Top 10 Breathtaking Facts about Commodus

Some Roman emperors tried to bring peace and prosperity to the Empire, while others tried to destroy it. What can you expect from a person who gets a throne at an indecisive age? 

No wonder it’ll end up with nothing good, that’s for sure. It’s a second-century Roman emperor, Emperor Commodus, who undertakes such claims. 

Commodus was one of the absolute worst Roman emperors. He was among the infamous emperors such as Caligula, Nero, Domitian, and Elagabalus. Historians describe Commodus as criminal, cruel, capricious, careless, and sensual. 

Commodus was full of hideous and mysterious things. Let’s dig into Commodus’ life and bring out some more interesting details about Commodus. 

10. Commodus was the tenth of fourteen children and the only son to survive

Family tree of Commodus
Family tree of Commodus

Commodus was born as “Lucius Aelius Aurelius Commodus” in the ancient city of Lanuvium, near Rom. It was 31 August 161 A.D when Commodus was born. 

Commodus was the son and heir of the reigning emperor, Marcus Aurelius. His mother was Faustina the Younger, the first cousin of his father, Marcus. 

Commodus had an elder twin brother named Titus Aurelius Fulvus Antoninus, who died in 165 A.D. at the age of 4. He also had a younger brother named Marcus Annius Verus. 

On 12 October 166, Commodus and his younger brother, Annius Verus, received the post of Caesar together. Later, Verus died in 169 A.D. 

Then, Commodus remained the only surviving son and sole heir of Marcus. Marcus also intended Commodus to be his heir. 

As Commodus was born in an Imperial family, he enjoyed aristocratic education. He also received the proper care from his father’s physician, Galen. Galen would look after Commodus’ health and treat many common diseases. 

With Marcus’ victory over the Marcomannic Wars, Marcus hosted a celebration. There, Commodus received the victory title “Germanicus” in the army’s presence. 

Then, Commodus entered the college of Pontiffs on January 175 A.D. It began his career in public life. 

9. Commodus became the emperor at the age of 15

Commodus as a youth
Commodus as a youth

Marcus Aurelius was among the so-called five good emperors, including Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, and Antonius Pius. These five emperors except Marcus had to adopt the successors. 

Also, Marcus was the only emperor who had a legitimate biological son. Earlier, Emperor Vespasian had two sons, Titus and Domitian. But they were born before Vespasian came into power. 

Anyway, Marcus had a firm intention to make Commodus his successor. It was because Commodus was the only son “born in the purple,” meaning the child’s birth during a father’s reign. 

Later, Marcus granted Commodus a rank of “Imperator” on 27 November 176 A.D. 

In December of the same year, Commodus received tribunal power. It made Commodus the console for the first time on 1 January 277. Commodus was only 15 at that time and became the youngest console in Roman history up to that time. 

In the middle of 277 A.D., Commodus received the title of “Augustus,” the equal status of his father, Marcus. Then, Commodus married Bruttia Crispina. 

When his father, Marcus, died on 17 March 180, Commodus became the sole emperor in Rome at 18. 

8. Commodus was brutally obsessed with a gladiator

A portrait of Commodus leaving the Arena of Gladiator
A portrait of Commodus leaving the Arena of Gladiator

One of the reasons Commodus had grown brutal and inhuman was his obsession with a gladiator

Commodus would organize the great bloodthirsty game in a gladiatorial arena. There he would strip naked himself and walk into the arena. 

Commodus had a severe personality disorder. He would bash physically disabled people before the roaring crowd of Roman citizens. 

Commodus was brutally fond of playing gladiator, and he’s not a normal gladiator. He was inhuman who loved watching gladiators killing each other for amusement. 

Commodus would stop the fighting gladiator who tried to spare the opponent’s life. Then, he forced him to kill another. The gladiators had to fight until one would die; otherwise, they would never be free. Murder was nothing but a pastime for Commodus.

Commodus would also force gladiators to come to his palace and practice with him. His invitation was the sign of death for gladiators. While fighting with Commodus, nobody dared to beat him. 

Whenever he won, he showed no mercy on gladiators. Those who were lucky enough to return home found themselves with missing noses, limbs, and other body parts. 

7. Commodus almost bankrupted Rome

Aureus of the Roman Emperor - Commodus
Aureus of the Roman Emperor – Commodus

Development and peace were nothing for Commodus. He just wanted to live the luxurious and lavish life inside the palace. 

Commodus would spend the Empire’s money on the things he was fond of. Whenever Commodus appeared in a gladiatorial arena, he charged the state a million sesterces. Because of this, a large sum of money was spent on Commodus’ entertainment.

Commodus’ piece of entertainment wasn’t the sole reason the Roman Empire fell economically. He had devalued the Roman currency, sparking off a chain reaction. It also contributed to Rome’s collapse. 

Commodus had interfered with the Roman coinage lowering the amount of gold and silver. After this, the Roman coin became lighter and less valuable. 

Devaluing the Roman currency was not a new concept. Before Commodus, Emperor Nero had already done it. But the level of devaluing the currency was much worse during Commodus’ reign.

6. Commodus had executed his sister for conspiring against him

Lucilla, sister of Commodus
Lucilla, sister of Commodus

Commodus was the only surviving son, but he had four sisters who were already married. Their husbands were always eager to interfere in running the Roman Empire and have the power in hand. 

One of his sisters was Lucilla, who was elder by ten years to Commodus. She was the widow of former Roman Emperor Lucius Verus, who died during the Antonine Plague in 169 A.D. 

Though Empress Bruttia Crispina was still alive, Lucilla had held the title of Augusta (empress). It showed that she was jealous of Commodus’ wife. 

To control the power, Lucilla plotted a conspiracy against her brother Commodus. For this, she took help from her presumed lovers named Quadratus and Quintianus. 

The lovers couldn’t complete the mission, and conspiracy was exposed. They were arrested and executed. The conspiracy master, Lucilla, was exiled to the island of Capri and killed later on.

5. Commodus had 300 concubines for his extramarital affair

Nature of Commodus
Nature of Commodus

Commodus was one of the most corrupted and irresponsible Roman emperors. He never completed any duty as the emperor. 

Commodus had kept a man named Perennis in charge to do his activities instead. After Perennis, Cleander was there to serve Commodus. 

He also had not a good relationship with his senators as he threatened to kill them frequently. 

By all this, Roman Empire was experiencing a difficult situation. 

When Commodus wasn’t in the gladiatorial arena, he was found in his brothel. He had summed up 300 concubines in a harem built by his soldiers. Among the 300, Marcia was Commodus’ favorite mistress. 

Roman Polygyny was normal practice at a time so, Commodus never remained loyal to his wife. 

He would send his soldiers to round up the most beautiful women. Also, he ordered his soldiers to drag the women to his palace by force. He exploited women for his sexual lust, but he didn’t stop there. 

Then, Commodus brought a young boy to his palace and his family. He ordered that young boy to sleep with him naked. Also, he forced the boy to accept the name “The Boy Who Loves Commodus” legally. It was among one of Commodus’ weird fixations. 

Rumour was also among people that Commodus had his sister joined his harem. Also, he had given one of his concubines his mother’s name. 

4. Commodus never awarded his allies

A bust of younger Commodus
A bust of younger Commodus

As Commodus was only a son born during his father’s reign, he was crazy having the power since his childhood. Such immense power in the indecisive age drove Commodus, a little sociopath. 

Whoever would make fun of preteen Commodus, he threw them to feed wild animals. 

Once, a slave made Commodus’ bath cold, and he put him in the oven to die. His inhuman acts increased even further when he started his experiment on living people. 

Once Commodus cut open a fat man’s belly with scalpels to see what was inside. He asked his teachers to stand by while Commodus was experimenting and even asked them to assist him. Whoever rejected Commodus became part of his experiment.

Commodus never awarded his allies, who had worked for him a lot. Cleander, after Perennis, was a man who served him every way possible doing all of Commodus’ duty to the state. But Commodus never rewarded Cleander for his service but threw him to death instead. 

When the Empire suffered a food shortage, people became angry. The person in charge of grain named Papirius Dionysius blamed it on Perennis to save his life. 

Then, the mob became angry and ran to kill Cleander. Cleander hid in Commodus palace. When Commodus’ favorite mistress Marcia requested Commodus to withdraw Cleander to the mob, he readily did it. He didn’t think of the years of Cleander’s service to him even once. 

3. Commodus considered himself Heracles, the son of Zeus

Statue of Commodus as Hercules
Statue of Commodus as Hercules

Overwhelmed by absolute power, Commodus had committed several assassinations, including his family member. 

Once, he had assassinated the Qunctilii family, which was wealthy. Roman people demanded this wealthy family to rule over the country. 

Commodus always wanted to show off his uniqueness and power, even though Commodus lacked talents. But after the 190s, he grew insane and went completely off the rails. 

Commodus considered himself as a living god, Heracles. He liked Heracles as Heracles had fought against men and beasts. 

He ordered his soldiers to erect all around the Empire, depicting him as Heracles. Commodus’ madness went off the track when Commodus started imitating Heracles.

Commodus started walking around with a cloak made of a lion’s head. He wore that cloak to look like Heracles. Also, he would force everyone to call him Heracles, the son of Zeus

Commodus also wanted people to know himself as the son of Jupiter, the supreme god of all Roman gods.

2. Commodus also renamed the months of the year after himself

The month September named after Commodus
The month September named after Commodus

Commodus’ ego was unmatchable that tried to re-establish everything in the Roman Empire. He started renaming things all across the Empire. It was just a way of enforcing people to praise even though they weren’t happy about it. 

First, Commodus re-founded Rome and officially named it Commodiana. Then, he named Rome’s city “Colonia Lucia Annia.” Commodus also ordered all Romans to be called “Commodianus.” 

Through this all, legions turned to be Commodianae. The fleet which brought the grains from Africa was renamed “Alexandria Commoduiana Togata.”

It’s not enough, yet, so Commodus renamed all months of the year to refer to his name. August was renamed “Commodus,” and September as “Heracles. Commodus changed the other ten months based on his other nicknames. 

1. A wrestler assassinated Commodus

assassination of Commodus
assassination of Commodus

Commodus’ madness was uncontrollable as he declared himself the new Romulus. He even planned to kill all senators and to rule the Empire from the inside the gladiator’s barrack. 

When Marcia knew it, she tried to stop Commodus. Commodus treated Marcia as his wife and took the advice, but this time, he didn’t listen to her. For rejecting his idea to be the absolute ruler in Roman Empire, he tried to kill her instead. 

Later, Marcia survived somehow with the help of Commodus sex slave. Conspiracy against Commodus had already started. Marcia also joined the group that wanted Commodus to be dead. 

The revolting group poisoned Commodus’ food on 31 December 192, but he vomited the poison up. After the first attempt, a wrestler named Narcissus went to kill Commodus. 

When Commodus was cleaning off the vomit in the bath, Narcissus strangled him to death. This way, the evil emperor met his cruel end. 

One of the traits is that evil Roman emperors died earlier before old age. Caracalla and Commodus share the similar fact that they died at the age of 31. 

Also, the nature of their death was similar; both were killed through which they were fond of. Caracalla was assassinated by one of his soldiers. Likewise, Commodus was murdered by one of the gladiators.

Conclusion

No matter how much power the man has meets his end one day based on his deeds. It’s interesting to note that the worst Roman emperors died before natural death. 

I found the reigning practice adopted by Commodus and his brutality much startling. Let us know which details you found most exciting or hunting in this piece. Just click on the comment below. 

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