Outrageous and insane, Nero went as far as burning the city of Rome for his own artistic inspiration, and it was under his tyranny that Rome had suffered much corruption and conflicts. Along with such historical background, the movie presents fictional characters and events in order to portray what it was like to be a Christian at the times. The film is centered on a Roman military commander, Marcus Vinicius. General of the seventh legion, Marcus returns to Rome from a successful military campaign and during his welcoming reception, falls in love with Lygia – the adopted daughter of a retired general.
While initially disturbed upon realizing that she was a devout Christian, a subject of contempt and disdain to the Romans, Marcus nevertheless loves Lygia and tries to win her heart. Lygia too, despite her earlier disappointment on Marcus for his misunderstanding of Christianity, soon falls in love with him. Throughout the movie, Marcus’ attitude towards Christianity eventually changes from hostility to acceptance, though there is no mentioning of his conversion. However, their love affair is met with a check by Nero’s persecution of Christians.
Greatly disturbed by the Christians’ refusal to recognize anyone but Jesus as their Lord, Nero oppresses Christians in hopes of disaccustoming them with their peculiar faith – in the process, Lygia and Marcus are together caught and imprisoned. In the end, however, Nero fails to annihilate the Christians, and is instead overthrown by the mob in the arena when Marcus discloses his insanity. Upon hearing of General Galba marching to Rome, the Romans seize the palace and try to kill Nero, in which they fail to do so as Nero stabs himself and dies.
The film ends by showing Marcus and Lydia, accompanied by Paul, leaving Rome o visit sites of Jesus’ ministry. The film Quo Vadis, though not completely non-fictional, is laudable in that it presents a fairly accurate depiction of the conflicts between the early Christianity and the Roman Empire. While Rome – or more precisely, the Vatican – is the core of the Catholic Church today, it must be noted that their first encounter had not been a friendly one. This material is well covered in the movie, in which the superb mastery of language and eloquence makes it an amusing piece of work. Thus Quo Vadis is strongly recommended for students of theology major or masters degree.