The movie Gladiator (2000) starring Russell Crowe is a movie that needs no introduction. The movie won multiple awards and was a big success at the box office. The movie is a great historical epic, the story of a popular Roman general turned gladiator. It is worth noting that unlike other historical epics such as Spartacus most of the characters in the movie are fictional. Even though the movie is not historically accurate, many aspects of the movie are actually quite accurate.
For example, the movie starts with an amazing battle between the Roman troops and the barbarian tribes in Germania. The costumes worn by the Roman soldiers, the weapons and the way battle is fought are all pretty accurate even though it is worth noting that the soldiers wear an armor from the 1st century A.D. and that the barbarians wear clothes that are more primitive than what they were in reality. Furthermore, catapults and ballistae were siege weapons who would probably not be used in an open field and even less in a forest. Nevertheless, these weapons did exist and they are accurately depicted in the movie.
Other aspects of the movie are also quite accurate, for example the carriage that transports Commodus and his sister, the slave caravan in Mauretania and the way slaves are sold, the gladiator school or the way battles were reenacted at the Coliseum. Unlike older historical epics such as Spartacus, Gladiator uses computer generated imagery which gives us a movie with amazing graphics and images. The views of Rome, Commodus' palace or of the Coliseum are simply breathtaking!
Even though the characters are fictional, they resemble historical figures. Commodus' (played by Joaquin Phoenix) love for his sister reminds us of emperor Caligula. When he kills his father, he reminds us of Nero (who killed his mother). General Maximus Decimus Meridius brings to mind general Germanicus who was an extremely popular general and commander of the forces in Germania.
To conclude with, even though the dates and many aspects of the movie are not historically accurate and even though the characters are mainly fictional, Gladiator is a very entertaining movie about Rome in the 1st to 2nd century A.D. and a must-have at home for Roman history buffs!