Historical Version of the Film “Gladiator”


Ridley Scott won many acclaims for his award winning movie Gladiator. The film according to him was a result of thorough research. Scott tried to present the facts of the Roman Empire back in those with his own psychological outlook. Many critics feel that in doing so Ridley Scott has gone further than most of the earlier film-makers who have de-constructed historical facts significantly for artistic sense. But does that mean the story of Gladiator is true in every aspect? Let us inspect:

Still from Ridley Scott's Film Gladiator

Reality of Maximus Decimus

This character shown in the movie was entirely fictional or may be considered a collage of characters during those times. In the film Maximus is portrayed as Maximus’ general and leads some expeditions. In true fact the name of this general was Avidius Cassius who led similar expeditions. He later declared himself as the emperor of Rome on hearing about the news of Marcus Aurelius’ death, but was assassinated by some soldiers under his command. Maximus in the film also resembles to the emperor Dioclethan who was born in the lower class family and became trusted as well as favourite bodyguard and later a general. The Emperor named him the heir to the throne and later he became an Emperor too. In Gladiator Commodus is seen killed in the arena by Maximus, but in reality he was murdered by a wrestler.

How was Marcus Aurelius?

Gladiator shows Marcus Aurelius as dutiful, virtuous, honest and family oriented man. In history Marcus Aurelius was an Emperor and reigned from 161-180 CE. He was also a philosopher. Some of his works such as The Mediations are great pieces of philosophy back in those times.

Statue of Commodus

Was Commodus Evil in Reality?

According to the history books Commodus was even more bizarre then depicted in the film. Commodus was proclaimed as a Caesar at the age of 5 and became joint emperor along side Augustus at the age of 17. He was not liked by Senate and was also ridiculed by the historians in their descriptions. Some historians wrote about Commodus’ reign as “our history now descends from a kingdom of gold to one of iron and rust, as affairs did for the Romans of that day.” Some historians accuse of Commodus being insane. He renamed months of the year by the titles held by him such as Aelius, Lucius, Aurelius, Commodus, Herculeus, etc. Under his reign the Senate was renamed as Commodian Fortune Senate and the Romans were renamed as Commodianus. According to historian Aelius Lampridius “Commodus lived, rioting in the palace amid banquets and in baths along with 300 concubines, gathered together for their beauty and chosen from both matrons and harlots… By his orders concubines were debauched before his own eyes, and he was not free from the disgrace of intimacy with young men, defiling every part of his body in dealings with persons of either sex.”

Was Marcus Aurelius Killed by Commodus?

As shown in the film Commodus enters into his father’s tent and murders him. Maybe he did so as he was present during the Caesar’s death and concluded a peace treaty with the enemies in quick time. But official records suggest Macus Aurelius died of plague.

Colosseum - Venue for Gladiator Fights in Past

Truth of Commodus Fighting in the Gladiator’s Arena

Yes, Commodus quite loved to fight within the arena with the Gladiators. But he never killed or severely wound anybody as the gladiators used to put down their arms after a tame fight. Not because he was a skilled fighter but because he was the Emperor. However, he did not die in the Gladiator’s fight. There were many plots to kill him and finally a wrestler named Narcissus murdered him when he in his bath.

Thus there are close resemblances in the well knit plot of Gladiator. But fiction also looms large.

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