The soldier who fires the first flaming arrow at the start of the battle changes the orientation of his bow between shots. In the first shot, he is holding it horizontally, like a cross-bow. In the next shot, he is holding it vertically.
Several of the helmet styles used by other gladiators in the "prep room" and arena scenes in Zucchabar are post-Roman Frankish, Germanic, and Norse designs, developed after the fall of the Western Roman Empire. Some of these helmet types, however, were developed from late-Roman models, particularly very late type Roman cavalry helmets.
During the meeting between Maximus, Gracchus, and Lucilla, a statue of a boxer can be seen behind Maximus. The statue is part of a duo, Creugante and Damosseno, carved by Italian artist Antonio Canova between 1795 and 1806. It is currently in the Vatican Museum.
During the battle with Germans, Maximus is accompanied by his dog, a German Shepherd. The very first German Shepherd, named Hektor Linksrhein (later changed to Horand von Grafrath), was registered by the Society for the German Shepherd Dog in 1899.
As the gladiators head for the entrance of the Colosseum floor to re-enact the Battle of Carthage, the shadow of the boom mic is visible on the right of the screen during the shot showing Maximus heading for the Colosseum entrance.
"Maximus Decimus Meridius" doesn't follow Roman naming conventions. A classical Roman man's name consists of a first name (praenomen), family name (nomen gentile), and sub-family name (cognomen). The list of possible praenomen is very short and doesn't include "Maximus", though it includes "Decimus."
Maximus says Rome is corrupt, to which Marcus Aurelius replies "yet you've never been there". Later, Lucilla refers to her childhood with Maximus. He grew up in Spain, she grew up in Rome. However, many upper-class Romans owned villas outside the city, and Lucilla's family could've had a villa in Spain.
After the first fight in the Colosseum, Commodus refers to the battle being reenacted as "The Battle of Carthage." It was actually called "The Battle of Zama," as it took place on the plain of Zama. Carthage stood for decades after Hannibal's defeat, until the 3rd Punic War.
At the end of the Roma-Carthage reenactment, Maximus picks up a spear and holds it up while mounted on the white horse. Commodus then asks who he is and what he is called. While Maximus explains, he throws the spear into the ground. After Commodus says "I'd like to meet him," Maximus throws the spear down again.
In the "Roma-Carthage" battle, Maximus rides a white horse, with his sword in his right hand and his shoulder armor on his left shoulder. After the "Romans" are defeated, his sword is in his left hand and the armor is on his right shoulder. It changes back in the next shot.
When praying to protect his wife and child, Maximus clearly holds both figures in one hand. When the camera angle switches, he holds one in each hand. When the angle switches back, both figures are in one hand again.
During the fight with Tigris, Maximus kills the tiger and shoves it off of him to the side and we see clearly a shot of the tiger away from Maximus. However when we cut back to Maximus and he is fighting on the ground, we can see the tiger still on top of Maximus.
When Maximus enters the Colosseum to fight against Tigris of Gaul, he's holding the sword in his right and the shield in his left hand. And in the last shot you see him walking towards Tigris, the sword is in his left and the shield in his right hand. In the next shot, sword will again be in his right and shield in his left hand.
After Maximus beheads the boar-helmeted enemy with two swords in Zucchabar, he throws one of his two gladius (short-swords) into the spectator's box. When he shouts "Are you not entertained?", his remaining sword changes hands several times.
After Maximus stabs his opponent in the foot with the ax, a shot of his feet shows him falling, and the ax has disappeared. In the far shot, Maximus picks up the ax, which is on the ground between the other guy's feet.
After Maximus, Commodus and the guards are lifted up into the arena; the guards form a circle that cuts across the outline of the closed trapdoor. When Quintus steps up orders the guards the sheath their sword's the outline of the trapdoor is now far away from the outside of the circle even though none guards have moved.
When Maximus is fighting with the last Praetoria guard, who was in charge to take Maximus' at execution, the sun lights Maximus' left side. But in the next shot, an extreme long shot, we see the two about to fight as the lighting from Maximus' right side.
At the end of the second battle in Zucchabar, Maximus throws his sword. The next shot shows Maximus and his fallen competitors as he taunts the crowd. A crew man, in blue jeans and white T-shirt, and a camera are visible on the left side of the screen, in the first row.
During the fight with the tigers, one of them leaps onto Maximus' back. As he falls down to the ground, the tiger is now on top of a tiger-handler dressed as a gladiator, holding up a big piece of meat for the tiger to eat.
In the extended edition blu-ray release, as the two soldiers who are being sacrificed are being led to their death, there is a long shot showing a sandstone building. Three crew members wearing modern day clothes and holding a boom mic can be seen trying to hide around a corner of the building.
In the film, the emperor and crowd put their thumbs up for "live" and down for "kill." In reality, the emperor would to cover his thumb with his four fingers for "live." The gladiator would also live if the emperor yelled the Latin word for "dismissed," or threw a piece of cloth, showing mercy. When he wanted the gladiator to die, he would put his thumb straight out to the side, symbolizing the sword. Studies of Roman artwork suggest that the "thumbs up" gesture was actually an affirmation to proceed with the kill.
The opening battle is wildly inaccurate. The Roman legions were trained to fight as a regimented force, and to maintain formation for mutual support. In the film, the formation collapses instantly upon contact with the enemy; in addition to being inaccurate, this would have almost certainly led to a Roman defeat, as, on a solo basis, the barbarians were by far the better warriors. Further, the Roman legions used spears called pila. Doctrine called for them to be thrown while the enemy closed. The Romans would then draw their swords and fight, while remaining in formation. Though the Romans are shown holding their pila in the opening scenes, they are never used against the barbarians, and we see no pila-riddled shields and/or corpses in the background.
Characters in the movie smoke cigarettes. Tobacco was introduced to Europe in 1600. However, Romans had smoked cannabis since 100 BCE, and opium since 300 BCE. Marcus Aurelius smoked opium regularly, to sleep and to cope with the difficulty of military campaigns.
Maximus is a general in the professional Roman army (SPQR), but he was Spanish by birth. The Legions were open to any Roman citizen, not just native-born Romans. Since Spain was a Roman province at the time, it's very likely that Maximus was a Roman citizen as well as Spanish native.
Maximus says "Unleash Hell!" Though Hell may not exist in his religion, he might have been aware of the concept, and used the word for rhetorical value. Since the movie is in modern English, "Hell" could be the modern translation of a Latin word for a burning, deadly place. It could also be a translation of the Greek word Hades, which the Romans also used.
The disclaimer states that, while based on true events, the story is fictional. Most liberties taken with costume, custom, language, geography, architecture, and biography are not counted as goofs, especially when tied to artistic or dramatic decisions. The Colosseum is bigger than it ever was in real life, for filming convenience. Some historical errors, such as stirrups on the horses, are for the stunt performers' safety.
During gladiator fights, someone throws bread into the audience. While some claim the bread was handed out by slaves, the film's researchers learned that bread was indeed thrown to the audience. Sometimes snakes were concealed in the baskets.
At one point in the chariot battle, one of the gladiators calls out, "Maximus!" While most only know him as the Spaniard at that point, at least one gladiator said he fought under Maximus in Vindibona; others may have also fought under him. While the shouting gladiator, Juba the African hunter, probably had not, he may have heard from another gladiator.
During the initial battle with the barbarians, Maximus kills one by cutting his head off, but his sword gets caught in the tree he was standing against. In the next shot, his sword is in his hand, then back in the tree. In the extended version of the movie Maximus draws a reserve sword from his horse and continues fighting, then returns for the first sword in the tree after the battle is over.
When Maximus kills one of the tigers, it emits the high-pitched scream of an American mountain lion, which is a purring cat (genus Puma). Tigers (genus Panthera) are roaring cats. However, this could be an artistic decision to have a "universal tongue" for cats in movies, equivalent to the humans speaking modern English.
In the "recreation battle" involving chariots vs standing men, there is a very quick shot showing men shooting with crossbows. While the Romans knew the crossbow (or manuballista), they rarely used it; this may have been one of those rare times. Similarly, the mace was rarely used at the time.
When Maximus fights Commodus, rose petals are dispersed evenly across the entire arena. The crowd couldn't throw rose petals hundreds of feet, and they couldn't have been dropped from above. It would've taken hours for workers to distribute the petals that evenly, for no reason.
When the senators stand at the top of the senate stairs to welcome Commodus and Lucilla from the Germanic campaign, some shots show a dark background (curtains or drapes covering the inside of the senate). However, in a few close shots of Sen. Gracchus, the background drapes are parted, showing the blue sky behind the actors. That means the room is not the entrance to a large cavernous room like the senate (as shown in the next few scenes), but a set standing-in for the senate entrance.
During Maximus' second fight in Zucchabar, he cuts the stomach of the fourth gladiator he confronts in the first shot. Two shots later, when Maximus thrusts his sword between the man's left arm and torso, there is no wound on the man's torso.
In the pan-and-scan version, when the chariots make their way into the Coliseum during the Roma-Carthage battle, a gladiator calls out. You can see clearly see blue sky and scaffolding above his head, where the remaining CGI tiers of the arena should be.
During the reenactment of the battle of Carthage, after Maximus yells "Single Column", and kills two more gladiators, you can see his chain mail sleeve slip off, revealing that he is not wearing a chain mail tunic at all. This happens again, right before the battle ends and Maximus holds up his sword in victory.
When Maximus returns home, the tracks in the wheat field could not have been made by a horse-drawn carriage or trailer. If the vehicle was horse drawn the animal would have left a track between the wheel tracks
As the body of Maximus is being carried out of the Colesseum his head remains level with his body. As it takes at least 3 hours for "rigor-morti" to begin, Maximus's head would have dropped backwards because no one is supporting his head or neck.
After the final fight sequence with Comodus, Maximus falls onto a patch of flat earth covered with petals. As Lucilla comforts him, a raised "pillow" of earth appears under Maximus' head in subsequent shots.
When Commodus loses his sword in fight against Maximus, he asks for a sword from the Praetorians. Maximus was holding his sword, but in one shot he stands with empty hands. In the next shot, Maximus holds his sword again, and drops it on ground later.
In Commodus-Maximus fight, when Maximus picks up his sword from ground we can see that shadows of two fighters are very small. So it means that sun is on top. When Commodus asks sword from Quintus we can see that their shadows are much bigger, like in sunset. That is impossible because fight was only few minutes long.
Right before Proximo dies, he looks up and says "Shadows and dust." From the background and his clothes, it's clearly a repeat of earlier footage, when he said the same thing to Maximus before the fight with Tigris. This was necessary because Oliver Reed died during production.