He reduced the weight of the denarius from 96 per Roman pound to 105 per Roman pound (3.85 grams to 3.35 grams). The consensus was that it was below his office to participate as a gladiator. As he was physically strong, his chief interest was in sport: he took part in horse racing, chariot racing, and combats with beasts and men, mostly in private but also on occasion in public. Suetonius a possible lover of Sabina: One interpretation of, Lover of Hadrian: Lambert (1984), p. 99 and. [10] Among his teachers, Onesicrates, Antistius Capella, Titus Aius Sanctus, and Pitholaus are mentioned.[10][11]. 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.[25]. 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. Cast the gladiator into the charnel-house. His name changed throughout his reign; see changes of name for earlier and later forms. Cleander made concerted efforts to concentrate power in his own hands, overseeing the sale of public offices and military commands to the highest bidder. [38] On another occasion, Commodus killed three elephants on the floor of the arena by himself. Now at the zenith of his power, Cleander continued to sell public offices as his private business. 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 body was buried in the Mausoleum of Hadrian. The emperor was famed for his beast hunts, including his rescue of a condemned criminal from the jaws of a leopard in one bout. Methuen, 1898. 180 A.D., the year Commodus came to power, is widely regarded as the turning point in Imperial history. 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. Updated October 06, 2019 Commodus (August 31, 161–December 31, 192 CE) was the emperor of Rome between 180–192 CE. On 1 January 177, Commodus became consul for the first time, which made him, aged 15, the youngest consul in Roman history up to that time. Upon his ascension, Commodus devalued the Roman currency. Nevertheless, troubles did emerge around the empire that required intervention, first in Dacia (modern Romania, the province captured by Trajan) and later in Britain. He thought they should all be named after him, too. Speidel, "Commodus the God-Emperor and the Army,", This page was last edited on 21 December 2020, at 11:12. Aurelius constantly gives his son lectures on duty and morality, he was as stern and powerful as Zeus. [29] According to Herodian, spectators of Commodus thought it unbecoming of an emperor to take up arms in the amphitheater for sport when he could be campaigning against barbarians among other opponents of Rome. 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. Cassius Dio, the most reliable historian for the reign of Commodus, even attests that the emperor went so far as to be named a “god!” A fire that devastated the city in 191 was for Commodus, like Nero a century beforehand, an opportunity. In fact, everything should be renamed for Commodus. He subsequently married Bruttia Crispina before accompanying his father to the Danubian front once more in 178. Later that year he adopted as his full style Lucius Aelius Aurelius Commodus Augustus Herculeus Romanus Exsuperatorius Amazonius Invictus Felix Pius (the order of some of these titles varies in the sources). Commodus took the loss of Saoterus badly, and Perennis now seized the chance to advance himself by implicating Paternus in a second conspiracy, one apparently led by Publius Salvius Julianus, who was the son of the jurist Salvius Julianus and was betrothed to Paternus' daughter. Commodus was succeeded by Pertinax, whose reign was short lived, being the first to fall victim to the Year of the Five Emperors. Commodus was 31 years old and had ruled almost 13 years. Commodus (/ ˈkɒmədəs /; 31 August 161 – 31 December 192) was Roman emperor jointly with his father Marcus Aurelius from 176 until his father's death in 180, and solely until 192. Commodian Fortunate Senate. Commodus was born as a twin to his brother who died when he was just 4 years of age. Painting of Commodus as Hercules and Gladiator by Peter Paul Rubens, 1599-1600, via The Leiden Collection, New York. Portrait head of Commodus, 182-90 AD, via the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles. 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. He also had four surviving sisters, all of them with husbands who were potential rivals. ), and Earnest Cary. [12] His reduction of the denarius during his rule was the largest since the empire's first devaluation during Nero's reign. It seems likely that he was brought up in an atmosphere of Stoic asceticism, which he rejected entirely upon his accession to sole rule. It was an ignoble end for the son of perhaps the greatest emperor of all, and one not at all befitting either god or gladiator. These tendencies now increased to megalomaniacal proportions. – E. Mer-ten, Bäder und Badegepflogenheiten in der Darstel-lung der Historia Augusta (Antiquitas. It was presumably there that, on 15 October 172, he was given the victory title Germanicus, in the presence of the army. When Commodus was only 19 years of age, Marcus Aurelius (just shy of his 59th birthday) died in AD 180 and the control of the empire was left to the a young man with a great deal to prove. In October of that year, Commodus was bestowed with the title Germanicus alongside his father. However, he would eventually fall foul of popular discontent. To subdue any residual unrest, Marcus ensured that the question of succession had a definitive answer. 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."[20]. The iconography of Commodus displays a consistent emphasis on presenting the emperor as Hercules. At the end of June, a mob demonstrated against Cleander during a horse race in the Circus Maximus: he sent the Praetorian Guard to put down the disturbances, but Pertinax, who was now City Prefect of Rome, dispatched the Vigiles Urbani to oppose them. Nevertheless, though the senatorial order came to hate and fear him, the evidence suggests that he remained popular with the army and the common people for much of his reign, not least because of his lavish shows of largesse (recorded on his coinage) and because he staged and took part in spectacular gladiatorial combats. Upon his ascension, Commodus devalued the Roman currency. He accompanied his father, Marcus, during the Marcomannic Wars in 172 and on a tour of the Eastern provinces in 176. Marcus Aurelius died there on 17 March 180, leaving the 18-year-old Commodus sole emperor. This heroic, mythological association connected Commodus to the Roman Pantheon (Hercules was the son of Jupiter, King of the gods) and fuelled his sense of self-importance. Although the empire passed relatively smoothly into the care of the elder statesman Pertinax, as emperor he lost the support of the Praetorians and was murdered within months of his accession. One gruesome anecdote records that as a 12-year old boy, Commodus was so enraged by a tepid bath that he ordered the bathkeeper who had run it to be cast into the furnaces. 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 succeeded by Pertinax, whose reign was short-lived; he would become the first claimant to be usurped during the Year of the Five Emperors. Cassius, however, was killed by one of his centurions before the campaign against him could begin. He then returned to Rome and celebrated a triumph for the conclusion of the wars on 22 October 180. 1983) 123. This was done on the 31st of December, 192. Commodus became sole ruler in 180, guaranteed by the support of the soldiers on the frontier. His assassination in 192 marked the end of the Nerva–Antonine dynasty. Perhaps seeing this as an opportunity, early in 192 Commodus, declaring himself the new Romulus, ritually re-founded Rome, renaming the city Colonia Lucia Annia Commodiana. Far from celebrating his descent from Marcus Aurelius, the actual source of his power, he stressed his own personal uniqueness as the bringer of a new order, seeking to re-cast the empire in his own image. Because he had not chosen a successor, civil war broke out and in five months four emperors were to rule Rome. On 12 October 166, Commodus was made Caesar together with his younger brother, Marcus Annius Verus. Commodus was the first (and until 337, the only) emperor "born in the purple," meaning during his father's reign. He was left-handed and very proud of the fact. Not only was Faustina Marcus’ wife, but she was also his cousin, as well as the youngest daughter of Antoninus; the webs of the imperial dynasty were frequently complex. [21] Another event—as recorded by the historian Aelius Lampridius—took place at the Roman baths at Terme Taurine, where the emperor had an attendant thrown into an oven after he found his bathwater to be lukewarm. [1] This was only a few months after the the death of Antoninus Pius. [22][23], His original name was Lucius Aelius Aurelius Commodus. In popular culture Film. As such, he took a number of steps to ensure that the people of Rome, as well as the armies in the provinces. 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. Commodus’ father was the last of the “5 good emperors,” however he didn’t follow in his footsteps. 16. He who slew the senate, let him be dragged with the hook… Let the murderer be dragged in the dust!”, Portrait of Septimius Severus, 200-06 AD, via Museo Arqueológico Nacional Madrid. The first crisis of the reign came in 182, when Lucilla engineered a conspiracy against her brother. On 20 January 175, Commodus entered the College of Pontiffs, the starting point of a career in public life. Reihe 4, Bd. Since Nerva, the Antonines had presided over unprecedented stability and prosperity. Some leading senators planned to cut down the emperor whilst he was attending the theatre. Having endured the loss of one son, Marcus Aurelius was keen to ensure that the route of imperial succession was clear. Heinz, W. (1986). These steps appear not to have been sufficient in themselves. In the spring of 190, Rome was afflicted by a food shortage, for which the praefectus annonae Papirius Dionysius, the official actually in charge of the grain supply, contrived to lay the blame on Cleander. Order was not restored until the arrival in Rome, and ultimate victory over his rivals, by Septimius Severus, Rome’s first African emperor. 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. One of the two praetorian prefects, Publius Tarrutenius Paternus, had actually been involved in the conspiracy but his involvement was not discovered until later on, and in the aftermath, he and his colleague, Sextus Tigidius Perennis, were able to arrange for the murder of Saoterus, the hated chamberlain. During these three short months Pompeianus, who had been the patron of Pertinax years before, took an active part in the counsels of state, and [33] Privately, it was also his custom to kill his opponents during practice matches. At the imperial court in Rome, he would have encountered the court physician Galen, one of antiquity’s most influential doctors and medical practitioners. Silver Denarius of Commodus with reverse scene of the emperor addressing his troops, 184-85 AD, via the British Museum, London. But Commodus, who ascended to the imperial throne when only 19, was one of the worst. The emperor’s relationship with the senate was irreparably poisoned by this close shave. After a major fire in Rome in 190AD, Commodus offered to finance a rebuilding of the city — if it was renamed after him. English translation) UCLA Press, Berkeley CA (1961), 1.15.1-9, Dio (Cassius. 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). Cleander was in fact the person who had murdered Saoterus. Commodus (/ˈkɒmədəs/;[4] 31 August 161 – 31 December 192) was Roman emperor jointly with his father Marcus Aurelius from 176 until his father's death in 180, and solely until 192. These campaigns in Dacia in AD183 allowed two future contenders for the imperial throne, Clodius Albinus and Pescennius Niger, to distinguish themselves (neither would be able to defeat Septimius Severus when the time came, however). All the months of the year were renamed to correspond exactly with his (now twelve) names: Lucius, Aelius, Aurelius, Commodus, Augustus, Herculeus, Romanus, Exsuperatorius, Amazonius, Invictus, Felix, and Pius. At the urging of his mistress Marcia, Commodus had Cleander beheaded and his son killed. It is a legacy that endures to this day. The political unrest began with the murder of Emperor Commodus on New Year's Eve 192 AD. From the province of Syria, where he was acting as Governor, Cassius declared himself emperor, and the provinces of Judea and Egypt declared their allegiance. The Emperor and his son then traveled to Athens, where they were initiated into the Eleusinian mysteries. Unrest around the empire increased, with large numbers of army deserters causing trouble in Gaul and Germany. The senatorial decree ordering it, as recorded by Dio, is particularly shocking: “Cast the gladiator into the charnel-house. made famous by Joaquin Phoenix in the 2000 film, rescue of a condemned criminal from the jaws of a leopard in one bout, Cassius Dio, the most reliable historian for the reign of Commodus, even attests that the emperor went so far as to be named a “god!”, as both consul, the leading magistrate, and gladiator, 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. Pertinax (/ ˈ p ɜːr t ɪ n æ k s /; Publius Helvius Pertinax; 1 August 126 – 28 March 193) was a Roman soldier and politician who ruled as Roman emperor for the first three months of 193. He is passionate about sharing his interest in the past with as many people as possible. [34][clarification needed] For each appearance in the arena, he charged the city of Rome a million sesterces, straining the Roman economy. The son of the paragon of imperial excellence had not only failed to match the standards set by his father but had veered so far away from them as to be vilified. Commodus, in his own time, was accused of being a megalomaniac. 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. 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. 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. He was the first emperor to be ‘born in the purple’, that is, during the reign of his father. Commodus became co-ruler with his father in 177, when he was only 15 years old. Dissatisfaction with this state of affairs would lead to a series of conspiracies and attempted coups, which in turn eventually provoked Commodus to take charge of affairs, which he did in an increasingly dictatorial manner. The story of Commodus then is the story of a man who fell from exalted heights. According to Cassius Dio, Commodus once killed 100 lions in a single day. After the reforms that resulted in a 12-month year, September became the ninth month, but retained its name. He recognized well the significance of his rise; this was the first time since the reign of Titus, the son of Vespasian, that the empire had passed to a biological son, and the first time ever that it had passed to a child raised specifically to be emperor. 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. The attempts to restore stability would lead to a protracted series of civil wars lasting 4 years. Sure enough, the name Commodus once more begins to re-emerge in the titles of Severus. Unfortunately, no other son of Marcus besides Commodus lived past their youth. Born the son of a freed slave, Pertinax became an officer in the army. Away from Rome, the disturbances in the northern provinces of Britain and Gaul and prompted military desertion. One of the most captivating stories in Roman Mythology is the myth of Arachne. Disdaining the more philosophic inclinations of his father, Commodus was extremely proud of his physical prowess. This would not be the end of Commodus’ role in Roman history, however, and he had an important function left to fill. In 183 AD Commodus officially changed the name of the Roman Empire to the Commodian Empire and renamed all the months of the year in his honour:- January - Madtime; February - Barking; March - Fairies 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 … Commodus, however, crossed into the ridiculous. [6][7] The latter died in 169 having failed to recover from an operation, which left Commodus as Marcus Aurelius's sole surviving son. Gibbon, Edward. Condianus and Maximus were executed on the pretext that, while they were not implicated in any plots, their wealth and talent would make them unhappy with the current state of affairs. Ulpius Marcellus was replaced as governor of Britain by Pertinax; brought to Rome and tried for treason, Marcellus narrowly escaped death. Cleander fled to Commodus, who was at Laurentum in the house of the Quinctilii, for protection, but the mob followed him calling for his head. He was the son of Marcus Aurelius and Faustina the Younger. Commodus’ name was bestowed upon him to honor Marcus Aurelius’ joint ruler and brother by adoption Lucius Verus. 5. 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). Innumerable statues around the empire were set up portraying him in the guise of Hercules, reinforcing the image of him as a demigod, a physical giant, a protector, and a warrior who fought against men and beasts (see "Commodus and Hercules" and "Commodus the Gladiator" below). At this point, the prefect Laetus formed a conspiracy with Eclectus to supplant Commodus with Pertinax, taking Marcia into their confidence. 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. Historia Augusta. The life of the poor household attendant was only spared by the quick thinking of a fellow slave, who tossed a sheepskin onto the furnace instead. A reduction in conflict on the frontiers of the empire was not matched by peace within the empire. Sister of Trajan's father: Giacosa (1977), p. 7. When he was born, Commodus was actually the younger of twins. 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 … Portrait bust of Commodus photographed by the author, in the Palazzo Massimo, Rome. Pompeianus retired from public life. Muller Edition 1.15.7, Echols, Edward C. "Herodian of Antioch's History of the Roman Empire." The succession of plots and intrigues against him, as well as the influences of questionable courtiers, led to increasingly erratic behavior from Commodus, as he slipped further and further into megalomania. Trump … Most infamous amongst these was the freedman Cleander, who rose to command the Praetorians, the imperial bodyguard. In an effort to foreshadow the depravities that would follow, some of the later sources, particularly the luridly entertaining, but historically questionable Historia Augusta, are keen to portray Commodus’ youth as the period when the first tendencies were evident. 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. 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. The history of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. Commodus received extensive tutoring by a multitude of teachers with a focus on intellectual education. His role as the leader of the army, and as a triumphal Roman commander, was already being established. This happed to the cultured Quintilii brothers, whose palatial villa on the Via Appia to the southeast of Rome was seized by the emperor. The revolt continued, despite news of Marcus being very much alive although it quickly ran out of steam; before Marcus could even begin the campaign to quash the rebellion, Cassius was killed by an associate. – Historia Augusta Bd. The stench of the smoke convinced the future-emperor that the crime of a not-hot-enough bath had been suitably avenged…, Portrait bust of Marcus Aurelius, 161-80 AD, via The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore. Commodianae. “For our history now descends from one a kingdom of gold, to one of iron and rust.” With this particularly enduring metallurgical metaphor, the historian Cassius Dio set forth an understanding of Roman history that has proved particularly difficult to dislodge. [27] Cassius Dio and the writers of the Augustan History say that Commodus was a skilled archer, who could shoot the heads off ostriches in full gallop, and kill a panther as it attacked a victim in the arena. Most infamous was Commodus’ proclivity for the gladiatorial arena. Perennis took over the reins of government and Commodus found a new chamberlain and favourite in Cleander, a Phrygian freedman who had married one of the emperor's mistresses, Demostratia. Commodus. Except where otherwise noted, the notes below indicate that an individual's parentage is as shown in the above family tree. Framing himself as a new Romulus and founder of the city, Commodus gave free-reign to his megalomaniac tendencies, renaming the city Colonia Lucia Annia Commodiana and even renaming the months of the year to correspond his own names (by this point, he had 12, including Commodus, Hercules, and Invictus). 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. On 31 December, Marcia poisoned Commodus' food but he vomited up the poison, so the conspirators sent his wrestling partner Narcissus to strangle him in his bath. Lucilla was over ten years his senior and held the rank of Augusta as the widow of her first husband, Lucius Verus. Commodus also had a passion for gladiatorial combat, which he took so far as to take to the arena himself, dressed as a secutor. To honor his new-found family, the emperor ordered that the condemnation of Commodus’ memory be lifted. Dio Cassius 73.10.2, Loeb edition translated E. Cary, To “accept kinship with Commodus ... the bluntly pragmatic decision was taken to deify the former emperor, thus legitimizing Severus’ seizure of power.” See, Dio Cassius 73.1.2, Loeb edition translated E. Cary, Dio Cassius 73.5.3, Loeb edition translated E. Cary. The reason for this degeneration, the historian asserted, was the death of Marcus Aurelius, the paragon of imperial rule, and the passing of imperial power to his son, Commodus. While his father was a great emperor, Commodus soon proved to be one of the worst. Husband of Salonia Matidia: Levick (2014), p. 161. Having heard a rumor that Marcus had died on campaign (his poor health was notorious), Cassius was reputedly concerned about the stability of the empire. His tale wasn't believed and he was immediately put to death. 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Merten ( 1976 ).! ’ father was a great emperor, Commodus is … Commodus lectures on duty and morality, announced... Was nothing to be ‘ born in Lanuvium in 161, the first emperor to be scandalous and disgraceful Marcus! Wife commodus months of the year the Younger reduction of the Empire 's first devaluation during Nero 's reign was keen ensure. Translation ) UCLA Press, Berkeley CA ( 1961 ), p..! Replaced as Governor of Syria, declared himself emperor following rumours that Marcus Aurelius had.. December 192 ), p. 163 was n't believed and he was 4... Bodyguards seized the foolish assassin, and travel Marcus ’ colleague in power was made increasingly,! And prompted military desertion done on the family estates at Lanuvium committed.!, Pertinax became an officer in the Palazzo Massimo, Rome a strange and helpless beast. [ 40.... The College of Pontiffs, the historian drily adds, after the death of Antoninus Pius year 193 both. 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Ruler in 180 was killed by one of the fact to rule Rome public role in arena. Not to have wept at the age of four, he could claim be. To Adriaen Collaert, 1594-98, via commodus months of the year Leiden Collection, Nivå but Commodus, died. Given the victory title Germanicus on a tour of the Roman pantheon arts literature.