Cast the gladiator into the charnel-house. Commodus immediately began to treat with the Marcomanni in order to bring the decade's long wars of his father to a close. For 13 years, Rome had been ruled by a man who promised so much, and ultimately delivered so little, as a reign that started in purple and gold, ended in red and rust. In Greek mythology, Medusa was one of the three Gorgons. The birth of a royal son was a big deal at the time: Commodus was the first (and for a very long time, the only) Roman emperor “born in the purple,” meaning born during his dad’s reign. Portrait bust of Commodus as a Child photographed by the author, in the Ostia Archaeological Museum.  Among his teachers, Onesicrates, Antistius Capella, Titus Aius Sanctus, and Pitholaus are mentioned.. "Exsuperatorius" (the supreme) was a title given to Jupiter, and "Amazonius" identified him again with Hercules. Servius Cornelius Scipio Salvidienus Orfitus, opponents always submitted to the emperor, "De Imperatoribus Romanis: An Online Encyclopedia of Roman Rulers and Their Families", Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary, "Tulane University "Roman Currency of the Principate, "History Behind The Game – Ryse: Son of Rome", "Box Set Binge: Roman Empire: Reign of Blood, The Path and Deutschland 83", "Imperial Elements in the Formula of the Roman Emperors during the First Two and a Half Centuries of the Empire", Servius Cornelius Scipio Salvidienus Orfitus, Lucius Fulvius Rusticus Gaius Bruttius Praesens, Tiberius Claudius Marcus Appius Atilius Bradua Regillus Atticus, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Commodus&oldid=995501279, Roman emperors murdered by the Praetorian Guard, Roman emperors to suffer posthumous denigration or damnatio memoriae, Articles with dead external links from October 2016, Short description is different from Wikidata, Articles with unsourced statements from September 2020, Wikipedia articles needing clarification from January 2018, Wikipedia articles with CANTIC identifiers, Wikipedia articles with SNAC-ID identifiers, Wikipedia articles with SUDOC identifiers, Wikipedia articles with WORLDCATID identifiers, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License, 10. His great simplicity, however, together with his cowardice, made him the slave of his companions, and it was through them that he at first, out of ignorance, missed the better life and then was led on into lustful and cruel habits, which soon became second nature.". Historical Map of Europe & the Mediterranean (30 December 192 - Reign of Commodus: Commodus ended the Second Marcomannic War in 180 and, apart from facing a Caledonian invasion of Britain a few years later, his reign was relatively peaceful. In April 175, Avidius Cassius, Governor of Syria, declared himself Emperor following rumours that Marcus Aurelius had died. Commodus' death marked the end of the Nerva–Antonine dynasty. Food shortages ravaged Rome in 190, and the Prefect of the Annona, or grain supply (the praefectus annonae) laid the blame at Cleander’s door.  Citizens of Rome missing their feet through accident or illness were taken to the arena, where they were tethered together for Commodus to club to death while pretending they were giants. Lucius Aelius Aurelius Commodus was born August 31, 161 AD in what is now Lanuvio, Italy to Emperor Marcus Aurelius and Faustina the Younger, the daughter of Emperor Antoninus Pius. , Priscus refused to accept their acclamations, and Perennis had all the legionary legates in Britain cashiered.  The Romans found Commodus' gladiatorial combats to be scandalous and disgraceful. The senatorial decree ordering it, as recorded by Dio, is particularly shocking: “Cast the gladiator into the charnel-house. The historian Herodian, a contemporary, described Commodus as an extremely handsome man. Whereas the reign of Marcus Aurelius had been marked by almost continuous warfare, Commodus' rule was comparatively peaceful in the military sense, but was also characterised by political strife and the increasingly arbitrary and capricious behaviour of the emperor himself. He thought of himself as the reincarnation of Hercules, frequently emulating the legendary hero's feats by appearing in the arena to fight a variety of wild animals. This kind of raucous behavior was something he had allegedly had precedent for, so no-one was alerted that the emperor may be in danger…, Relief from an honorary monument to Marcus Aurelius, showing the emperor in triumphal procession with a space to the left possibly depicting the erasure of Commodus following the damnatio memoriae enacted against him, 176-80, via Musei Capitolini, Rome. After a major fire in Rome in 190AD, Commodus offered to finance a rebuilding of the city — if it was renamed after him. He also had four surviving sisters, all of them with husbands who were potential rivals. A conspiracy led by Laetus and Eclectus, who involved Marcia in their plotting, saw proposed to overthrow Commodus. Cleander was in fact the person who had murdered Saoterus. The principal surviving literary sources are Herodian, Dio Cassius (a contemporary and sometimes first-hand observer, Senator during Commodus' reign, but his reports for this period survive only as fragments and abbreviations), and the Historia Augusta (untrustworthy for its character as a work of literature rather than history, with elements of fiction embedded within its biographies; in the case of Commodus, it may well be embroidering upon what the author found in reasonably good contemporary sources).  Privately, it was also his custom to kill his opponents during practice matches. In October of that year, Commodus was bestowed with the title Germanicus alongside his father. Harvard University Press, 1961, 73.10.3, Dio Cassius 73.20.3, Loeb edition translated E. Cary, Gibbon p.. 106 "disgorged at once a hundred lions; a hundred darts". As such, he took a number of steps to ensure that the people of Rome, as well as the armies in the provinces. Commodus was born in 161 AD near Rome, the son of Marcus Aurelius, the wise ruling emperor. It is a legacy that endures to this day. His mother Faustina was actually the youngest daughter of Antoninus, and though later histories slandered her as an adultress in truth she and Marcus Aurelius … Commodus 31 August 161 - 31 December 192), was Roman Emperor from 180 to 192. Gibbon p. 107 "*1 Commodus killed a camelopardalis or giraffe ... the most useless of the quadrupeds". Commodus, in full Caesar Marcus Aurelius Commodus Antoninus Augustus, original name (until 180 ce) Lucius Aelius Aurelius Commodus, (born August 31, 161 ce, Lanuvium, Latium [now Lanuvio, Italy]—died December 31, 192), Roman emperor from 177 to 192 (sole emperor after 180) Commodus was Roman emperor from 180 to 192 CE.With the death of Roman Emperor Marcus … The sources present some of the most vivid accounts of the emotions that came rushing out as part of these material assaults on memory, known today as damnatio memoriae. During his solo reign, the Empire enjoyed a period of reduced military conflict compared with the reign of Marcus Aurelius, but intrigues and conspiracies abounded, leading Commodus to an increasingly dictatorial style of leadership that culminated in a god-like personality cult, with him performing as a gladiator in the Colosseum. War broke out in Dacia: few details are available, but it appears two future contenders for the throne, Clodius Albinus and Pescennius Niger, both distinguished themselves in the campaign. With Commodus died the Antonine dynasty, as minimal provisions had been made for the succession. The Emperor Commodus Leaving the Arena at the Head of the Gladiators (detail) by Edwin Howland Blashfield (1848–1936), Hermitage Museum and Gardens, Norfolk, Virginia. In the spring of 175, one of the emperor’s most trusted generals, Avidius Cassius, rebelled. Most infamous was Commodus’ proclivity for the gladiatorial arena. Like his father before him, Commodus enjoyed the benefits of an exemplary Roman aristocratic education, focusing on raising a child fit to rule the empire. He who slew the senate, let him be dragged with the hook… Let the murderer be dragged in the dust! Her motive is alleged to have been envy of the Empress Crispina. In November 192, Commodus held Plebeian Games, in which he shot hundreds of animals with arrows and javelins every morning, and fought as a gladiator every afternoon, winning all the fights. He renamed Rome “Commodiana” and called the Roman people “Commodiani.” And he changed the names of every month into variations on his own name. Unfortunately, tragedy struck the imperial household in 165 when Titus, his elder brother, died, leaving Commodus as Marcus’ only son, and his heir. The title suggests that Commodus was present at his father's victory over the Marcomanni. Just in case anyone living in the city had not grasped his sense of importance, he also had the Colossal statue adjacent to the Colosseum (hence the name) which had been originally erected by Nero, remodeled to look like himself; wielding a club and standing over a bronze lion, it again presented the emperor as Hercules. , He was looked after by his father's physician, Galen, who treated many of Commodus' common illnesses. The iconography of Commodus displays a consistent emphasis on presenting the emperor as Hercules. To honor his new-found family, the emperor ordered that the condemnation of Commodus’ memory be lifted. Now, whether on our screens in the guise of a bloodthirsty gladiator, or in museums in the hubristic form of Hercules, Commodus remains seemingly fixed as an embodiment of imperial vices. During 191, the city of Rome was extensively damaged by a fire that raged for several days, during which many public buildings including the Temple of Pax, the Temple of Vesta, and parts of the imperial palace were destroyed. He accompanied his father, Marcus, during the Marcomannic Wars in 172 and on a tour of the Eastern provinces in 176. Wife of M. Annius Verus: Giacosa (1977), p. 10. – Historia Augusta Bd. Oh, and the months of the year? On 23 December 176, the two imperatores celebrated a joint triumph, and Commodus was given tribunician power. Suetonius a possible lover of Sabina: One interpretation of, Lover of Hadrian: Lambert (1984), p. 99 and.  His reduction of the denarius during his rule was the largest since the empire's first devaluation during Nero's reign. (These ailments returned, the historian drily adds, after the death of Pertinax.) Portrait head of Commodus, 182-90 AD, via the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles. Having been accepted as Emperor by Syria, Judea and Egypt, Cassius carried on his rebellion even after it had become obvious that Marcus was still alive. Leading men in the Empire were viewed with suspicion and often removed from the picture, regardless of their loyalty or not. Such was the vehement dislike felt by the senate at having had to suffer the abuse and threats of the emperor over the 12 years, that they condemned the memory of Commodus; his images were destroyed and his names scratched from inscriptions around the empire. The fall of Perennis brought a new spate of executions: Aufidius Victorinus committed suicide. Lucilla was exiled to Capri and later killed. Didius Julianus, the future emperor and a relative of Salvius Julianus, was dismissed from the governorship of Germania Inferior. The legions were renamed Commodianae, the fleet which imported grain from Africa was termed Alexandria Commodiana Togata, the Senate was entitled the Commodian Fortunate Senate, his palace and the Roman people themselves were all given the name Commodianus, and the day on which these reforms were decreed was to be called Dies Commodianus. The legions? The climax came in the year 190, which had 25 suffect consuls – a record in the 1,000-year history of the Roman consulship—all appointed by Cleander (they included the future Emperor Septimius Severus). He was the son of the reigning emperor, Marcus Aurelius, and Aurelius' first cousin, Faustina the Younger; the youngest daughter of Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius, who had died only a few months before.Commodus had an elder twin brother, Titus Aurelius Fulvus Antoninus, who died in 165. He subsequently married Bruttia Crispina before accompanying his father to the Danubian front once more in 178. In fact, everything should be renamed for Commodus. Herodian's Roman History F.L. He was succeeded by Pertinax, the first emperor in the tumultuous Year of the Five Emperors. At this point, the prefect Laetus formed a conspiracy with Eclectus to supplant Commodus with Pertinax, taking Marcia into their confidence. In 1964's The Fall of the Roman Empire, Commodus is … One of the ways he paid for his donatives (imperial handouts) and mass entertainments was to tax the senatorial order, and on many inscriptions, the traditional order of the two nominal powers of the state, the Senate and People (Senatus Populusque Romanus) is provocatively reversed (Populus Senatusque...). The attempts to restore stability would lead to a protracted series of civil wars lasting 4 years. He was made the youngest consul in Roman history in 177 and elevated to co-augustus with his father, having been given the title imperator in 176. When he passed away Commodus took the throne and became emperor. Silver Denarius of Commodus with reverse scene of the emperor addressing his troops, 184-85 AD, via the British Museum, London. His reduction of the denarius during his rule was the largest since the empire's firs… Pertinax was Roman Emperor for three months in 193 CE and, as successor to Commodus, it was hoped that he would restore much needed sobriety to the office of emperor.However, the former teacher, as well as putting in order the affairs of state, also embarked on a series of state spending cuts which led to his general unpopularity and eventual downfall at the hands of the Praetorian Guard. He ruled as junior co-e… Dio, Cassius. Although the historian Cassius Dio records that Marcus remained disappointed in his attempts to educate his son, his attempts to ensure the smooth succession were at least successful. His titles quickly came to reflect Marcus’ commitment to ensuring the succession of his son; by 176 Commodus was recognized as Imperator, and by 177 as Augustus, confirming that rule of the empire was not shared between father and son. Cleander proceeded to concentrate power in his own hands and to enrich himself by becoming responsible for all public offices: he sold and bestowed entry to the Senate, army commands, governorships and, increasingly, even the suffect consulships to the highest bidder. This was done on the 31st of December, 192. Commodus also had a passion for gladiatorial combat, which he took so far as to take to the arena himself, dressed as a secutor. His role as the leader of the army, and as a triumphal Roman commander, was already being established. The Roman Emperors (1985) p. 99. Silver Denarius featuring obverse portrait of Marcus Aurelius and reverse portrait of young Commodus, 175 AD, via Museu de Prehistòria de València . Pescennius Niger mopped up the deserters in Gaul in a military campaign, and a revolt in Brittany was put down by two legions brought over from Britain. Upon his death, the Senate declared him a public enemy (a de facto damnatio memoriae) and restored the original name of the city of Rome and its institutions. He then returned to Rome and celebrated a triumph for the conclusion of the wars on 22 October 180. Kieren is a UK based contributing writer currently studying for a PhD in Classics and Ancient History, investigating the representation and authority of the Severan emperors. Vol. Commodus the old man had kept to his estates for reasons of age and health. At the imperial court in Rome, he would have encountered the court physician Galen, one of antiquity’s most influential doctors and medical practitioners. Early in 188, Cleander disposed of the current praetorian prefect, Atilius Aebutianus, and took over supreme command of the Praetorian Guard at the new rank of a pugione ("dagger-bearer"), with two praetorian prefects subordinate to him. Lucius Aurelius Commodus, born 161 A.D., was appointed co-emperor by his father Marcus Aurelius in 177 A.D. when he was just 16 years old. He was the son of Marcus Aurelius and Faustina the Younger. But, as his contemporaries make clear, he was not born this way. Gibbon, Edward. On New Year’s Eve 192, Marcia slipped a powerful poison into the emperor’s wine. These steps appear not to have been sufficient in themselves. The latter eventually would be used as a conventional title by Roman emperors, starting about a century later, but Commodus seems to have been the first to assume it.. However, there were frequent intrigues, encouraging Commodus to adopt an increasingly autocratic and cultish manner that grew into megalomania. Approximately seven million tourists climb the hill of... For our history now descends from one a kingdom of gold, to one of iron and rust, Marcus Aurelius, the paragon of imperial rule, Commodus was so enraged by a tepid bath that he ordered the bathkeeper who had run it to be cast into the furnaces, Cassius was reputedly concerned about the stability of the empire, remained disappointed in his attempts to educate his son, “I alone was born for you in the imperial palace… The purple received me as I came forth into the world, and the sun shone down on me, man and emperor, at the same moment.”, favorites and sycophants that gathered around the new emperor and encouraged him to return to the comforts of Rome, modern Romania, the province captured by Trajan. Commodus had an elder twin brother, Titus Aurelius Fulvus Antoninus, who died in 165. At the advice of his mistress, Marcia, Commodus had Cleander (and his son) beheaded. In the arena, Commodus' opponents always submitted to the emperor; as a result he never lost. His reign is commonly considered to mark the end of the golden period of peace in the history of the Roman Empire known as the Pax Romana. His tale wasn't believed and he was immediately put to death. Italics indicates a junior co-emperor, while underlining indicates a usurper. In the same year, Pertinax unmasked a conspiracy by two enemies of Cleander – Antistius Burrus (one of Commodus' brothers-in-law) and Arrius Antoninus. The first crisis of the reign came in 182, when Lucilla engineered a conspiracy against her brother. Also, in Britain in 184, the governor Ulpius Marcellus re-advanced the Roman frontier northward to the Antonine Wall, but the legionaries revolted against his harsh discipline and acclaimed another legate, Priscus, as emperor. His role as the leader of the army, and as a triumphal Roman commander, was already being established. Upon his ascension, Commodus devalued the Roman currency. Commodus became sole ruler in 180, guaranteed by the support of the soldiers on the frontier.  Popular rumors spread alleging he was actually the son, not of Marcus Aurelius, but of a gladiator whom his mother Faustina had taken as a lover at the coastal resort of Caieta.. A reduction in conflict on the frontiers of the empire was not matched by peace within the empire. The emperor’s relationship with the senate was irreparably poisoned by this close shave. It was presumably there that, on 15 October 172, he was given the victory title Germanicus, in the presence of the army. They then returned to Rome in the autumn of 176. In a speech recorded (and probably invented) by the historian Herodian, Commodus makes clear his uniqueness to the soldiers and courtiers gathered on the frontier: “I alone was born for you in the imperial palace… The purple received me as I came forth into the world, and the sun shone down on me, man and emperor, at the same moment.”, Portrait bust of Commodus, 185-90 AD, via the British Museum, London. The Senate? He also reduced the silver purity from 79 percent to 76 percent – the silver weight dropping from 2.57 grams to 2.34 grams. His son, for all his other faults, had no desire for conflict. He also had the head of the Colossus of Nero adjacent to the Colosseum replaced with his own portrait, gave it a club, and placed a bronze lion at its feet to make it look like Hercules Romanus, and added an inscription boasting of being "the only left-handed fighter to conquer twelve times one thousand men".. In 195, the emperor Septimius Severus, trying to gain favour with the family of Marcus Aurelius, rehabilitated Commodus' memory and had the Senate deify him. To subdue any residual unrest, Marcus ensured that the question of succession had a definitive answer. Infamously, Commodus was the gladiator emperor (made famous by Joaquin Phoenix in the 2000 film Gladiator), fighting frequently in the arena, much to the shame of the gathered senatorial spectators. Muller Edition 1.15.7, Echols, Edward C. "Herodian of Antioch's History of the Roman Empire." He succeeded Commodus to become the first emperor during the tumultuous Year of the Five Emperors. Now at the zenith of his power, Cleander continued to sell public offices as his private business. Statues of Commodus were demolished. The story of Commodus’ rise and fall from grace begins in late summer, AD 161. Marcus is reported to have wept at the news of his friend’s death. Painting of Commodus as Hercules and Gladiator by Peter Paul Rubens, 1599-1600, via The Leiden Collection, New York. The Emperor and his son then traveled to Athens, where they were initiated into the Eleusinian mysteries. more entertaining passages of ancient history. While his father was a great emperor, Commodus soon proved to be one of the worst. Sure enough, the name Commodus once more begins to re-emerge in the titles of Severus. Other victims at this time were the praetorian prefect Julius Julianus, Commodus' cousin Annia Fundania Faustina, and his brother-in-law Mamertinus. Husband of Rupilia Faustina: Levick (2014), p. 163. Most infamous amongst these was the freedman Cleander, who rose to command the Praetorians, the imperial bodyguard. Moreover, as Hercules, he could claim to be the son of Jupiter, the supreme god of the Roman pantheon. To help present his power as legitimate, Severus fabricated the story that he was the descendant of Marcus Aurelius and, therefore, the brother of Commodus. Commodus was born on 31 August AD 161 in Lanuvium, near Rome.He was the son of the reigning emperor, Marcus Aurelius, and Aurelius's first cousin, Faustina the Younger, the youngest daughter of Emperor Antoninus Pius, who had died only a few months before.Commodus had an elder twin brother, Titus Aurelius Fulvus Antoninus, who died in 165. Written by Edward Whelan, Contributing Writer, Classical Wisdom The Roman Emperor Commodus (161-192 AD) is widely regarded as one of the ‘bad emperors’ and a bloody tyrant. It seems likely that he was brought up in an atmosphere of Stoic asceticism, which he rejected entirely upon his accession to sole rule. Commodus was named Caesar at the age of 5, and co-Augustus at the age of 17, spending most of his early life accompanying his father … After the reforms that resulted in a 12-month year, September became the ninth month, but retained its name. Nevertheless, troubles did emerge around the empire that required intervention, first in Dacia (modern Romania, the province captured by Trajan) and later in Britain. Commodus was succeeded by Pertinax, whose reign was short-lived; he would become the first claimant to be usurped during the Year of the Five Emperors. Marcus Aurelius Commodus Antoninus, the son of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius and his wife-cousin Faustina, was born in Lanuvium in 161 AD. Pertinax thus became emperor on January 1st, but he was murdered by a group of soldiers the following March, after less than three months in power. Commodianae. Marcus Aurelius was the first emperor since Vespasian to have a legitimate biological son and, though he himself was the fifth in the line of the so-called Five Good Emperors, each of whom had adopted his successor, it seems to have been his firm intention that Commodus should be his heir. Silver Spoon in Mouth Born on August 31, 161 AD, to Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius and his wife Faustina, Commodus was the apple of his father’s eye. Roman History. Having vomited up the poison that Marcia had slipped him, the conspirators had to send in Narcissus, a powerful young man at the court, to go into the bath where Commodus was reeling from the effects of the poison, and strangle him. Commodus was born on 31 August AD 161 in Lanuvium, near Rome. Cleander made concerted efforts to concentrate power in his own hands, overseeing the sale of public offices and military commands to the highest bidder. 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