Commodus. Gladiator, 2000
In the film Gladiator, the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius announces his intention that upon his death the Imperial powers will be vested in Maximus Meridus until the formation of a new Roman Republic is complete. This inspires his son and presumptive heir Commodus to murder his father and assume the throne of the Empire.
In reality, Marcus Aurelius died in the city which became Vienna, Austria on March 17, 180. His son Commodus had ruled jointly with his father for more than three years prior to the latter’s death. The film inaccurately depicts the ensuing reign of Commodus as much shorter than the twelve years he remained in power.
His sister Lucilla organized a plot to have Commodus murdered two years into his reign, which failed when the two hired assassins were disarmed by Commodus’s bodyguard. After they were executed Lucilla was exiled to the island of Capri, where she was killed shortly after arrival. The incestuous relationship forced upon her by Commodus in the film is imaginary.
Commodus did consider himself to be a source of power equivalent to the gods and had himself represented in statuary throughout the empire as a figure akin to Hercules. He participated in show appearances in the arena, staged events in which he shot captive animals with arrows or killed chained beasts with a lance.
He also fought planned battles against gladiators, winning them without fail. But he did not die in the arena. A conspiracy against the Emperor led to his being poisoned on December 31, 192; when he vomited the poison before it had time to take effect the wrestler Narcissus was sent to strangle the Emperor as he soaked in a bath. The Senate took note of his death by declaring him to be a public enemy.