The Robe is a 1953 American Biblical epic film that tells the story of a Roman military tribune who commands the unit that is responsible for the Crucifixion of Jesus. The film was released by 20th Century Fox and was the first film released in the widescreen process CinemaScope.
In Ancient Rome, Judaea, Capri, and Galilee (in the time period stretching from 32 to 38 AD.), Diana (Jean Simmons) tells Emperor Caligula that she has not heard from Marcellus Gallio (Richard Burton) for almost a year, when Marcellus was in Cana of Galilee. At that time, Marcellus was told by Paulus that Caligula had become the emperor.
Marcellus Gallio, son of an important Roman senator (Torin Thatcher), and himself a military tribune, introduces through flashback narration, the might and scope of the Roman empire. Marcellus is notoriously known as a ladies’ man, but is captivated by the reappearance of his childhood sweetheart, Diana, ward of the Emperor Tiberius. Diana is unofficially pledged in marriage to Tiberius’s regent, Caligula. Nevertheless, she harbors a desire for Marcellus after a promise he made when they were children that he would marry her.
Caligula, who has a longstanding feud with Marcellus, arrives at the slave market, whereupon he enters into a bidding war with Marcellus over a defiant Greek slave, Demetrius (Victor Mature). Despite Demetrius being sold for a gladiator, and expected by Caligula to be a cheap buy, Marcellus wins the bidding war by pledging 3000 gold, and Caligula storms off. Marcellus has Demetrius released and orders him to go on his own to the Gallio home. Marcellus is surprised to find Demetrius waiting for him when he arrives, since Demetrius could have run off, but Demetrius feels honor bound to Marcellus, claiming he owes Marcellus a debt.
Word reaches the Gallio home that Caligula has issued orders for Marcellus to receive a military transfer to Jerusalem in Palestine. A place of unrest, Marcellus’ father informs his son that Caligula hopes this new assignment will be his death sentence. Demetrius accompanies Marcellus to Palestine but, before the galley sails, Diana comes to see Marcellus, pledging her love for him and her intention to intercede on his behalf with Tiberius. Marcellus declares his love for Diana and asks her to make the emperor promise not to give her in marriage to Caligula.
Marcellus rides into Jerusalem with the centurion Paulus (Jeff Morrow) on the same day as Jesus’s triumphal entry on Palm Sunday. Demetrius locks eyes with Jesus and feels compelled to follow after him, although he does not. Later, Demetrius learns of the plot to arrest Jesus after overhearing Paulus and Marcellus discuss the matter. He attempts to warn Jesus, but comes across a distraught man who informs him that Jesus has already been arrested. After bemoaning how Jesus was betrayed by one of his own, and imploring Demetrius to find the others and tell them not to lose faith, Demetrius asks for the man’s name. As thunder crashes, the man reveals himself to be Judas, and he wanders off to hang himself.
Demetrius implores Marcellus to intercede on behalf of Jesus, but upon learning that Jesus has already been condemned by Pontius Pilate (Richard Boone), the procurator, Marcellus tells Demetrius the matter is settled and that he best forget he ever saw Jesus. Marcellus reports to Pilate, who informs him that Emperor Tiberius has sent for him. Before Marcellus departs, Pilate orders him to take charge of the detail of Roman soldiers assigned to crucify Jesus. While waiting for the execution to finish, Marcellus wins the robe worn by Jesus in a dice game from Paulus, who tells Marcellus that it will be a reminder of his victory over the King of the Jews.