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Historical Movies lie to you. Gladiator

By Kyle Sutherland

Who doesn’t love Gladiator? The 2000 Ridley Scott flick had the best action, the best sets, the best score and the best gore.

It also had the biggest disregard for historical accuracy since Braveheart however.

This is a film which is so set in real events, which were themselves fantastical and bizarre that the deviations from those events are, whilst for the most part understandable, also at the odd time just such pure grade A bull dungy that they cannot be ignored.

And so here we are yet again, this is why the historical movie Gladiator lied to you.

  1. Everything about how the Romans fought.

Gladiator falls into the unfortunate category of films which also includes the totally homoerotic (not offensive if you research how gay Spartans were) 300.

The fact is we have these nations famed for their armies which fought in a manner totally unpleasing to the cinematic eye.

In the movie the Romans begin the battle using ballistae and catapults (accurate), then marching forward in disciplined formation (also accurate) and then falling into a bloody man to man melee… no, just no!

The Roman army was so successful for so long precisely because they didn’t fight that this, the army fought similar to how the Greeks in 300 would have, locking shields and marching forward stabbing all before them. Although not before throwing the javelins the army in this movie are shown charging stupidly into battle still holding like a floppy dong!

                                                          Hey should we throw these? No? Ok.                                                                                                                                                                                                                              copyright Dreamworks/Universal Pictures


Now I know exactly why they’ve done it like this, simply put if we showed armies like the Romans or the Greeks fighting in the way they historically did then what would we have? Alexander! And it would be boring as all hell to sit through, so this one we’ll call a lie, but a lie that resulted in awesome cinema.

  1. Restoring the Republic was never on the table.

So in the film we’re told that the wise and benevolent emperor Marcus Aurelius has decided to return Rome to the people, to grant it back the dream it once was, and to disinherit his son Commodus, it does not go well.

Image result for commodus gladiator

                               Commodus showing his disdain for democracy here                                                                    Copyright Dreamworks/ Universal                                        

It also didn’t happen at all.

In reality the real Commodus, had already been co-emperor for 3 years before old daddy Caesar kicked the bucket.

The fact is the Marcus Aurelius was actually the emperor to initiate the process of eldest son preference, before that most emperors had chosen their heirs from any host of relatives before adopting them legally.


  1. Generals were way more important back then.

Ok so as a consequence of refusing to acknowledge Commodus as emperor our hero Maximus is sentenced to die, his wife and son are murdered and he winds up a slave then gladiator.

But what the film is ignoring is just how important Maximus as a general was.

Maximus is fighting in Germania which means he’s probably in command of the army of the Rhine, one of the largest and most battle hardened of all the Roman armies; he’s also shown to be highly respected and well-liked by his soldiers.

And therein lies the issue, Roman armies were in reality often not too loyal to the emperor, but rather to the generals who led and more importantly paid them.

Control of the army was how Julius Caesar was able to become dictator, it was how Augustus was able to become the first emperor and it allowed a whole lineage of different dudes to claim to be emperor at any one time.

Maximus could not possibly have just vanished without his soldiers revolting and there’s never a single mention of just what explanation is given, and what, is this army charged with defending the borders of the empire just sitting there with no leadership?

  1. Commodus’ death is way funnier in real life.

So in the film the evil emperor Commodus is stabbed to death in the arena by our hulking hero in front of an audience who don’t find it in the least bit troubling that their ruler has just been Russel Crowed to death.

(Seriously this would be like if the state opening of parliament included Russel Crowe battering and then stabbing the queen).


Image result for commodus gladiator

                                                              Truly a dignified end.                                                                                                                                                                                   Copyright Dreamworks/ Universal                    

The reality is far less glorious and far far funnier.

The real Commodus was I’ll give them a complete and utter nut bar and Juaoquin… Juaquin… River Phoenixs’ brother, does a great job with a stellar performance.

But a glorious death at the hands of an enraged Russell Crowe? Nope.

Commodus was actually murdered after making a list of all the people he wanted to have killed and then leaving it just lying about in the open. When his lover saw that she was at the top of this list she showed it to the others who then had Commodus strangled to death by a wrestler in the bath.

That is incredible, how could Ridley Scott have denied us the comedy gold which would have been a naked Russell Crowe Choking a naked Joaquin (thanks Wikipedia) Phoenix to death in a bath tub.

I honestly feel cheated right now.

Thanks for reading join us next time when we’ll be discussing how The Patriot completely ignores the realities of American slavery.


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