Wow. It was (perhaps) the most beautiful movie I've ever seen. Simply amazing. Surprisingly deep and nuanced. Powerful.
On whether or not it was an apology for fascism: yes, I think it was. So be it. But, it had a lot more to say than just that, and had perhaps one of the most shockingly powerful moments of non-violence I've ever seen on film.
In its defense, though, it was a fairy tale set in a violent time. I think that the average citizen of the latter Roman Empire might also have thought that fascism wasn't such a bad thing (given the alternatives), but fortunately, we live in better times.