In Ridley Scott's Gladiator, Maximus deciding to spare Tigris of Gaul in their gladiatorial match means more than it seems. The historical epic Gladiator follows the story of Russell Crowe's Roman general, Maximus Decimus Meridius, who becomes a slave and fights to avenge the murder of his family by Rome's self-appointed new Caesar, Commodus. Maximus' background as a Roman general makes him a highly formidable warrior against other gladiators.

After Maximus is dubbed the Spaniard following his many victories, one of his biggest battles in Gladiator comes when he is pitted against Tigris of Gaul, the only undefeated gladiator. Though Maximus wins the fight, he spares the life of Tigris, despite Commodus giving the command for his death. This is an important moment for Maximus, because it demonstrates how he has reevaluated his mission in Gladiator.

Maximus' Decision Not To Kill Tigris In Gladiator Is Connected To Saving Rome

When Maximus first becomes a gladiator, he is a man who believes he has nothing left after his life has been completely ruined by Commodus. Always preferring an honorable death, Maximus goes through the gladiatorial motions, waiting for someone to kill him. While he defeats every other gladiator in his path, this is simply because he is "required to kill." That changes when former gladiator Proximo advises Maximus to "win the crowd" when he and his fellow gladiators arrive in Rome, with Maximus intent on taking his vengeance on Commodus. Proximo's advice helps to explain why Maximus spares Tigris.

However, Maximus has another change of heart after seeing what Commodus is turning Rome into. Remembering the vision Marcus Aurelius had of restoring the Roman republic, Maximus' mission changes from simple vengeance on Commodus to saving Rome from his tyranny. For that reason, Maximus, no longer in mere survival mode, spares the life of Tigris. Not only does this act of mercy "win the crowd," it sends a message of defiance against Commodus.

Why Maximus Sparing Tigris Is A Big Moment In Gladiator

Maximus clearly has no problem taking lives as both a soldier and a gladiator, even acting as both during his first battle in the Roman Colosseum, organizing his fellow gladiators to triumph against their enemies. What changes for Maximus in his fight with Tigris is that he sees the bigger stakes of Commodus leading Rome to ruin - and the Gladiator director's cut expands on Commodus as the ruin of Rome. This leads Maximus to orchestrate a revolt behind the scenes.

Commodus himself can sense that Maximus is gaining the upper hand, and tries to goad him with jabs about the savagery inflicted on his wife and son. Earlier in the movie, Maximus would likely have lost his temper and taken the bait, but after fighting Tigris, he is thinking more clearly. Maximus does not kill Tigris because he is not the true enemy of Rome, with Maximus knowing he must defeat Gladiator's real villain, Commodus.