Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

What's Real, What's Not in 'Gladiator'

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

What's Real, What's Not in 'Gladiator'

Article excerpt

ROME -- Some fact and fiction in the movie Gladiator, which opened a week ago:

-- Emperor Marcus Aurelius (played by Richard Harris): Gladiator portrays him as a wise emperor who wants his trusted general Maximus to succeed him and make Rome a republic again. The real Marcus Aurelius, who ruled from A.D. 161-180 and is best known for his Meditations on Stoic philosophy, did no such thing. He made his son co-emperor in A.D. 177 when Commodus was just 17. And Commodus turned out to be a very bad seed.

-- Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix): Portrayed in the movie as a twisted, evil fellow, much as he appears to have been in real life. Historians say flatly that he was insane. His brutal misrule, which lasted until A.D. 192, set off civil strife that ended nearly a century of prosperity and marked the beginning of the decline of the Roman Empire.

The real Commodus fancied himself to be Hercules and loved playing gladiator. He is said to have killed no fewer than five hippopotamuses in one day at the Colosseum, 100 leopards on another day. …

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