Which one? They have the 1919, 1960, 2004 and the 2010 remakes.
I've only seen the 1960 version and it was a strange experience first run as a 12 year old farm boy who secretly knew he was 'queer'. Although culturally isolated and naive, the scene where Tony Curtis bathes Laurence Olivier left a lasting impression on me. It was almost shocking. Even I got the subtext, and not only the sexual implications of oysters vs snails.
Yes, there was that, but directly after that scene general Crassus calls his slave Antoninus to the balcony to behold the grandeur that is Rome. Now the subtext is more ambiguous but no less sinister. I've watched this movie several times over the years (having a bit of a penchant for "spectacle" movies of the "ancient empire" genre). Much about it is dated, but that scene on the balcony is remarkable. Not merely seduction of the flesh is intimated here, but seduction of the soul.
Rome is a political metaphor for those deep powers contained within civilization itself that dictate our sense of morality; what is acceptable behavior and what is not. Even how we should see and understand ourselves--our sense of self and place in society. "No man can withstand Rome, no nation can withstand Rome, how much less a boy? Hmm? There's only one way to deal with Rome, Antoninus, you must serve her, you must abase yourself before her, you must grovel at her feet, you *must* love her."
Arousing the contrary political opinion was precisely the director's intent. Antoninus took the cue and fled.
This is a piece of cultural history. The 1950s with their McCarthist witch hunts in Hollywood had only recently ended. The civil rights movement was barely beginning to get attention. The whole panoply of social changes that would soon be called "The 60s" was yet to unfold. And here we have a movie with an unmistakable homo-erotic scene and the core theme of Rebellion against the "evil" empire.
There was much to not like about it, all that exaggerated testosterone and blood letting, but it wasn't all bad.