How Accurate Is: Gladiator (Film, Ridley Scott, 2000)


Hello everyone! Today’s post is on the film Gladiator, directed by Ridley Scott and starring Russell Crowe. To begin I should point out that Gladiator is only a historical film in the sense that Inglorious Basterds is; the names are right, and the story is quite satisfying, but there is little relation to actual history. Just as Hitler was evidently not assassinated, so too was the Roman Republic evidently not restored in 180 CE (I should point out that I am not making any comparison between these two events). It is, therefore, a difficult task to truly assess the historical accuracy of Gladiator.

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A brief summation of the historical and the ahistorical aspects of the film is as follows. Yes, there was an emperor named Commodus; yes, he was the son of Marcus Aurelius. However, there is no reason to believe that Marcus Aurelius was murdered by his son (and still less that Aurelius intended to restore the Roman Republic upon his death), as Commodus was not even present at the time.[1] (Marcus Aurelius also died in modern-day Vidin, Bulgaria, not in Germany as depicted in the film.[2]) Furthermore, although Commodus is widely regarded as one of the worse emperors, and although he did enjoy personally participating in gladiatorial contests, he was not slain in the arena; rather, he was strangled in his bath by an athlete, Narcissus.[3] Furthermore, there is little evidence he had any sort of feelings for his sister, and in fact had her killed after her part in one of the many failed conspiracies against him.[4] Finally, the main character, Maximus, is entirely invented.

So, all in all, Gladiator was not a historically accurate movie. For once, however, this is fine; it does not seem like the film tried particularly hard to be historical (or at least I hope it did not), and with any luck no one who watched it would have believed that the events depicted had actually occurred. Therefore, Gladiator can be an enjoyable film without burdening itself overmuch with historical accuracy; since it does not try to pretend it is historical, there is no need for it to be. It was actually quite a good movie, and certainly had some dramatic choreography; Joaquin Phoenix also played a good villain in Commodus. There is no point going into any more detail about the historical accuracy of the film, however; it can simply be said that the vast majority of the events and characters in the film are entirely fictional, and be left at that. I hope you all enjoyed this post, and have a wonderful day!



1 Loyola University Chicago. “Commous (A.D. 180-192).” Last modified January 4 1999.

2 Loyola University Chicago. “Commous (A.D. 180-192).” Last modified January 4 1999.

3 Loyola University Chicago. “Commous (A.D. 180-192).” Last modified January 4 1999.

4 University of Chicago. “Historia Augusta: The Life of Commodus.” Last modified August 2012.*.html

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