Did Gladiator II's Lucius And Marcus Acacius Actually Exist?

Hollywood is infamous for playing fast and loose with history in the name of entertainment. Ridley Scott's 2000 Roman epic is a prime example. And although there were things that "Gladiator" got right about history, including Emperor Commodus' misrule and his complicated relationship with his sister Lucilla, a lot of the characters and plot were fictional. In the sequel, "Gladiator II," set for release in November 2024, it looks like the filmmakers may have strayed even further from the truth.

The sequel's main character, Lucius Verus II, who was a child in the original film, is based on a real person, but that's where history and Hollywood part ways. In "Gladiator II," Verus (Paul Mescal) is in exile in Numidia — a region that is now parts of modern Tunisia and Algeria in North Africa — around 12 to 15 years on from when the first movie takes place. He's captured by Roman raiders and forced to become a gladiator. The man who he ends up clashing swords with, Roman general Marcus Acacius (Pedro Pascal), appears to be completely made up. Scott and screenwriter David Scarpa definitely didn't let history dictate the making of this film.

The real Lucius Verus II died young

Like its predecessor, a movie that got history completely wrong, "Gladiator II" is also short on facts and goes even deeper into the realm of make-believe. It would have been very difficult for Lucius Verus II to become a gladiator for the simple reason that he died when he was a child. He was indeed the son of Empress Lucilla Augusta (who is portrayed by Connie Nielsen in both films) and Emperor Lucius Verus I. They had three children, but only a daughter survived into adulthood. In the original film, Lucius Verus II is portrayed as a 12-year-old co-emperor with his wicked uncle Commodus. In reality, Verus died before Commodus came to power.

With that bit of knowledge you can be sure Verus never went into exile in North Africa, much less fought it out in Rome's Coliseum. Additionally, Lucilla wouldn't have been around in the sequel. Years earlier, her brother, the Emperor Commodus, had her banished to the island of Capri after he learned she had masterminded a foiled plot to murder him. Commodus (at least true to the version played by Joaquin Phoenix in the first film) eventually had her killed. In "Gladiator II," she's still quite alive and has hooked up with Marcus Acacius not knowing that he and her son are mortal enemies. While Lucilla was at least real, if not alive at the time the film is set, her love interest never existed.

Marcus Acacius is a made-up character

Yes, there were many times when "Gladiator" lied to you, most notably with the main character, Maximus Decimus Meridius (Russell Crowe), who was a made up character. There has been some speculation that he was based on several real people, including the Roman general Marcus Nonius Macrinus, who fought in the Germanic wars.

In the film, we learn that Marcus Acacius served under and learned from Maximus. "This movie has an identity that is shaped by his legacy," Pedro Pascal told Vanity Fair in July 2024. "It wouldn't make sense for it not to." In the case of Acacius, it doesn't appear he was based on any real-life historical figure. Or at least no one found a contender thus far. So "Gladiator II" has a probably made-up character shaping the life of a definitely made-up character in an actual historical period where the characters who aren't fictitious would have already been dead during the period it's set in. Ah, Hollywood!