movie quotes from Quo Vadis – a truly classic movie about Nero, Rome, and the early Christians
Narrator: This is the Appian Way, the most famous road that leads to Rome, as all roads lead to Rome. On this road march the 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, murdering 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 the 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 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.
Vinicius: [when asked how his army defeated the Gauls and the Britons] We fought them with our bowels! Try it sometime!
Vinicius: [to Lygia about Paul] That beggar-faced philosopher shouldn’t be stuffing your head with such nonsense.
Vinicius: [Seeing the mighty Ursus for the first time] Why, with one arm strapped you could kill fifty Nubians in an hour.
Vinicius: [as the Christians file into the arena, singing] These people know how to die, Nero. In death, you will squeal like a hog!
[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 both day and night!
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: [During the burning of Rome] What does the mob want?
Emperor Nero: A mob doesn’t want justice — they want revenge!
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!
Emperor Nero: [On learning that Petronius is dead] I shall never forgive him for this!
Emperor Nero: [distraught, as the Christians enter the arena to die] They’re singing!
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.
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!
Petronius: [after seeing Rome consumed by flames] Now indeed, Nero has his place in history.
Petronius: [to Nero] You will be worthy of the spectacle — as the spectacle is worthy of you.
Vinicius: [speaking of Nero] His new wife, Poppea, sounds interesting — a harlot or 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.
Emperor Nero: Is it possible that human beings can produce such a sound?
Petronius: Yes, when they’ve been pushed too far.
[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.
Petronius: It is not enough to live well. One must die well.
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. 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.
Emperor Nero: [as Vinicuis 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 Vinicuis and interpreting the double-entendre literally] Yes, my Lord.
Poppaea: [as Marcus enters] As usual your entrance is proud and aloof.
Vinicius: I come 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. [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.
Emperor Nero: Poppaea, one woman shouldn’t judge another. She hasn’t the glands for it. Ha-ha!