Gladiator 2 Historical Error Exposed by Spanish Archaeologist

Since its beginnings, cinema has served as a window to the past and ancient civilizations, showing us epic medieval battles, the conquest of America, and even prehistoric times. But its desire to entertain and, at times, the lack of concrete data have led to the ‘creative licenses’ of directors and scriptwriters trying to fill the gaps left by history. Or, sometimes, it is simply distorted to suit, and spectacle is prioritized over historical accuracy.


These kinds of deliberate’mistakes’ are, for example, those made by Ridley Scott with ‘Napoleon’, released last year, as we pointed out in the article titled “‘ Unforgivable Mistakes’: A Historian Watches ‘Napoleon’ and Finds 10 Big Lies in Joaquin Phoenix’s Film “, in which historian Alberto Cañas revealed how Scott had twisted history to his liking in order to form a more appealing tale for the audience. The same thing has happened again with the trailer for ‘Gladiator 2’, another period film by the director.

Spanish archaeologist Néstor F. Marqués, through his X (Twitter) account Antigua Roma al Día, has focused on one of the most striking moments of the trailer, that of the naval battle inside the Colosseum, and has dismantled it, explaining its concept and whether it is true that these battles between ships, called naumachias, were common in the Roman Empire. And the truth is that the reason why this detail is not historically correct is not what we expected.

To begin with, the archaeologist makes it clear that this type of spectacle did exist in ancient Rome, but it was not very frequent due to its high cost and difficulty in execution. It must be taken into account that the ships, built specifically for the ceremony, ended up unusable, and it is estimated that between 10,000 and 20,000 convicts could fight in each battle, resulting in thousands of deaths.

The first person to build an artificial lake for these naval spectacles was Julius Caesar himself in 46 BC, although three years after its inauguration, it had to be emptied due to the unhealthiness and diseases caused by the stagnant water. After the inauguration of the Colosseum in Rome in 80 AD, the emperors Titus and Domitian came to celebrate three of these naumachies by flooding the arena, so if you were wondering if it is true that naval battles were held in the Colosseum, the answer is yes.


But then, why do we say that it is a historical error? ‘Gloriator 2′ is set a century after Domitian built the undergrounds of the Colosseum, making this type of event impossible by not being able to flood the arena of the amphitheater. Therefore, at the time in which ‘Gladiator II’ takes place, it was not feasible to fill the Colosseum with water for a combat between ships like the one shown in the trailer for Ridley Scott’s film.

In any case, if you want to see a rigorous documentary about the Roman Empire, there are a few. ‘Gladiator’, which also had its licenses like any other historical film, there is only one, and ‘Gladiator 2’ promises to be up there as the most epic film of the year. That is what we are really interested in.

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