Gladiator Fact or Fiction?


"Death smiles at us. All we can do is smile back."


Gladiator, 2000


Russel Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix

Historical Period

Rome @179-181 A.D. (This is my guess, since Commodus became emperor in 180 A.D.)

Basic Facts of Time

Rome was ending the period of the "Five Good Emperors" since Marcus Aerilius was to be considered the last of the five.

Historical Perceptions

I think that the perceptions are good for understanding the Roman people of the time, however fictitious they may be. For the most part, fiction comes into play with the characters of the movie.

Marcus Aerilius

Marcus Aerilius did not want to change Rome back to a republic; the idea at the time was that an emperor was required to keep charge of Rome. Also, Marcus Aerilius was not the only emperor at this time; he shared power with Luscious Verus. Verus was Aerilius' adopted brother. Verus is mentioned in the movie as Lucilla's (Aerilius' daughter) husband. However, he is not referred to as an emperor and one would not have thought him to be that important from the movie's depiction of him. In the opening of the movie there was a great battle depicted. There was no great battle with Germanic Tribes on the eve of Marcus' death, yet, there was a day great day long battle in 179, approximately a year before Marcus' death which is where the inspiration may have come from. Aerilius, also, did not ban Gladiator games, he enacted legislature to guarantee continuance of the games in times of economic hardship.


In the movie Commodus is portrayed as a son wanting for his father's love to the point that he kills his father when he is not chosen as his favorite. There were rumors that Commodus did kill his father but not because of the reasons in the movie. Commodus did fight in the arena. However, he did not die there. Commodus died on December 31, 192 from murder. Commodus wife at the time gave him poison, when the poison was not strong enough to kill him, a wrestler by the name of Narcissi strangled him to death. Commodus is said to have been as sexually perverted in life as he was portrayed in the movie, (if not worse.)


Maximus, however important to the movie, was not important in history since he is a fictional character. Maximus portrays the soldier of the time, placing the good of Rome above self. He is a very admirable character. Also, his works as Gladiator do show accurate depictions of how one could come from nothing to everything with fame as a gladiator.


As for Lucilla, the movie portrays her as being constantly aggravated with Commodus' sexual desires for her. However, in history, Lucilla is the only sister Commodus is not accused of having sexual relations with. Lucilla did have a son around that time but it was not a son by Verus because there only son died. The son that would have been in that time from was from her second marriage to Tiberius Claudius Pompeianus. Therefore, the child in the movie was a fictitious character. Lucilla did plot to kill Commodus but when she was found out, she was sent into exile at the Isle of Capri, and then was executed.


Not Real, and I read that if he had been real, his name would have been spelled Proximus. However, the quote he made in the movie, "Ultimately, we are all dead men. We have to decide how to meet death in order to be remembered as men," does depict the Roman ideal for honor.

Senator Gracchus

Not Real

Other Interesting Facts

When the gladiators are entering the arena, they enter a building marked "Ludus Magnus Gladitiores" which in true Latin form should have been"Ludus Magnus Gladiatorium."

In the great battle scene, at the first of the movie, a German shepherd is shown fighting with Maximus. German shepherds were not a breed of dog in antiquity.

Maximus' tattoo on his arm was "SPQR" which is a Latin abbreviation when converted into English should read "The Senate and the People." However, soldiers were not tattooed this way until a later time period.

Time Period Depiction

For the most part, I thought the depiction of the time period was pretty accurate, even if the characters were not.


I think the film helps us to understand Ancient Rome because it causes us to relate to the people of the time. We are able to see how real these things really were. Unlike when reading history books, we can feel the emotions of the people.


I had to write a report for this in my college history class and thought it would make an interesting hub. I love showing people that history doesn't have to be boring. If you like this hub, check out my hub about Henry the VIII.

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Comments 7 comments

Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 8 years ago from California Gold Country

I am not mush of a movie goer-- but I did see this one. ( in fact this and Titanic-- were probaly the last two movies I saw.)

I don't think it ever claimed to be historically factual-- and of course, it itsn't, but it was good for entertainment and giving a sense of the historical time.

cristinab profile image

cristinab 8 years ago Author

I know it does not claim to be historically factual. Gladiator is one of my all time favorite movies and since some of the characters were real, I may have thought Gladiator was actual history if I had not had to study this time period. So I thoght it was interesting to analyze which parts were fact and which were fiction.

Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 8 years ago from California Gold Country

I agree completely-- and your article does highlight an important fact: Movies are not necessarily, or even usually, history-- though they may convey some of he flavor of the era.


(Also: You are a 25 year old mother of 5-- and you have spare time?-- I'm impressed.)

cristinab profile image

cristinab 8 years ago Author

Not much, that is why my hubs are so few and far between, LOL.

Holly 7 years ago

I think this information you have given is great, I am, infact, using some of it for my Ancient History report on Gladiator- is it fact of fiction. And this has helped me heaps! So I thank you very dearly :)

Fitzie 6 years ago

The information here is great. I think it pretty much covered all the main characters. One suggestion though: maybe you could add a little background infromation on gladiators in gerneral (ex: where they came from, how they are trained, how they are treated, etc.) and maybe add a quick summary of the movie so the readers will know what the website is about. Otherwise, i think this is great information. It really helped me write my Mythology report-Compare the movie Gladiator to the actual gladiators. Thanks a lot! And don't worry, I will awknowledge this site ;D

Aaron  6 years ago

I am also using it for ancient history and it is a big help

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