Top 10 Breathtaking Facts about Commodus

Some Roman emperors tried to bring peace and prosperity to the Empire, while others tried to destroy it. Emperor Commodus belonged to the category of Worst Roman Emperors who were on the side of destroying the Empire due to their inhuman nature.

Like, Emperors Caligula, Nero, Domitian, and Elagabalus, he too was infamous amongst the Romans for the cruelty he had spread all over. Historians describe Commodus as criminal, cruel, capricious, careless, and sensual. 

Commodus was full of hideous and mysterious things. Here is the list of the top 10 most cruel yet interesting facts about Roman Emperor Commodus. 

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

Family Tree of Emperor Commodus
Family tree of Emperor Commodus

Commodus was born as “Lucius Aelius Aurelius Commodus” in the ancient city of Lanuvium, near Rome. He was born to Marcus Aurelius and Faustina the Younger on 31 August 161 A.D.

Commodus had an elder twin brother named Titus Aurelius Fulvus Antoninus, who died at 4 in 165 A.D. 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, but Verus died after 3 years in 169 A.D. 

Commodus remained the only surviving son and sole heir of Marcus. Marcus had always wanted Commodus to be heir out of all of his children.

As Commodus was born in an Imperial family, he enjoyed aristocratic education. He 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 in January 175 A.D. It began his career in public life. 

9. Commodus became the Augustus at the age of 15

Commodus as a youth
Commodus as a youth

Marcus Aurelius was among the five good emperors, including Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, and Antonius Pius. He was the only emperor who had a legitimate biological son.

Marcus had a firm intention to make Commodus his successor as he was the only son “born in the purple,” meaning born during his father’s reign.

Commodus received a rank of “Imperator” from his father, Marcus, on 27 November 176. 

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

In the middle of 177 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 obsessed with 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 Roman gladiators. 

Commodus would organize the great bloodthirsty game in a gladiatorial arena. He would strip naked and walk into the arena in front of all the spectators. 

He had a severe personality disorder, and he would bash the physically disabled people before the roaring crowd of Roman citizens. In addition to that, he would watch gladiators kill each other for amusement. 

If any gladiator stopped killing his opponent, Commodus would stop the fight and force him to kill the other. The fight would not finish until one of the gladiators was dead in the arena.

The gladiators were asked to come to his palace to practice the fight. However, no one was able to beat Commodus. Anyone fighting opposite him had to surrender or get beaten by Commodus despite being stronger of fit than him. 

7. Commodus 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 a luxurious 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. This led to a large sum of money spent on Commodus’ entertainment and decreased the nation’s funds.

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.  

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.

The devaluation of currency and misuse of the nation’s treasury ignited the downfall of the Roman Empire economically. It led to the beginning of the fall of the Roman Empire.

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. 

Lucilla, the elder sister, was the widow of former Roman Emperor Lucius Verus. Lucius died during the Antonine Plague in 169 A.D. Though Empress Bruttia Crispina, wife of Commodus, was still alive, Lucilla had held the title of Augusta (empress). It showed that she was jealous of Commodus’ wife. 

Lucilla plotted a conspiracy against her brother Commodus and his wife, Bruttia. She wanted to take over the Roman Empire and rule alone as an Emperor. 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 Perennis and Cleander in charge look after the state issues and perform most tasks that were supposed to be done by the Emperor.

He was busy at the arena, performing with gladiators or watching them perform. The other place he would go was the brothel where 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, he 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 women to his palace by force. He exploited women for his sexual lust, but he didn’t stop there. 

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.

Rumour was also among people that Commodus had his sister joined his harem and named one of his concubines as his mother.

4. Commodus was the cruelest Roman Emperor

A bust of younger Commodus
A bust of younger Commodus

Commodus was a son born during his father’s reign and was privileged with 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. His inhuman acts kept growing with time, along with the cruelty level.

The most gruesome act was when he put his slave in the oven to die for giving him cold water to bathe. He also opened a fat man’s belly with scalpels to see what was inside the stomach.

He asked his teachers to stand near him and guide him along the way. Any teacher not cooperative was made the person to be experimented on.

3. Commodus considered himself Heracles, the son of Zeus

Statue of Commodus as Hercules
Statue of Commodus as Hercules

Commodus wanted to show off his uniqueness and power, even though he lacked talents. He considered himself the living god, Heracles, as he had power from his childhood.

He began fighting against men and beasts, thinking that he would never die or be hurt. He ordered his soldiers to erect statues all around the Empire, depicting him as Heracles.

Imitating Heracles, he started walking around with a cloak made of a lion’s head and forced everyone to call him Heracles, the son of Zeus. 

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 and the people “Commodianus.” Then, he named Rome’s city “Colonia Lucia Annia.”

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

He renamed all months of the year to refer to his name. For instance, August was renamed “Commodus,” and September as “Heracles.

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 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 he didn’t listen to her this time. For rejecting his idea to be the absolute ruler in Roman Empire, he tried to kill her instead. 

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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