8 Historical Inaccuracies From the Film Gladiator

8 Historical Inaccuracies From the Film Gladiator

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Russell Crowe as Maximus in Gladiator

Cambridge University historian Peter Burke states that we see history through the eyes of those who “invent” it. One of the best examples supporting this assertion is the historical film drama, which tends to “educate” the general public in terms of history far more effectively than any academic work or documentary effort, regardless of accuracy.

Unfortunately, the purpose of Hollywood’s historical epics is not to educate, but to entertain and make money. Therefore artistic license is not simply a caveat for inauthenticity, but an excuse to distort in any way that might sell more tickets at the box office or fill Netflix orders.

Here we examine one particularly popular historical film, Ridley Scott’s 2000 epic Gladiator, starring Russell Crowe. The film has received both praise and criticisms for its portrayal of Ancient Rome. While some historians contend that it has represented some aspects of the Empire quite well, it is also rife with inaccuracy.

Here are eight examples of how Gladiator gets it wrong.

1. Catapults and giant dart launchers in the forest battle

A 1552 engraving of a Roman ballista.

Though these weapons existed and help make for an impressive opening battle scene in Germania, they almost certainly weren’t used in this type of conflict. Catapults and ballistae, which were used to spring-launch large projectiles, would be practical in sieges, but unwieldy in open battles, especially when there are so many trees.

2. Marcus Aurelius banned gladiator fights

In fact, in classic “bread and circuses” fashion, the Emperor decreed that gladiatorial contests continue in order to distract the masses from a bad economy.

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3. Marcus Aurelius wanted to restore the Republic

There is no evidence that the Emperor, nor even the Senate, wished to restore Rome to its previous republican system or get rid of the Imperial office. Those who rose to be emperor were not against the Empire. This is an obvious appeal to 21st century democratic ideals.

4. The character of Maximus

The hero of the film, killer of the evil Commodus and champion of the people never existed. His character is perhaps inspired by several historical figures, including Taruttienus Paternus, the commander of Roman forces at the great battle against the Germanic tribes in 179 AD; Narcissus, the wrestler who actually killed Commodus; and Tiberius Claudius Pompeianus, who came from a humble background in Syria and became a favourite general of Marcus Aurelius, marrying his daughter Lucilla.

Perhaps in spirit as well as story, Maximus most resembles Spartacus, the Thracian slave who became a gladiator and later led a rebellion against the Romans, winning nine significant battles before his defeat.

5. Marcus Aurelius was going to name Maximus as Emperor

Joaquin Phoenix as Commodus and Richard Harris as Marcus Aurelius.

Obviously the Emperor wouldn’t name a fictional character as his successor, but it was traditional to name “adoptive” emperors who were not biological sons. Yet while it seems Marcus may have thought ill of Commodus, who was pretty horrible, he did break with tradition and name his son as heir.

6. They got Commodus all wrong

Only 18 at the time of the death of his father, Commodus is described as tall, muscular and blonde. He trained in gladiatorial combat and boasted 620 victories, at least according to his own writing, which is probably accurate enough because his opponents always submitted to the Emperor. For this, he would spare their lives. While practicing, however, he liked to kill all his sparring partners.

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Though certainly a piece of work in the film, writings about the real Commodus show him to be unbelievably awful. Stupid, sadistic, cowardly and overly impressionable, he was nonetheless reportedly as handsome as he was cruel and spent his time slaughtering exotic animals like lions, ostriches and giraffes in canned hunts inside Rome’s arenas.

He also publicly slaughtered amputees who were veterans of Roman wars.

7. They got the Latin language wrong

Perhaps this one is nit-picky, but why would such a big production make these kinds of simple mistakes? Sometimes they’d use Italian — the character Proximo instead of Proximus — and sometimes they’d mix the two. A sign on a building reads ‘LUDUS MAGNUS GLADIATORES’, when it should say ‘LUDUS MAGNUS GLADIATORUM’.

8. Commodus was killed by a gladiator

Statue of Commodus as Hercules, 191-192 AD. The Emperor also portrayed himself inaccurately.

The Emperor was a victim of assassination due to a political conspiracy. First he was poisoned by his mistress, but when that proved ineffective, the conspirators sent Commodus’ wrestling partner to strangle him in his bath.

Historical accuracy of Gladiator (2000 film)

In making the film Gladiator (2000), director Ridley Scott wanted to portray the Roman culture more accurately than in any previous film and to that end hired several historians as advisors. Nevertheless, some deviations from historical fact were made to increase interest, some to maintain narrative continuity, and some were for practical or safety reasons. The public perception of what Wikipedia:ancient Rome was like, due to previous Wikipedia:Hollywood movies, made some historical facts, according to Scott, "too unbelievable" to include.

At least one historical advisor resigned due to the changes he made and another advisor Wikipedia:Kathleen Coleman asked not to be mentioned in the credits. Historians called the movie both the worst and best of all films: the worst for the historical inaccuracies in a film Scott promoted as historically accurate, and the best for the film's accurate depiction of the people and violence of the late 2nd century AD. Historian Allen Ward of the Wikipedia:University of Connecticut noted that historical accuracy would not have made Gladiator less interesting or exciting and stated: "creative artists need to be granted some Wikipedia:poetic license, but that should not be a permit for the wholesale disregard of facts in historical fiction." Ώ]

Historical inaccuracies in Ridley Scott’s film `Gladiator

In recent years the emergence of filmmakers who expressed interest in adapting historical events as wide-screen presentations has revitalized public interest on historical events. But the usual problem is that the general public’s view usually gets distorted due to contemporary filmmakers’ nasty habit of utilizing their artistic license to its full extent More often than not, adaptations of historical events like Ridley Scott’s Gladiator offers a glimpse of early civilizations but neglects the aspect of historical accuracy which in turn cannibalizes scholarly efforts to reconcile public interest in the actual historical events.

The glitz and glamour of commercial cinema is in large part responsible for the historical inaccuracies of Ridley Scott’s Gladiator. Martin Winkler (17) suggests that the reason behind a historical film’s departure from its origins is that the fiction which causes the inaccuracy is what sparks viewer interest in the first place. In accordance to Winkler’s theory, the elements incorporated in Gladiator contributes to the film’s historical infidelity its principal characters, chronology, production design, and supposed intent of exhibiting the authentic life and culture of Imperial Rome, has been diluted by the filmmakers’ aesthetics.

“ KarrieWrites did such a phenomenal job on this assignment! He completed it prior to its deadline and was thorough and informative. ”

As per what the film entails, the structure of the Gladiator’s narrative appears to be drastically shortened. Commodus’ reign was marked by numerous assassination plots, including a scheme that involved her own sister Lucilla, all accounts of murdering the treacherous emperor have neither been established nor even mentioned in the film.

Historical accounts further suggest that Commodus’ reign ended 13 years later upon his assassination (Boatwright, Gargola, & Talbert 405-406), the film, on the other hand, although the time frame of events were never actually mentioned or given much attention, it illustrated that Commodus reigned no more than two years (Ward 33).

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The film also depicts that Emperor Commodus died in a gladiatorial duel with Maximus, obviously in a coliseum, with the intent of bringing back democracy to Rome and re-establishing the country as a republic.

While the 73rd book of Cassius Dio’s eye-witness account of Roman History imparts that a wrestler who popularly went by the name Narcissus choked the life out of Commodus, and the incident happened in the emperor’s bath. The film’s characters also share an extent of inaccuracy with the actual historical personalities from which they are derived from. Evidently, from appearance to characteristics, the film’s Commodus did not reflect the Roman Emperor whom history recognized.

Primarily, Commodus’, in the film, is bequeathed as a dark hared man in his mid 20s who fights with his right hand and has an underdeveloped physique (Ward 33). While the historical Emperor Commodus was and 18-year old blonde with a well developed physique and fought with his left hand (Kyle 224-227). Likewise, the actual description of Commodus’ personal traits was inconsistent with the film as the historical Commodus was notorious for his corruption, violence, and lust for blood.

The film shows the aforementioned characteristics through Commodus’ fixations on sports such as beast-hunting, chariot-racing, and gladiator combat as well as his claims to have won over 1,000 battles (Ward 32). However, Scott’s incarnation contradicts the true nature of the roman emperor as he is characterized by his guiltless lack of emotion and compassion, ruthlessness, cowardice, and mental instability (Hekster 53-56). Contrary to the film’s illustration that Lucilla had an 8-year old son named Lucius Verus, Allan M.

Ward’s Gladiator in Historical Perspective entails that, historically, the son who went by the name Lucius Verus died during infancy. Also, Lucilla gave birth to three children during her marriage with Lucius Verus Marcus and only one of the three children survived and grew up, an unidentified daughter who became part of the assassination scheme against Commodus. Lucilla, however, bore a son but she did so in her marriage, with Tiberius Claudius Pompeianus, and the boy’s name was Aurelius Commodus Pompeianus who was 6-years old during the time of the film’s events.

Similarly, the reason behind the strained father-daughter relationship between Lucilla and Marcus was the latter’s arrangements of a second marriage for his widowed daughter. Apart from the disrespecting reality that the second marriage occurred only 9 or ten moths after Verus’ demisae as well as the tremendous gap between the couple’s ages (Lucilla was 19 while Claudius Pompeianus was approximately in his 50s), Lucilla also felt undignified by the fact that her new spouse came from a family of provincial equestrians in Antioch, Syria (Ward 33-34).

However, the film did not took such event into account leaving the reason behind the cold relationships between the former emperor and former Augusta vague (Ward 33-34). The film’s central character Maximus Decimus Meridius, is a fictional character based on the archetypes of able-bodied men from the far reaches of the empire’s jurisdiction who served as the materialization of Marcus Aurelius’ persisting idea of using men beneficial to the imperial cause (Ward 38).

To a similar extent, Maximus’s character is attributed to two recognizable Roman political and military personalities, Marcus Nonius Macrinus who was one of Marcus Aurelius’ closest friends and Tiberius Claudius Pompeianus who was partly responsible for the Roman triumph over Marcomannic War in the film’s beginning (Popham). George Depue Hadzsits (70) suggests that a film such as Gladiator is more likely to revive interest in the subject of history considering that scholarly efforts simply produce fragments of history which does not fulfil the human yearning for knowledge.

Hadzsits furthers that despite such visual spectacles’ temporal didactic value and lack of attention on the angle of accuracy, at least the interest for the subject matter is roused (Hadzsits 71). The problem with Gladiator, conversely, is that its revival of interest in Roman History, or ancient world history for that matter, seems to delineate the supposed dissemination of ancient Roman culture and alters it with norms that the filmmaker deems right.

In terms of production design, the armour and weaponry worn and yielded by the gladiators appear to have a medieval design rather than Roman. Allan Ward (39) writes that gladiators had already been placed under categories like eques or horseman, provocator which is believed to be the term for challenger, murmillo or what is considered as water combatants, hoplomachus or gladiators who wield heavy weaponry, retiarius the net fighters, and secutors or contraretriarius otherwise characterized as the light armed fighters.

However, Ward (39) argues that the film does not seem to highlight the distinctions between gladiators as all of the competitors generally wore the same armour with little differences in weapons of choice. Ward furthers that each fighter category comes with a different set of weapons and armour as well as a different style in combat. The matches between two gladiators are dependent of their category and fighting abilities, a secutor, for instance was often matched with a retriarius, perhaps due to the resemblance in the nature of their weapons and battle skills.

Moreover, gladiators within a similar category were not paired to pit against each other, with the exception of the horsemen and the challengers. As mentioned earlier, one of the premises tied with Gladiator is the tendency to rouse interest on the life and culture of ancient Rome, but in this context the film is also inaccurate. James R. Keller (88) implicates that Gladiator imposes the American devotion to the principles of democracy.

Initially, the final confrontation between Maximus and Commodus should incite the cultural importance of gladiatorial combat in ancient Rome, however, the re-arranged plot of the film that caused the conflict between the former general and the treacherous emperor to fail in its attempt to do so. The conflict then suggests that Maximus represents every working class, freedom loving American while Commodus serves as the embodiment of the corrupt, insensitive, and inconsiderate aristocrat (Keller 88).

In its inaccurate entirety, Gladiator has proven itself to be more of a costume drama adaptation rather than a re-telling of an antiquated historical tale. Despite the filmmakers’ efforts to conduct research and seek consultation for relevant information about the film’s source, the direction remained in the production people’s perspective and not with the scholarly one as the motion picture continued with the re-arranged biographical information of the characters and the reformatted events in the lives of the characters. In addition, the film simply delivered a visual spectacle rather than a knowledgeable historical fact. Martin M.

Winkler (204-205) writes that film producers and other individuals concerned with marketing cultural products habitually call on scholars to guide them in marketing historical films. This is, in large part, brought about by producers’ beliefs that scholar credibility is enough to amplify the promised prestige and revenue of their product. Scholarly prestige according to Winkler is mainly vital as a marketing strategy, but a more appropriate term seems to be deceptive advertising as investing parties and supposed artists convince the public of the accuracy of their distorted historical documentation with the aid of renowned experts

Historically accurate? Gladiator.

This new series is about films which are billed as fictional historical dramas. The articles that follow will show the basic information about the film, if it was presented in linear chronological order or not and if they are presented in a web type chronological order. Each article will explain different aspects of each film viewed. Anything from how the aesthetic choice contributes to the general effect on the audience and how elements like character development or foreshadowing impact the choice of storytelling methods, if the film follows a different presentation style how the difference affects the audience will also be presented. Details like whether or not effective lighting and sound were used, acting and acting styles will be discussed in the series. The following articles will discuss any one of, more than one or even all of the aspects mentioned above.

This will be an on going series with each film viewed in its entirety by the author of these articles. As with other published series by the author this one will have links to the previous articles as each one is published after this first article.

Release dates: May 1, 5, and 12, 2000.

Written by: David Franzoni.

Major Actors: Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Connie Nielsen, Oliver Reed, Derek Jacobi, Djimon Hounsou, and Richard Harris.

This film is presented chronologically linear format going in two directions at the same time. Part of the story portrays the restart of something that had come to an end. The other part of the story portrays the start of something new. The plot portrays how they are tied together and what happens at the eventual end.

The effect this has on the audience is it gives the viewers something to think about while trying to figure out how it is going to end. Some viewers may have questions such as: How will it end? Will he get his revenge and avenge his family and his true emperor? Will the petty, jealous and evil emperor be brought down?

This film is only historically accurate in that Rome really did exist as an empire as did gladiator's who fought and died in the arena's all across the empire. The architecture is historically accurate as is the portrayed Roman form of government.

8 Gladiator's Marcus Aurelius & His Relationship To Commodus

Speaking of historical leaders doing some questionable feats, Marcus Aurelius was not spared from cinema magic, as well. In Gladiator, his relationship with his son and successor, Commodus, was troublesome and the film explicitly displays Marcus' disdain for his son as an Emperor.

The actual event is vastly different as Marcus Aurelius actually approved of Commodus' succession and also wasn't killed by his own son. So the whole film shouldn't have existed at all in that case. Amazing what they could come up with by changing a small historical detail.

12 U-571 (2000)

In this turn of the century war film, a German submarine is commandeered by disguised American submariners as they attempt to capture the Enigma cipher machine. U-571 is so inaccurate, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair labelled it “an affront to the real sailors." The film is based on the real story of "Operation Primrose," where the U-110 was captured, not the U-571. There were no Americans involved, as the operation was undertaken by the British before the U.S. had even entered the war.

Director Jonathan Mostow’s film gives the American squad credit for capturing the enigma machine and helping crack the encrypted Nazi messages. None of these Americans actually had anything to do with the codes being broken, it was a joint effort between Polish and British mathematicians in a far away office. An honorable mention goes to this movie for starring Jon Bon Jovi, who gets shot over the side and goes out in quite a “Blaze of Glory.”

Historical accuracy of Gladiator (2000 film)

In making the film Gladiator (2000), director Ridley Scott wanted to portray the Roman culture more accurately than in any previous film and to that end hired several historians as advisors. Nevertheless, some deviations from historical fact were made to increase interest, some to maintain narrative continuity, and some were for practical or safety reasons. The public perception of what ancient Rome was like, due to previous Hollywood movies, made some historical facts, according to Scott, "too unbelievable" to include.

At least one historical advisor resigned due to the changes he made and another advisor Kathleen Coleman asked not to be mentioned in the credits. Historians called the movie both the worst and best of all films: the worst for the historical inaccuracies in a film Scott promoted as historically accurate, and the best for the film's accurate depiction of the people and violence of the late 2nd century AD. Historian Allen Ward of the University of Connecticut noted that historical accuracy would not have made Gladiator less interesting or exciting and stated: "creative artists need to be granted some poetic license, but that should not be a permit for the wholesale disregard of facts in historical fiction." Ώ]

Queen Elizabeth I has been portrayed in film many times, with varying degrees of historical accuracy. Perhaps the most famous portrayal was by Bette Davis, who played the Queen twice in The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex in 1939 and in The Virgin Queen in 1955. Both presented heavily fictionalized stories of Elizabeth, a tradition which continued in 1998s Elizabeth.

The film alters historical events and presents others out of context to further its story, which tells of the Queen&rsquos overcoming many plots and intrigues designed to control England&rsquos destiny by an advantageous marriage to a powerful ally. Elizabeth, in the end, overcomes all of them and expresses herself as married to England, determined to remain its Virgin Queen, beholden to no one.

The film wrongly attributes the false pregnancy of Elizabeth&rsquos half-sister Mary to a cancerous tumor. In reality, Mary had a second false pregnancy in late 1557 the cause of neither is unknown beyond speculation, but there was no tumor reported, cancerous or otherwise. Mary of Guise is shown as having been assassinated by Francis Walsingham, she, in fact, died in 1560 of dropsy, although some scholars suggest she may have ingested a poison which led to a swelling of limbs known as edema.

The Earl of Leicester, Robert Dudley, did not plot against Elizabeth and he remained a close friend and confidant of the Queen until his death in 1588. The Queen&rsquos use of white facial paint only began after recovering from smallpox, which left her with a pitted face and a receding hairline in 1563.

Finally, Elizabeth I never announced her determination to remain unmarried as England&rsquos Virgin Queen. The political ramifications of a marriage with one continental power or another were too valuable to be so publicly discarded. Negotiations and intrigues pitting one royal house against another continued until Elizabeth was well beyond the age of marrying and bearing children. Potential suitors which English diplomats &ndash and the Queen &ndash played against each other included the Kings of Spain and Sweden, Philip II and Eric XIV, the Archduke of Austria, and the Duke of Holstein. The heir to the throne of France and eventual King of France and Poland, Henry III, remained on Elizabeth&rsquos string for many years as well.

9. 10,000 BC (2008)

This Roland Emmerich-directed prehistoric epic follows D’Leh, a young mammoth hunter, though his journey to ensure the safety of his tribe. This is far and away the worst film on this list, and one of the worst-ever efforts from the Independence Day: Resurgence helmer, though one that wouldn’t likely have been saved by a more accurate depiction of prehistoric life.

10,000 BC’s astounding choice to have woolly mammoths living in the desert was one thing, but then making them help create the pyramids was an extra level of madness. Nevermind the fact that the pyramids weren’t constructed until about 8,000 years later. The tools used by prehistoric man were also historically incorrect: the film is supposedly set in the mesolithic age, and use of metal of any kind didn’t take place for at least another 6,000 years. Thankfully for moviegoers, Emmerich appears to returning to his “blow everything up” roots this summer, and by the looks of things, he’s done a bang-up job.

Gladiator (2000)

Factual error: When a group of soldiers goes to Maximus' villa to burn it and kill his family, his son points them, saying in Italian "Mamma! I soldati!" ("Mom, the soldiers!") and then "Papà!" ("Daddy!"). This is because the young actor (Giorgio Cantarini) is Italian and they didn't translate, for some reason. As a result, he's speaking Italian in a movie in English, where people are supposed to speak Latin, in a province where Italian was never ever spoken. (00:43:07)

Factual error: In one of the scenes in Rome leading up to a fight, leaflets are being handed out. These didn't exist, event notices were written up on boards. (01:02:15)

Factual error: Before Maximus enters the colliseum, he selects a helmet and places it on his head. On the rack is a copy of a saxon helmet found at Sutton Hoo, England and part of the treasure found at that location. Unfortunately this is a 7th century design. (01:17:45)

Factual error: When the execution squad is ready, Quintus says "fire". Of course this is incorrect, since you don't fire a bow and arrow, but "loose" it. The term "fire" came only with the invention of firearms. It's a common mistake in bow / arrow type situations. (Extended version only). (01:47:10)

Factual error: The opening battle is wildly inaccurate. The Roman legions were trained to fight as a regimented force, and to maintain formation for mutual support. In the film, the formation collapses instantly upon contact with the enemy. Further, the Roman legions used spears called pila. Doctrine called for them to be thrown while the enemy closed. The Romans would then draw their swords and fight, while remaining in formation. Though the Romans are shown holding their pila in the opening scenes, they are never used against the barbarians, and we see no pila-riddled shields and/or corpses in the background. (00:09:15)

Factual error: At several points in the movie you will see speeches to a large crowd. These take place at the Piazza San Pietro. This square however is late Renaissance. Connected with this is the columns you see in these scenes. They were designed by the Italian artist Bernini, and the film crew didn't even remove the statues of all the popes.

Factual error: Architectural elements were from several centuries later. Note the balustrades, bell towers and domes in the Rome skyline shot and, more than anything else, Maximus' house, a typical 15th century Chianti villa. Also the columns are not painted, which they were in ancient Rome. (00:43:10)

Factual error: When the Romans fight in Germania, the forest is made up largely of European black pines (Pinus nigra). However the woods there and then should have been mostly beeches (Fagus sylvatica). (00:02:30)

Factual error: Women were not allowed to be mixed with men. Only Vestales could stay where men were. Women could see the games just from the last ring-level of the Colosseum.

Suggested correction: This movie is not based upon facts. Many element were fictionalized. This is just example of fictionalized things.

Factual error: In the arena, Maximus tells Commodus and the Roman spectators that he is "general of the Felix legions." The problem is, there was just one Felix legion, namely Legio IV Flavia Felix. (01:27:35)

Factual error: The snake with red-yellow-brown skin you see in a night-shot in Rome is a Pueblan Milk Snake (Lampropeltis triangulum campbelli) from Mexico, also found in southern Texas. Not quite right for Rome. (02:04:15)

Factual error: There are several points in the film that show horses with saddles and stirrups. Pretty odd as the stirrup didn't arrive in Europe from China until the 3rd or 4th Century at the earliest.

Factual error: As the Gladiators are being led into the Colosseum for the first time, an elephant is led across the background. Although the Romans used elephants in the arena, they used African elephants, and the one we see is an Asian elephant.

Factual error: The last gladiator to be killed when Maximus is chained to Juba holds a trident. This kind of gladiator is called a "retiarius." They're also the ones who fight using nets. The shoulder armour was always worn on the left shoulder, not the right, because left-handedness was frowned upon in Ancient Rome. Also "retiarius" never wore face masks for helmets as it would give them too much of an advantage. Every Gladiator was given equal advantage depending on their specialty. (00:55:25)

Factual error: There's a blackboard in one of the scenes when there's about to be a gladiatorial contest. The Romans may have had blackboards then, but the writing on it is wrong. The sort shown takes time to chip into stone used on statues, etc, and I suppose it would take quite a long time just to write things on a blackboard. The Romans had different writing for things like that, as shown in the graffiti in Pompeii. It's more flowing, and I expect it's quicker to produce. (01:15:00)

Factual error: In the scene where Maximus is finding his wife and son's bodies there are two chickens to his left. One of these is definitely a Rhode Island Red hen. This breed of chicken was developed upwards of 1,700 years after Roman times in the US state of Rhode Island. (00:44:10)

Factual error: When Maximus walks through the wheat field it is obvious (to a botanist) that the wheat shown is an octaploid variety which was developed in the 1950's for the Green Revolution. The type of wheat grown during Roman times can still be found in many areas too, so it's not like the filmmakers can't find it. (02:19:45)

Factual error: In the scene where the two senators are quarreling about the note about the gladiators, we can read: "gladiatores violentia." This is an encroachment on latin grammar. Since gladiator is a male word, a corresponding adjective should be male too. Also, violentia is a noun. The correct form would be 'gladiatores violenti = violent gladiators' or 'gladiatores violentae = gladiators who fight like girls' depending on which school of thought you ascribe to (the latter being the claim that it is an informal use of Latin, insulting the gladiators by slighting their masculinity, accusing them of an effeminate form of fighting.).

Suggested correction: It's a flyer advertising gladiators and violence: two distinct promises, however intrinsically related, as indeed the violentia is to be expected from the gladiatores. But I can see no indication that there was any intention of building a complete sentence it's the just two nouns thrown together with a picture, and however anachronistic the flyers be in the movie, it's a kind of semantic construction that would have worked just fine for Romans then as it does for us today.

Factual error: During a meal in the gladiatorial school, Juba is shown eating with a metal spoon. Slave-gladiators almost certainly only ate with their fingers, wooden spoons, or wads of bread to sop up their food. They never would have access to metal spoons that could be sharpened and used to attack the guards keeping watch over them. (01:36:20)

Factual error: Early in the film Maximus walks through a cereal crop trailing his hands against the heads of grain. Except that dwarf varieties of cereal were only bred in the 20th century. Before this a crop would have been up to a man's shoulders.

Suggested correction: The crop may not be fully grown yet.

Heading occurs right before ripening. It wouldn't be at various heights. It might grow a few inches before ripening, but not a couple feet.

Suggested correction: No doubt the scene was shot with a modern variety, but it turns out that it is a good approximation of the wheat grown at the time of the story. Two varieties of wheat grown in ancient Rome, the Emmer and Eikorn varieties, reach only 2-3 feet at maturity. These were originally wild wheats that had been cultivated for 8-10 thousand years BCE.

More for Gladiator


Visible crew/equipment: After the battle with the Germanians, the next morning after the tavern, Maximus is walking in the army camp and he feeds a horse a piece of apple. If you look closely between him and the horse, there is a crewman wearing a pair of blue jeans. (00:21:00)


Maximus: At my signal, unleash hell.


Trivia: The original ending for Gladiator was that Proximo would live and he would bury the figurines in the sand of the Coliseum. However, Oliver Reed's death during filming required the ending to be changed.


Question: Was Commodus and Lucilla half brother and sister? Wondering because of Commodus' attraction for Lucilla. Was incest normal at that time?

Chosen answer: No, they are full brother and sister. They both had the same mother and father. Incest was not exactly normal at that time, but it stretches back within the imperial families as far as Caligula and possibly earlier. There is no evidence to suggest that the real Commodus was attracted to his sister, it was probably just included in the film in order to make the character seem more disturbed, and also as another reason why he would be Maximus' enemy (Maximus and Lucilla were, after all, once lovers).

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