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Some leading senators planned to cut down the emperor whilst he was attending the theatre.  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. In 172 AD, during the Marcomannic War, Commodus was given the victory title Germanicus. The emperor Marcus Aurelius died in March AD 180, in the city of Vindobona (modern Vienna) as he was overseeing the Romans’ ongoing campaigns on the Danubian frontier. Pompeianus retired from public life. Contemporary Roman writer Cassius Dio describes the young heir as “rather simple-minded,” but he ruled agreeably with his father and joined Marcus Aurelius in the Marcomannic Wars against the Germanic tribes along the Danube, which the emperor had been waging for several year… Trump … 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. 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 renamed Rome “Commodiana” and called the Roman people “Commodiani.” And he changed the names of every month into variations on his own name. According to Dio Cassius, Perennis, though ruthless and ambitious, was not personally corrupt and generally administered the state well.. 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 His victories were often welcomed by his bested opponents, as bearing scars dealt by the hand of an Emperor was considered a mark of fortitude. Like a classic movie villain, the assassin spoiled his element of surprise by monologuing (he reputedly shouted to the emperor: “See! – Historia Augusta Bd. 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. 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. 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. 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. Pollice Verso by Jean-Léon Gérôme, 1872, via Phoenix Art Museum; with Bust of Commodus as Hercules, 180-93 AD, via Musei Capitolini, Rome.  On his father's death in 180, Commodus changed this to Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Commodus, before changing back to his birth name in 191.. 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). In 1964's The Fall of the Roman Empire, Commodus is … 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 iconography of Commodus displays a consistent emphasis on presenting the emperor as Hercules. Commodus’ bodyguards seized the foolish assassin, and the plot was foiled. In the spring of 175, one of the emperor’s most trusted generals, Avidius Cassius, rebelled. 1983) 123. 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. The political unrest began with the murder of Emperor Commodus on New Year's Eve 192 AD. Ulpius Marcellus was replaced as governor of Britain by Pertinax; brought to Rome and tried for treason, Marcellus narrowly escaped death. He is passionate about sharing his interest in the past with as many people as possible. Order was not restored until the arrival in Rome, and ultimate victory over his rivals, by Septimius Severus, Rome’s first African emperor. After repeated attempts on Commodus' life, Roman citizens were often killed for making him angry. The Year of the Five Emperors was 193 AD, in which five men claimed the title of Roman emperor: Pertinax, Didius Julianus, Pescennius Niger, Clodius Albinus, and Septimius Severus.This year started a period of civil war when multiple rulers vied for the chance to become caesar.. These tendencies now increased to megalomaniacal proportions. Unfortunately, no other son of Marcus besides Commodus lived past their youth. Portrait head of Commodus, 182-90 AD, via the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles. By late 192, he was finishing up another performance in the arena, this time for the Plebian Games, in which he massacred scores of wild animals and fought as a gladiator. 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. Commodus’ father was the last of the “5 good emperors,” however he didn’t follow in his footsteps.  On 27 November 176, Marcus Aurelius granted Commodus the rank of Imperator and, in the middle of 177, the title Augustus, giving his son the same status as his own and formally sharing power. 5. Commodus, however, crossed into the ridiculous. He also ruled as co-emperor with his father Marcus Aurelius from 177 until his father's death in 180. Silver Denarius featuring obverse portrait of Marcus Aurelius and reverse portrait of young Commodus, 175 AD, via Museu de Prehistòria de València. Having no living brothers, as his twin died at the age of four, he was brought up to be Emperor. "Exsuperatorius" (the supreme) was a title given to Jupiter, and "Amazonius" identified him again with Hercules. 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. 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. C 1, 9. Engraving showing Commodus killing a leopard in the arena, attributed to Adriaen Collaert, 1594-98, via Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. Commodus became sole ruler in 180, guaranteed by the support of the soldiers on the frontier. He reduced the weight of the denarius from 96 per Roman pound to 105 per Roman pound (3.85 grams to 3.35 grams). It was presumably there that, on 15 October 172, he was given the victory title Germanicus, in the presence of the army. Roman History: Epitome of Book LXXIII pp 111. Commodus also had a passion for gladiatorial combat, which he took so far as to take to the arena himself, dressed as a secutor. , He was looked after by his father's physician, Galen, who treated many of Commodus' common illnesses. Commodus remained with the Danube armies for only a short time before negotiating a peace treaty with the Danubian tribes. In 187, one of the leaders of the deserters, Maternus, came from Gaul intending to assassinate Commodus at the Festival of the Great Goddess in March, but he was betrayed and executed. 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. Italics indicates a junior co-emperor, while underlining indicates a usurper. The emperor’s relationship with the senate was irreparably poisoned by this close shave. 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. Commodus was succeeded by Pertinax, whose reign was short lived, being the first to fall victim to the Year of the Five Emperors.  Finally, Commodus killed a giraffe, which was considered to be a strange and helpless beast.. The title suggests that Commodus was present at his father's victory over the Marcomanni. However, the following year, a detachment of soldiers from Britain (they had been drafted to Italy to suppress brigands) also denounced Perennis to the emperor as plotting to make his own son emperor (they had been enabled to do so by Cleander, who was seeking to dispose of his rival), and Commodus gave them permission to execute him as well as his wife and sons. 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. Silver Denarius featuring obverse portrait of Marcus Aurelius and reverse portrait of young Commodus, 175 AD, via Museu de Prehistòria de València . Unlike the preceding Emperors Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius, he seems to have had little interest in the business of administration and tended throughout his reign to leave the practical running of the state to a succession of favourites, beginning with Saoterus, a freedman from Nicomedia who had become his chamberlain. 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. Civic unrest spilled over into violence at a chariot race at the Circus Maximus and Cleander was forced to flee to Commodus, who was staying at Lanuvium. Commodus’ name was bestowed upon him to honor Marcus Aurelius’ joint ruler and brother by adoption Lucius Verus. Roman History. 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. These steps appear not to have been sufficient in themselves. His role as the leader of the army, and as a triumphal Roman commander, was already being established. Quadratus and Quintianus were executed. Now at the zenith of his power, Cleander continued to sell public offices as his private business.  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. The next emperor, Didius Julianus, lasted 66 days. The Acropolis of Athens is without a doubt the most popular attraction of the Greek capital. However, he would eventually fall foul of popular discontent. Commodus was the first (and until 337, the only) emperor "born in the purple," meaning during his father's reign. The senatorial decree ordering it, as recorded by Dio, is particularly shocking: “Cast the gladiator into the charnel-house. Leading men in the Empire were viewed with suspicion and often removed from the picture, regardless of their loyalty or not. Commodus’ public role in the administration of the empire as Marcus’ colleague in power was made increasingly visible, including on coinage. Unfortunately, tragedy struck the imperial household in 165 when Titus, his elder brother, died, leaving Commodus as Marcus’ only son, and his heir. Sister of Trajan's father: Giacosa (1977), p. 7. Except where otherwise noted, the notes below indicate that an individual's parentage is as shown in the above family tree. Her motive is alleged to have been envy of the Empress Crispina. Cleander was in fact the person who had murdered Saoterus. Commodus, in his own time, was accused of being a megalomaniac. Commodus (A.D. 180-192) Dennis Quinn. 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. Commodus became co-ruler with his father in 177, when he was only 15 years old. His name changed throughout his reign; see changes of name for earlier and later forms. Perhaps it’s not surprising … The emperor fell well short of the standards of behavior set by his father. This is what the Senate sends you!” whilst brandishing a dagger). He also reduced the silver purity from 79 percent to 76 percent – the silver weight dropping from 2.57 grams to 2.34 grams. At the urging of his mistress Marcia, Commodus had Cleander beheaded and his son killed. Commodus was murdered on New Year’s Eve of 192. The future emperor was born not in Rome, but in Lanuvium, much like Antoninus Pius, another exalted imperial predecessor against whom history would judge him. 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. 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. 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. Born the son of a freed slave, Pertinax became an officer in the army. 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. He ruled as junior co-e… There would be five emperors in A.D. 193, the year after the assassination of Commodus. The consensus was that it was below his office to participate as a gladiator. Wife of M. Annius Verus: Giacosa (1977), p. 10. This came to a head as a group of disaffected soldiers gathered around the charismatic rogue Maternus, who led a plot to assassinate Commodus. A reduction in conflict on the frontiers of the empire was not matched by peace within the empire. His tale wasn't believed and he was immediately put to death. At this point, the prefect Laetus formed a conspiracy with Eclectus to supplant Commodus with Pertinax, taking Marcia into their confidence. As the son of emperor Marcus Aurelius, Commodus was the first Roman emperor to have been "born in the purple," and thus dynastically selected to be his successor. 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. 13 Most Important Greek Philosophers Before Socrates (Presocratics), 12 Facts You Did Not Know About The Acropolis of Athens, Cubist Art For Dummies: A Beginner’s Guide, The Cathars: Persecuting Heretical Christians In The 13th Century, Op Art Defined in 7 Mind-Blowing Illusions, 11 Facts About The Great Wall of China You Don’t Know, The Influence Of Illustration On Modern Art, 15 Facts About Filippo Lippi: The Quattrocento Painter from Italy. Commodianae. Muller Edition 1.15.7, Echols, Edward C. "Herodian of Antioch's History of the Roman Empire."  The latter died in 169 having failed to recover from an operation, which left Commodus as Marcus Aurelius's sole surviving son.  On another occasion, Commodus killed three elephants on the floor of the arena by himself. 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 story of Commodus then is the story of a man who fell from exalted heights. Commodus was born on 31 August AD 161, as Commodus, in Lanuvium, near Rome.  Among his teachers, Onesicrates, Antistius Capella, Titus Aius Sanctus, and Pitholaus are mentioned.. (These ailments returned, the historian drily adds, after the death of Pertinax.) The Emperor and his son then traveled to Athens, where they were initiated into the Eleusinian mysteries. Salvius and Paternus were executed along with a number of other prominent consulars and senators. 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. Despite his notoriety, and considering the importance of his reign, Commodus' years in power are not well chronicled. He also reduced the silver purity from 79 percent to 76 percent – the silver weight dropping from 2.57 grams to 2.34 grams. 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). In the same year, Pertinax unmasked a conspiracy by two enemies of Cleander – Antistius Burrus (one of Commodus' brothers-in-law) and Arrius Antoninus. Although his father is celebrated as the paradigm of imperial rule, it cannot be refuted that he oversaw a reign ravaged by war. He renamed Rome Colonia Commodiana, the “Colony of Commodus”, and renamed the months of the year after titles held in his honour, namely, Lucius, Aelius, Aurelius, Commodus, Augustus, Herculeus, Romanus, Exsuperatorius, Amazonius, Invictus, Felix, and Pius. 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. Herodian's Roman History F.L. One such notable event was the attempted extermination of the house of the Quinctilii. Commodus had an elder twin brother, Titus Aurelius Fulvus Antoninus, who died in 165. 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. Other victims at this time were the praetorian prefect Julius Julianus, Commodus' cousin Annia Fundania Faustina, and his brother-in-law Mamertinus. This was acting as the emperor’s headquarters during the Marcomannic War, as the emperor fought against incursions made by a series of Germanic tribes. He accompanied his father, Marcus, during the Marcomannic Wars in 172 and on a tour of the Eastern provinces in 176. Cassius, however, was killed by one of his centurions before the campaign against him could begin. As a result, Commodus appeared even more rarely in public, preferring to live on his estates. According to Cassius Dio, Commodus once killed 100 lions in a single day. 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 who slew the senate, let him be dragged with the hook… Let the murderer be dragged in the dust! His son, for all his other faults, had no desire for conflict. Marcus Aurelius Commodus Antoninus, the son of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius and his wife-cousin Faustina, was born in Lanuvium in 161 AD. After those attempts on his life, Commodus spent much of his time outside Rome, mostly on the family estates at Lanuvium. After the reforms that resulted in a 12-month year, September became the ninth month, but retained its name. As such, he took a number of steps to ensure that the people of Rome, as well as the armies in the provinces. Julia Balbilla a possible lover of Sabina: A. R. Birley (1997). They then returned to Rome in the autumn of 176.  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. Although it was ultimately unsuccessful, this tale of derring-do against the villainy of the depraved emperor makes for one of the more entertaining passages of ancient history. Marcus is reported to have wept at the news of his friend’s death. The Roman Emperors (1985) p. 99. 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. 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. 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. The attempts to restore stability would lead to a protracted series of civil wars lasting 4 years. Silver Denarius of Commodus with reverse scene of the emperor addressing his troops, 184-85 AD, via the British Museum, London. He then returned to Rome and celebrated a triumph for the conclusion of the wars on 22 October 180. The emperor was famed for his beast hunts, including his rescue of a condemned criminal from the jaws of a leopard in one bout. In private, this was nothing to be mocked or criticized. Upon his ascension, Commodus devalued the Roman currency. Commodus the old man had kept to his estates for reasons of age and health. Gibbon, Edward. In opposition to the Senate, in his pronouncements and iconography, Commodus had always stressed his unique status as a source of god-like power, liberality, and physical prowess. 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. 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.. Lucilla was over ten years his senior and held the rank of Augusta as the widow of her first husband, Lucius Verus. Commodus was one fo 14 siblings and the reason he made it to the throne, was because he was the only one to survive. 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. 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. Didius Julianus, the future emperor and a relative of Salvius Julianus, was dismissed from the governorship of Germania Inferior. 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). Lucius Aurelius Commodus and his twin brother Titus Aurelius Fulvus Antoninus were born on the 31st of August in the Roman year 914, nowadays better known as 161 AD. Historia Augusta. Commodus immediately began to treat with the Marcomanni in order to bring the decade's long wars of his father to a close. 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.  As mentioned above, he ordered many statues to be made showing him dressed as Hercules with a lion's hide and a club. Wife of M. Annius Libo: Levick (2014), p. 163. September (from Latin septem, "seven") or mensis September was originally the seventh of ten months on the ancient Roman calendar that began with March (mensis Martius, "Mars' month"). As early as 182, his eldest sister Lucilla (holding the title of Augusta as the widow of Lucius Verus) attempted to orchestrate a revolt against the emperor, which involved some leading senators. But Commodus, who ascended to the imperial throne when only 19, was one of the worst. Commodus is known to have been at Carnuntum, the headquarters of Marcus Aurelius during the Marcomannic Wars, in 172. Suetonius a possible lover of Sabina: One interpretation of, Lover of Hadrian: Lambert (1984), p. 99 and. He was only a mere 19 years old when he took the throne. 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. 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. Commodus subsequently accompanied his father on a lengthy trip to the Eastern provinces, during which he visited Antioch. What was considered wrong, was when this spilled into public. 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