Gladiator and Its Depiction of the Roman Empire

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The Roman Empire was a very diverse civilization. Rome, being an urban culture, was filled with a population exceeding over one million people. In fact, people who came to visit Rome described their visit to be very surprising due to how busy and overwhelming it actually is. The city of Rome provided its people with many benefits as well as many downfalls within their daily lives. The Roman Empire has played a huge part in history. In fact, some shows and films have been based on the Roman Empire and its history it holds. But how accurate is it being portrayed? Lucky for you, this paper will help give you a better understanding of the history of the Roman Empire compared to the movie Gladiator and see how accurate it displays the Empire.

The film I chose to compare the Roman Empire to is Gladiator. I chose Gladiator because this film stood out to me more than the other ones when choosing one to watch. I've seen this film with my father a couple years ago so watching it again helped gain an even better understanding and how it actually depicts the Roman Empire. To give a brief overview of the film, Gladiator is about a general soldier, named Maximus Decimus Meridius. The Roman Emperor at the time, Marcus Aurelius appoints Maximus to become Emperor upon his death. Unfortunately, Commodus, which is Marcus Aurelius crazy son doesn't approve of this. Commodus murders his father and appoints Maximus to death in which he gets taken away into slavery and trains to become a gladiator. Maximus soon makes it back to Rome and participates in the gladiator contests where him and Commodus fight for the kill.

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The film itself is very interesting, but realistically, I believe the Roman Empire throughout the film was depicted false and out of context. The first false accusation is Commodus’ death. Throughout the film, Maximus returns to Rome after being held as a slave. Commodus, wanting to prove his power to Maximus, he challenges him to a fight in the gladiator arena. Right as the fight begins, Commodus stabs him to his death. As Maximus is in the mist of dying, he grabs Commodus sword and stabs him to death. As for the real case of Commodus death, it is far from accurate than portrayed in the film. Throughout the articles in the Roman reading packet, it examines and explains the true, raw death. “Commodus was finally strangled in his bath by Narcissus, an athlete, thus bringing an end to the Antonine dynasty”. Commodus was assassinated which was plotted by some of his closest advisors, which even included his mistress, Marcia.

Another way the film falsely executed the Roman Empire was the gladiatorial contests. Within the film, gladiators were treated more as “heros” when in actual reality, they were treated infamis. The film depicts the gladiatorial contests to result in death of others when in fact it usually ended in the death of animals. Throughout the article in the Roman reading packet, A Brief Social History of the Roman Empire, it discusses how animals were killed and used throughout the contests more than actual gladiators. In fact, Commodus actually fought and killed more animals than other gladiators. Going along with my last point, the film portrayed Commodus as a contestant against Maximums in the gladiatorial games. In reality, Commodus was never placed as a contestant where he knew he could get beat by another gladiator. This is why he would fight other animals to assure victory and superitoy.

Shockily to say, I also believe the film Gladiator depicted Commodus to be less crazy than he actually was. This is very surprising due to the fact films usually tend to over exaggerate and make a person seem like they are completely someone they are not. With all the absurd craziness Commodus brought to Rome, it seems they decided to keep much of his disturbing actions out of the film. Within the film, Commodus, real name Caesar Marcus Aurelius Commodus Antoninus Augustus is depicted as a crazy gladiator of Rome who is very demanding and held much power, much like a “villain”. In reality, there is much more to this gladiator. Throughout the reading, Augustus Caesar and the Pax Romana, it states, “Commodus would also declared that his own age be henceforth called the 'Golden Age” and dress wearing lion skins, his control of the Roman Empire lead to bloodshed”. It doesn't end there. Commodus also would threaten to kill his senators, feed his friends to the animals and he even renamed the months of the year after himself. Talk about crazy! I could go on and explain every single disturbing thing Commodus contributed into but you get a rough idea of how insane he was and why exactly the film decided to leave a bunch of history out of the film.

Another falsely depicted scene from the film was how the Roman Empire reacted and stood after the death of Commodus. After Maximus and Commodus both killed each other, Rome was stated to be restored as republic when indeed was not the case. Within the reading, Augustus Caesar and the Pax Romana, it states, “The reign of Commodus had been anything but settled so the Roman Empire was fortunate that the imperial office fell to Lucius Septimius Severus.With Lucisis’ positive reputation, his control of the empire was joined by bloodshed”. Not only did Lucisis reject the Senate, but he provided his power in the army- increasing their pay and creating many opportunities just for them.

So much history aroused throughout the Roman Empire dating back from years ago. The way shows and films portray them can alter our knowledge and opinions on we believe is true and fake. Especially with the popular film Gladiator, it truly has (and still does to this day) an impact on what people believe regarding the Roman Empire. Comparing this film to the historical readings, we saw how some characters were portrayed much differently than how they actually were during this time, as well as how fabricated the gladiatorial contests were perceived throughout the film. These history films are great to watch, especially to help brush up on ones knowledge, but it's important to put into consideration what is actually true, false or what is being fabricated.

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