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Historical Inaccuracy in The Film Gladiator

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The movie, Gladiator, happens in 180 AD, during Rome’s golden age. At this time, the Roman Empire was governing over a quarter of the world’s population. It had been over 60 years since the last expansion of the Roman Empire, and the Emperor, Marcus Aurelius was now solely focusing his forces solely against Barbarian invasions, and has been fighting a series of wars against the Germanic tribes. Marcus Aurelius is also known as philosopher king. He was a Stoic philosopher and is most well-known for his self-discipline as Emperor. He could have indulged in any short term pleasure one can imagine, yet he practiced self-control. His Stoic teachings have been of utmost importance to the Stoic school of thought. Historians believe Aurelius to be the last one of the 5 good emperors. In the movie, Marcus Aurelius had doubts about whether instead of choosing a successor to become an Emperor, he should return the power to the Senate. Although Roman Emperors had not chosen their son as their successors, for over a century at that time, Marcus Aurelius actually believed in holding power closely and willingly passed power to his son. Commodus, the son of Marcus Aurelius, had already been co-emperor for three years at the time of his father’s death. Commodus was not as competent as his father in his role as an Emperor, and passed down many of his responsibilities to those underneath him, he did manage to keep the people happy by organizing many gladiatorial combats in the Colosseum. He even had been in quite a few fights himself, killing gladiators, and animals. However, the fights were usually staged, to ensure the victory of the Emperor.

Although the story of the movie, Gladiator, is entirely made up, and quite horribly historically inaccurate, it does have an interesting history setting. The movie begins by showing Maximus in one of the Germanic wars. The Roman Empire, as the movie accurately depicts, did have very advance military. So advanced that the rebels, and the intruders barely ever had a chance in the battle field. A slight, yet interesting, detail that I noticed about the depiction of the Marcus Aurelius was his demeanor. Marcus Aurelius was a very humble man. Yet during a scene he boasts about the expansion of the Empire during his time. Not only is this absolutely out of character for Marcus Aurelius, but it is factually incorrect. Although he did manage to keep the Empire intact, there had been no expansions to the Empire for decades. Moreover, it is highly unlikely that Marcus Aurelius would ask a general of his army to lead the Empire, when at the time of his death, Commodus had already been co-Emperor for three years. On the other hand, as far as the depiction of Commodus is concerned, the movie is accurately portrays him as a maniac. Commodus was not interested in ruling, hence decided to keep the people happy by organizing combats in the Colosseum. The movie does an amazing job at showing how distracted people were from a terrible government, by these fights. Furthermore, as portrayed in the movie, Commodus’ sister did actually plot the assassination of his brother. She hired an assassin to do the job. However, unfortunately for her, the assassin was caught by Commodus’ guards, and she was exiled, and executed a year later. Although in the movie Commodus was killed by Maximus, a fictional character, in real life, Commodus was killed by a wrestler. Commodus had hired a wrestler to train him. Once his concubine got him really drunk, and let in the wrestler that he had hired, who choked Commodus to death.

Although this movie was not very factually accurate, I believe it to be one of the best epic movies of all time. I really enjoyed watching the movie. Although I am fundamentally against inaccurate historical movies, this movie did not bother me as much, due to the fact that it was mostly made up. Meaning that they didn’t have an actual historical character, and depict him wrongfully, but made up a new character, as opposed to 300 which completely disrespects the glorious Persian Empire. 

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Historical Inaccuracy In The Film Gladiator. (2021, August 06). GradesFixer. Retrieved January 25, 2022, from
“Historical Inaccuracy In The Film Gladiator.” GradesFixer, 06 Aug. 2021,
Historical Inaccuracy In The Film Gladiator. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 25 Jan. 2022].
Historical Inaccuracy In The Film Gladiator [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2021 Aug 06 [cited 2022 Jan 25]. Available from:
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