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Gladiator Historical Accuracy

The movie gladiator revolves around the life of Maximus Decimus Meridius. Maximus was the greatest Roman General in the Roman Empire. Marcus Aurelius was the emperor of Rome and near his death he told Maximus that he wanted the power to be shifted back to the senate, and not to his son, Commodus. The reason Marcus Aurelius did not want his son to rule is because he believes that Commodus will destroy the Roman Empire. When Commodus finds out that he will not become emperor, he suffocates his father. After Marcus Aurelius’ death, Commodus tells the Romans that he is the new emperor, but Maximus knows the truth. Commodus tells the soldiers to kill Maximus and his family before the power is given to the Senate. Before the soldiers could kill Maximus, he defeats all of the soldiers trying to murder him, and he escapes. Maximus goes home to see his wife and son murdered and hung in front of his house. He knows he can’t stay in his house, so he starts to find somewhere else to live. While in the desert, Maximus collapses and he is captured by slave trainers. While in the slave camp, the captured slaves were tested to see what level they could perform. Maximus was called Spaniard because he refused to tell his name. When he finally showed the slave traders how well he fought, they immediately knew that they had an amazing fighter. In Rome, Commodus reopens the gladiatorial games in honour of his deceased father. A significant scene in the movie was when the gladiators were supposed to re-enact the battle between Rome and Carthage. The gladiators did not want to be defeated so they killed the defenders and the crowd enjoyed the twist. Commodus demanded the identity of the best fighter. Maximus removes his mask and Commodus is shocked to see that he is still alive. Commodus is unable to kill him because the crowd loves him. Commodus decides to force him to fight the Tigris of Gaul, the best fighter in Rome. While Maximus battles the Tigris of Gaul, Commodus releases the tigers on him. Maximus almost defeats the Tigris of Gaul when he saw Commodus vote for death. Maximus decided to spare the Tigris’ life to oppose Commodus. Commodus is angry to find out that the Romans start calling Maximus, “Maximus the Merciful”. After the battle, Maximus meets one of his former servants, Cicero and him tells him to tell his former soldiers that he is still alive, and wants them to battle for his freedom. Maximus plans an escape with Gracchus and Lucilla to reunite with his army. Commodus fears that his sister, Lucilla is betraying him so he threatens Lucius. Commodus discovers the plot and he sends his soldiers to kill Maximus and the other slaves. While in battle, Proximo, the trainer of the slaves, and Hagen are murdered, but Juba and the rest of the survivors are imprisoned. Maximus escapes only to find Cicero hung by Commodus’ soldiers. Maximus becomes captured and imprisoned again and has to face Commodus in battle. Commodus talks to Maximus before the battle and stabs him in the back to weaken him in the battle and he orders the guards to cover the wound with armour. While in battle Commodus tries fighting him but at one point Commodus’ sword is taken from his hand. Commodus orders Quintus to give him another sword, but Quintus refuses. Maximus kills Commodus while the whole Coliseum stayed silent. As the life of Maximus begins to fade, he tells the Romans to free Proximo’s slaves and let Rome be controlled by the Senate again. The movie ends with Maximus meeting his family in a field in his afterlife. Juba is at the end of the movie burying two statues of a woman and a boy that belonged to Maximus, and Juba says he will meet him in the afterlife.

Historical Analysis- Gladiator


Lucilla: In the movie, Lucilla is the daughter of Marcus Aurelius, and the sister of Commodus. In the beginning of the movie Marcus Aurelius tells her he wished she was a boy because she would rule Rome appropriately. Lucilla is very smart and is very interested in the politics of Rome. Commodus is in love with her and does not want anyone to have her. She understands his love and uses it to her advantage. In the movie, she does anything she can to distract Commodus and keep him happy in order to save Maximus. Lucilla, Maximus and Gracchus plot to kill Commodus The romantic relationship between Lucilla and Maximus is clearly evident, and it truly angers Commodus. Commodus becomes very suspicious and threatens Lucius. Lucilla informs Commodus about her plans in order to save her son, and Commodus captures Maximus.

Maximus: In the movie gladiator, Maximus Decimus Meridius is a loving father and husband. He is the greatest Roman General in Roman history, and no one can defeat him. The character of Maximus was created by the writers of the movie, “Unfortunately, there are no portraits with which to compare the Hero of “Gladiator”, the Spanish general Maximus. He never existed at all.” (Ward, 2005). All of the scenes in the movie that involved Maximus were written in to make the movie more exciting and the love affair between Lucilla and Maximus never existed.

Commodus: Commodus’ character was supposed to portray a mixture between the Caesars Nero and Caligula. Historians believe that he was worse. In the movie, Commodus is hated by the Senate and the people. In history Commodus is only hated by the Senate, he was quite loved by the people. In Gladiator, Commodus is murdered by Maximus during battle, but that is not true since Maximus never existed. Commodus had many attempts on his life, but only one man succeeded.

Role of Different Groups:

Caesars: In the movie Gladiator, the Caesar Marcus Aurelius had the most power and he was a noble Caesar. He did not want Commodus to gain power because he feared Commodus would ruin the city of Rome. Some Caesars shared their power with the Senate, some Caesars became dictators.

Generals: A general had a very important role. The job a general was to lead their army to victory. During the ancient Roman times a legion would serve his general first and his Caesar second. This is demonstrated in the film when Maximus tells his former servant Cicero to get his army to fight for his freedom. Maximus knows the army will obey him.

Gladiators: Gladiators were the lowest form of humans during the ancient Roman times. Gladiators were men who were mostly captured during war and were forced to fight. “There is also a high accuracy in the way that the life of a gladiator is portrayed. Gladiators were men who were trained to die for the public’s entertainment. They not only fought other gladiators but animals too.” (Ilic, 2004).

Government Structure/ Politics:

The government during the ancient Roman times was based on the Caesar and the Senate. Many of the Roman people loved the Senate, but after seeing how corrupt they could be the Romans started to love Caesars more. For example “Commodus was one of the emperors who although despised by the senatorial classes was loved by the military and lower classes. The reason is mainly financial. Commodus taxed the senators and was generous with the others.” (The struggle between the Senate and the Caesars continued until the fall of the Roman Empire). (Ward, 2005)

Work Cited

Gil, NG. (2010, October). Economic reasons for the fall of rome. Retrieved from

Ilic, KI. (2004, June). Gladiator fact vs. gladiator fiction. Retrieved from

Ward, AW. (2001, August). The movie “gladiator” in historical perspective.

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