestively while taking wine] I should like to vanquish you Marcus.
Vinicius: Like the spider who eats her mate when he is no longer a necessity?
Poppaea: [Suggestively] Mmm-Hmmm - Something like that.
Lygia: [to Vinicius, after he has been revived following a scuffle involving Ursus and the gladiator Croton] Ursus wishes to speak to you.
Vinicius: [to Ursus] Yes?
Ursus: [to Vinicius, addressing him in the third person] I want to ask the commander's forgiveness. I killed his friend.
Vinicius: You killed Croton? Ha ha! Good man! I told you you'd be a champion! Kill the old Greek too?
Ursus: The other man disappeared.
Vinicius: I'll wager he did, and fast!
Petronius: [to Nero] You will be worthy of the spectacle - as the spectacle is worthy of you.
Emperor Nero: [as the Christians enter the arena to die] They're singing!
Emperor Nero: [On learning that Petronius is dead] I shall never forgive him for this!
Emperor Nero: [as Vinicius and the other soldiers march past] Come closer. Look. They march as they fight: strong, brave, relentless... our unconquerable children. We must take them to our breast.
Poppaea: [Obviously attracted to Vinicius and interpreting the double-entendre literally] Yes, my lord.
Vinicius: [Seeing the mighty Ursus for the first time] Why, with one arm strapped you could kill fifty Nubians in an hour.
Acte: You've lived like a monster, now die like an emperor!
Flavius: Hail, Marcus Vinicius, in the name of the divine Nero, prince emperor and supreme pontiff. Captain Flavius, Praetorian Guard, salutes you.
Petronius: 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.
Vinicius: 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.
Vinicius: I don't know a great deal about philosophy. And lovely women shouldn't have the time to think that deeply.
Vinicius: 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...
Lygia: At least that proves they are diligent.
Vinicius: Yes, at building mud huts. But not in bringing a man's thoughts to life.
Emperor Nero: They demand too much. I tell you, this mob, this mob tortures me. I hate it second only to Rome itself.
Petronius: [talking to Marcus Vinicius about the spanish slave] You don't want her? And I refused an offer from Seneca of six Arabian stallions.
Lygia: Ten big, strong Praetorian Guards to support my eagerness to come.
Vinicius: Well said, Lygia. But you know a caravan of rare merchandise is always well-guarded.
Emperor Nero: Dear Poppaea, one woman should never judge another. She hasn't the glands for it. Ha-ha-ha. Isn't that witty, Petronius?
Petronius: Among the gods, your humor is unique.
Vinicius: There's such an army of gods these days we can always find room for another.
Lygia: But, Marcus, don't you see? Unless you try to understand, what we feel for each other will destroy itself. Destroy us.
Emperor Nero: 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.
Poppaea: It is foolish to kill those you hate, because once dead they are beyond pain.
Emperor Nero: 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.
Petronius: 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.
Emperor Nero: Does it?
Tigellinus: Rome is a sea of flames. It burns from rim to rim.
Emperor Nero: 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.
Emperor Nero: [about the angry roman mob] Petronius, you're not like these other people. They think that you're their friend. Speak to them, make promises. Grain, oil, wine.
Petronius: They will take them, Nero, without your permission.
Petronius: 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'll condemn yourself.
Emperor Nero: When I have finished with these Christians, Petronius... history will not be sure that they ever existed.
Petronius: 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? 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.
Guard: 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.
Peter: To die as our Lord died is more than I deserve.
Guard: We can change that.
Emperor Nero: I didn't wish to be a monster. The gods willed it.