The writers and directors of Gladiator would probably flunk a history class. Though the film is enjoyable, ridiculously popular, and has held up relatively well since its release in 2000, it often provides entertainment at the expense of fact. When examining the historical facts Gladiator got wrong, the film's tendency to prioritize story – and style – over substance becomes clear.
Known as one of Ridley Scott’s best movies, Gladiator was one of the first commercially and critically successful films of the 21st century. And though the movie won Oscars and earned piles of money at the box office, its success meant that audiences became accustomed to a fictionalized ancient Rome. (Of course, this is hardly the first time Hollywood disregarded the historical record to make a pretty good Roman movie.)
From falsely portrayed historical figures to inaccurate social patterns, historical errors in Gladiator abound. The bad history in the film doesn’t make it a bad movie, it just means that viewers should turn to a history book – rather than a sword-and-sandals epic – to learn facts about the Roman world. Check out all the things that are historically inaccurate in Gladiator below.
If you like this movie despite the inaccuracies, be sure to check out our list of movies like Gladiator.