Emperor Marcus Aurelius tells Maximus that his own son, Commodusis unfit to rule, and that he wishes Maximus to succeed him, as regent, to help save Rome from corruption. Commodus, upon hearing this, murders his father.
In order to perpetuate his image as a living god to the Roman people, Commodus not only began to attire himself in the same manner as the mythical hero lions skins and carrying a clubbut he used the arena to show his physical prowess, therefore proving his direct association with the god.
Commodus became Hercules for all intents and purposes, not only in identification with the great heroic icon, but as the symbolic protector of Rome and the empire. This identification was not just a symptom of his megalomania, but was certainly a key factor resulting in his eventual assassination as Commodus continued to challenge and disrupt Roman institutions and traditions.
Whether Commodus simply delighted in the rush of a cheering crowd, enjoyed the thrill of individual combat, aspired to become Hercules on earth or some combination thereof, we can never be completely sure. Whatever his motivation, it is quite clear that the emperor was a regular participant in the arena against both man and beast.
According to the ancient sources at various times Commodus killed one hundred bears, two elephants, five hippopotami and a giraffe among many others. Commodus also faced real gladiators in combat, challenging men of several styles. In this Herodian wrote, "In his gladiatorial combats, he defeated his opponents with ease, and he did no more than wound them, since they all submitted to him, but only because they knew he was the emperor, not because he was truly a gladiator.
The Historia Augusta reports that Commodus engaged in gladiatorial bouts seven hundred and thirty-five times, but Dio suggests far more: His era may have had the potential to develop into the prosperous age that Commodus so desperately wanted to be associated with. The Germanics along the Danube frontier, thanks in large part to those wars of Marcus Aurelius, were mostly peaceful.
The east was stable and quiet and only the isolated province of Britannia had shown serious signs of unrest, which was brutally suppressed by Ulpius Marcellus. Regardless it was not these matters that his contemporary biographers focused on. Though Dio provides more detail than implied, he wrote simply, "I should render my narrative very tedious were I to give a detailed report of all the persons put to death by Commodus, of all those whom he made away with as the result of false accusations or unjustified suspicions or because of their conspicuous wealth, distinguished family, unusual learning, or some other point of excellence.
He also provides this telling story that illustrates the position of the aristocracy. This fear was shared by all, by us senators as well as by the rest.
And here is another thing that he did to us senators which gave us every reason to look for our death. Having killed an ostrich and cut off his head, he came up to where we were sitting, holding the head in his left hand and in his right hand raising aloft his bloody sword; and though he spoke not a word, yet he wagged his head with a grin, indicating that he would treat us in the same way.
And many would indeed have perished by the sword on the spot, for laughing at him for it was laughter rather than indignation that overcame usif I had not chewed some laurel leaves, which I got from my garland, myself, and persuaded the others who were sitting near me to do the same, so that in the steady movement of our armies we might conceal the fact that we were laughing.
Not only did proscription and taxation of the wealthiest citizens of Rome create distinct animosity, but Commodus view of himself as Hercules went beyond symbolism and took on the form of complete megalomania. He claimed to be a new founder of the city, renaming Rome in his own honor: Colonia Lucia Annia Commodiana.
The months were renamed to match his imperial name and titles. From January through December, the twelve months became Lucius, Aelius, Aurelius, Commodus the first four from his nameAugustus, Herculeus, Romanus, Exsuperatorius excellent or above all othersAmazonius an indication of his physical and combat prowessInvictus undefeatableFelix fortunate and Pius.
Nothing was beyond the boundaries of refinement and tradition, so long as Commodus could continue to illustrate his own glory. The grain fleet from Africa was named Alexandria Commodiana Togata and the legions referred to as Commodianae.
As if proscription and taxation was not enough the Senate was renamed the Fortunate Senate of Commodus, certainly as a reflection of the great honor it must have been to serve him.
Even the people of Rome were not left untouched and were called Commodianus rather than Romanus. In addition to several other such measures, Commodus had his era named as the Golden Age and this, according to Dio, was to be recorded in all official documentation.
Not surprisingly, Commodus was the target of several assassination attempts. However, since he enjoyed the relative popularity of the people and the loyalty of the legions and the praetorians, each was met successive failure.
It was not until members of Commodus own inner circle seemingly began to feel threatened that the emperor was in any serious danger. Commodus was able to resist this subtle attempt on his life and instead the conspirators recruited an athlete, Narcissus, to take matters literally into his own hands.
On December 31 ADNarcissus strangled the 31 year old Commodus in his bath thus bringing an end to the rule of the Antonines and closing a definitive chapter in Roman history. A secret passage was recently uncovered under the Roman Coliseum, elaborately decorated with mosaics and plaster carvings, that was built to let Emperor Commodus run away from angry mobs.Gladiator: Maximus is asked by the dying Emperor to take control of Rome and give it back to the people, in spite of the ambition of his son Commodus.
For the next 15% of the story, your hero will react to the new situation that resulted from the opportunity. What are some interesting facts about Commodus? Update Cancel.
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Jun 14, · While watching Gladiator last week I got curious about Joaquin Phoenix’s sneering portrayal of Emperor Lucius Aurelius Commodus ( – AD). 5 Things Gladiator Got Wrong About Emperor Commodus. June 14, In the movie, Commodus takes to the sand to face off with Maximus, but not before stabbing him in the back to .
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