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  #1  
Old 28 Feb 09, 02:01
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Gladiator: Inaccuracies

I did this earlier with the Young Guns movies. Time for Gladiator.

Here's what they did wrong.

1. Proximo (Oliver Reed) refers to "The Coliseum." The great arena was not called that during the age of Rome. It was called the Flavian Amphitheater after the emperor who ordered its construction.

2. The only gladiators Maximus (Russel Crowe) fights are strangers to him. In reality, this was rare. Most gladiators were well-acquainted with their competition. Many were actually close friends. The logic was that gladiators who had trained together would be familiar with each others' fighting styles leading to longer and more spectacular fights. It's also the main reason defeated gladiators kept their helmets on when the victor was given the signal to kill them, because it was considered cruel (by some at least) for a man to have to see his friend's face when he killed him. Also, there was the fear that a man would simply hesitate to kill a friend if he had to see his eyes.

3. Maximus is seen removing (rather bloodily) a tattoo that marks him as a Roman soldier. Soldiers in the legions did have tattoos, but wore them on the hand to make them virtually impossible to hide if they deserted.

4. This one is common. Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix) gives the thumbs-up to signify life mercy for a defeated gladiator and thumbs-down for death. Thumbs down meant mercy, as in sheathing your sword or planting it in the ground. However history is ambiguous on the signal for death (of course, it might have changed once in a while). Thumbs up is possible, meaning "send them to the gods," but there is some evidence that the signal for death was the thumb being held against the jugular vein, the meaning being plainly evident.

5. Ridley Scott was criticized for showing a female gladiator, under the belief that there were none. Most us here already know that there were quite a few, usually fighting in specialty matches.

6. Unlike what is shown in the movie, Marcus Aurelius did not ban gladiatorial fights. He did, though sign into law new regulations that increased the chances for gladiators to survive their fights. This was a smart move, as gladiators were expensive.

7. Most people who know little about Rome or gladiators might still guess that Maximus didn't really kill Emperor Commodus in the arena, and neither did Commodus die after a short time as emperor, as the movie heavily suggests. He ruled for about twelve years (or thereabouts) before being murdered by a professional wrestler named Narcissus (perfect name for a wrestler, huh?) who was also said to be his lover.

8. Commodus also did not lust after his sister, or at least there is no evidence of it. He was also married to a woman named Bruttia.

9. As if that wasn't enough, Joaquin Phoenix is right-handed. Commodus was left-handed.

10. Roman cavalry are shown using stirrups. The Romans never used them, although they were already in use on the steppes of Asia. This was done for obvious safety reasons. The extras who rode horses in the movie were not trained to ride without stirrups.

11. Emperor Commodus did like fighting in the arena (which was considered scandalous for his station, but it endeared him to the people), but not as it was shown in the movie. His opponents usually had blunted weapons. He also sometimes fought in disguise.

12. The last great battle of Marcus Aurelius's legions against the Germans took place in 179 AD. There was no great battle just before Aurelius died. he died in 180 AD, just before a campaign was set to begin. Obviously (you don't need to be a student of the Roman age to know this one...) Aurelius wasn't murdered by his successor (even though a lot of emperors were) but died from either smallpox or cancer. History seems to not agree on which.

13. The use of catapults and ballistas in the movie against the Germans was interesting, but such weapons were largely used for siege warfare. They had little value against enemies in either open fields or forests.

14. Lucilla (Connie Neilsen), Commodus's sister, is shown secretly planning her brother's downfall while at the same time pretending to support him, and later surviving him when he dies my Maximus's hand. She didn't get off that easily. Commodus had her exiled to Capri and later executed for plotting against him.

15. "We who are about to die, salute you" is so ingrained into the gladiator movie genre that woe betide anyone who leaves it out. But it is said to have only been used once, and not by gladiators, but by criminals about to be executed in front of Emperor Claudius. It also took place at the amphitheater at Fucinus, south of Rome itself. There is no evidence that it was ever said at any other time or place. After all, the majority of gladiatorial fights ended with both surviving.

And so on...
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  #2  
Old 28 Feb 09, 02:26
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My favorite was in the scene where the "Germans" (or was it Dacians?) advanced and attacked the Romans. The Romans stood there in a straight line and took the charge with Pilums leveled like Pikes. There was no slingers or archers shown attriting the advancing bad guys. Worse was the Romans did not throw those Pilums twice or three times (they carried several for this). The Director missed a chance here of showing how these weapons took out the front line warriors (usually the biggest and best armed) or took away any shield they were carrying. Then you would have seen the Roman Legionary in action like a training exercise!

Romans did not "swordfight" like Errol Flynn. They stepped into the stab, twisted the blade and pulled it back (piston like). Their main target was the abdomen or groin area. Anyone will stand there and swing their sword at you overhand, but how many will let you cut off the "dingleling"?

As for the Roman Cavalry? The real Roman Cavalry was the worst in Europe, as only rich guys could afford horses. The best in Roman use was the Auxiliary Cavalry of foreigners/barbarians that often wore traditional gear (sometimes with a short Roman mail shirt and Spatha). Cavalry does not charge through trees. Tree roots trip horses. That injures the beasts (very expensive ones!) and riders who are holding on with just leg power.

Romans did use large war dogs. Many mastiffs are supposed to descend from them.

Pruitt
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Old 28 Feb 09, 05:51
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Good points guys. ...And one more thing the bothered me, is a female gladiator using something very much like crossbow. And I wonder in what language Maximus would be able to communicate with other gladiators. Latin?
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Old 28 Feb 09, 15:49
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On the stirrups point, it is interesting that in Alexander the cavalry did NOT use stirrups. So it is possible to get extra to ride without them.
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Old 28 Feb 09, 16:01
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RapierFighter View Post
I did this earlier with the Young Guns movies. Time for Gladiator.

Here's what they did wrong.

1. Proximo (Oliver Reed) refers to "The Coliseum." The great arena was not called that during the age of Rome. It was called the Flavian Amphitheater after the emperor who ordered its construction.

2. The only gladiators Maximus (Russel Crowe) fights are strangers to him. In reality, this was rare. Most gladiators were well-acquainted with their competition. Many were actually close friends. The logic was that gladiators who had trained together would be familiar with each others' fighting styles leading to longer and more spectacular fights. It's also the main reason defeated gladiators kept their helmets on when the victor was given the signal to kill them, because it was considered cruel (by some at least) for a man to have to see his friend's face when he killed him. Also, there was the fear that a man would simply hesitate to kill a friend if he had to see his eyes.

3. Maximus is seen removing (rather bloodily) a tattoo that marks him as a Roman soldier. Soldiers in the legions did have tattoos, but wore them on the hand to make them virtually impossible to hide if they deserted.

4. This one is common. Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix) gives the thumbs-up to signify life mercy for a defeated gladiator and thumbs-down for death. Thumbs down meant mercy, as in sheathing your sword or planting it in the ground. However history is ambiguous on the signal for death (of course, it might have changed once in a while). Thumbs up is possible, meaning "send them to the gods," but there is some evidence that the signal for death was the thumb being held against the jugular vein, the meaning being plainly evident.

5. Ridley Scott was criticized for showing a female gladiator, under the belief that there were none. Most us here already know that there were quite a few, usually fighting in specialty matches.

6. Unlike what is shown in the movie, Marcus Aurelius did not ban gladiatorial fights. He did, though sign into law new regulations that increased the chances for gladiators to survive their fights. This was a smart move, as gladiators were expensive.

7. Most people who know little about Rome or gladiators might still guess that Maximus didn't really kill Emperor Commodus in the arena, and neither did Commodus die after a short time as emperor, as the movie heavily suggests. He ruled for about twelve years (or thereabouts) before being murdered by a professional wrestler named Narcissus (perfect name for a wrestler, huh?) who was also said to be his lover.

8. Commodus also did not lust after his sister, or at least there is no evidence of it. He was also married to a woman named Bruttia.

9. As if that wasn't enough, Joaquin Phoenix is right-handed. Commodus was left-handed.

10. Roman cavalry are shown using stirrups. The Romans never used them, although they were already in use on the steppes of Asia. This was done for obvious safety reasons. The extras who rode horses in the movie were not trained to ride without stirrups.

11. Emperor Commodus did like fighting in the arena (which was considered scandalous for his station, but it endeared him to the people), but not as it was shown in the movie. His opponents usually had blunted weapons. He also sometimes fought in disguise.

12. The last great battle of Marcus Aurelius's legions against the Germans took place in 179 AD. There was no great battle just before Aurelius died. he died in 180 AD, just before a campaign was set to begin. Obviously (you don't need to be a student of the Roman age to know this one...) Aurelius wasn't murdered by his successor (even though a lot of emperors were) but died from either smallpox or cancer. History seems to not agree on which.

13. The use of catapults and ballistas in the movie against the Germans was interesting, but such weapons were largely used for siege warfare. They had little value against enemies in either open fields or forests.

14. Lucilla (Connie Neilsen), Commodus's sister, is shown secretly planning her brother's downfall while at the same time pretending to support him, and later surviving him when he dies my Maximus's hand. She didn't get off that easily. Commodus had her exiled to Capri and later executed for plotting against him.

15. "We who are about to die, salute you" is so ingrained into the gladiator movie genre that woe betide anyone who leaves it out. But it is said to have only been used once, and not by gladiators, but by criminals about to be executed in front of Emperor Claudius. It also took place at the amphitheater at Fucinus, south of Rome itself. There is no evidence that it was ever said at any other time or place. After all, the majority of gladiatorial fights ended with both surviving.

And so on...

you gotta love a man that's got this much time on his hands and that much dedication.....reminds me of.... well.... er....me

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Old 28 Feb 09, 18:49
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The Romans did have a crossbow, but they used it for hunting. It is debatable whether they got it from the Chinese. I imagine that Maximus was able to communicate with the other gladiators in Latin. The Roman Army used a kind of "bastard" Latin in that they had many "barbarian" troops in the field armies. Kind of like how the East India Company invented Urdu for its Indian troops. Also, Maximus was actually a Spaniard himself and should have been able to speak Celtic. Now that might not mean a Belgae could understand everything he was saying, but exactly how much do you need in an arena?

Pruitt
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Old 28 Feb 09, 21:57
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pruitt View Post
The Romans did have a crossbow, but they used it for hunting. It is debatable whether they got it from the Chinese. I imagine that Maximus was able to communicate with the other gladiators in Latin. The Roman Army used a kind of "bastard" Latin in that they had many "barbarian" troops in the field armies. Kind of like how the East India Company invented Urdu for its Indian troops. Also, Maximus was actually a Spaniard himself and should have been able to speak Celtic. Now that might not mean a Belgae could understand everything he was saying, but exactly how much do you need in an arena?

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Old 01 Mar 09, 07:27
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Wink Actually I have used that line...

Quote:
Originally Posted by lcm1 View Post
Yes of course, "Hullo Maximus read any good books lately? Nice weather for the time of year, say hullo to the family for me!!"
Years ago, I am coaching my 10 year old girls in a game. My pitcher (went on to all state in high school), was tired and needed a break. I went out to the mound and talked to her and told her I was out there to give her a break and I knew she was doing her best. I was looking for something to say to take her mind off the game, so I asked her if she had read any good books lately? Her Dad laughed for a long time over that.

Pruitt
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Old 01 Mar 09, 10:54
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pruitt View Post
Years ago, I am coaching my 10 year old girls in a game. My pitcher (went on to all state in high school), was tired and needed a break. I went out to the mound and talked to her and told her I was out there to give her a break and I knew she was doing her best. I was looking for something to say to take her mind off the game, so I asked her if she had read any good books lately? Her Dad laughed for a long time over that.

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Old 01 Aug 09, 16:40
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The opening scene (battle in Germania) remains my favorite scene. In spite of that I have a bone to gnaw with historical inaccuracies. I would like to restrict myself to the way Roman warfare was depicted in the movie. Some of them have already been noticed
  • Use of fire both by archers and by artillery. AFAIK no fire was used in this way. It makes for spectacular shots though.
  • Use and placing of archers I had no problem with. As said the use of fire I have not come across historically, but would have been a good idea.
  • Prolific use of artillery in an open battle. AFAIK, torsion artillery (Scorpios) was used in battle, but counterweight artillery more during sieges.
  • Deft handling of cavalry as shock cavalry. Roman cavalry was the worst handled, practically all opponents were better with cavalry. Roman cavalry would not be used this way to deliver the killer blow. That the commander (Maximus) would ride with the cavalry and lose overview of the battle also made me frown my brow I would have expected the commander to stay behind the infantry on horseback and employ the no-nonsense and straight-at-them infantry approach.
  • Absence of auxiliary troops. A Roman general would be more willing to spend these troops then employ the heavy, expensively trained and equipped and politically sensitive legionaries, who were after all Roman citizens and could very well become his later constituency, if not his power base during future political endeavours.
  • (As has been rightly noted by Pruitt) the absence of the throwing of javelins in the first moments the two sides engaged. Legionaries practically always opened the fight by throwing a couple of javelins to take out the most fearless opponents and break up the coherence of the enemy line before continuing business with the gladius.
  • What was good in the movie (don't want to be a sourpuss over a movie I enjoyed so much) was the silence (very professional and intimidating) maintained by the legionaries while their opponents shouted themselves hoarse (in remarkable easy to understand twentieth century German: ' Ihr seid verfluchte Hunde' translates as ' You are damned dogs'
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Old 01 Aug 09, 23:53
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The best depiction of Roman Legionaire's in battle I've seen is this scene from HBO's Rome:

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Old 02 Aug 09, 08:53
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As an afterthought which I would not like to deny you: the battle scene of Gladiator which I just appraised was shown to US Army officers before the 2003 attack on Iraq as a motivational tool.*
The reason for the choice of this specific scene and the connection between the two events I leave to you

* Stated by M. R. Gordon and Trainor B. E. in Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq, p. 164
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RapierFighter View Post
I did this earlier with the Young Guns movies. Time for Gladiator.

Here's what they did wrong.

2. The only gladiators Maximus (Russel Crowe) fights are strangers to him. In reality, this was rare. Most gladiators were well-acquainted with their competition. Many were actually close friends. The logic was that gladiators who had trained together would be familiar with each others' fighting styles leading to longer and more spectacular fights. It's also the main reason defeated gladiators kept their helmets on when the victor was given the signal to kill them, because it was considered cruel (by some at least) for a man to have to see his friend's face when he killed him. Also, there was the fear that a man would simply hesitate to kill a friend if he had to see his eyes.

Every thing that I have read about the gladiators of Rome has always said the Romans did the exactly the oppositely thing, that they never put gladiators from the same 'school' together.
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