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Roman Empire

Ruler: Commodus as Caesar
Reigned: Caesar 175-177 AD: Augustus 180-192 AD
Denomination: AR Denarius
Mint: Rome
Date of Issue: 175-176 AD
Obverse: Bare headed, draped bust of Commodus right. "COMMODO CAES. AVG. FIL. GERM. SARM."
Reverse: Spes advancing left, holding flower and lifting skirt. "SPES PVBLICA"
Reference: RCVM 5549, RSC 709, RIC Vol III 622
Weight: 3.2 gms
Diameter: 18 mm

COMMODUS (Lucius Aelius Aurelius Commodus)

  • Commodus was born Lucius Aurelius Commodus at Lanuvium, south-east of Rome, on 31st August 161, son of Emperor Marcus Aurelius and Faustina Jr.
  • In 166, at the age of five, he was given the title Caesar and in 177 made joint ruler, with the title Imperator Caesar Lucius Aurelius Commodus Augustus.
  • Marcus and Commodus fought together on the Danube front in 178 and 179, but the campaign planned for 180 had hardly begun when Marcus died.
  • As emperor, Commodus left much of the running of the Empire to powerful officials.
  • In 182 there was an attempt on his life, instigated by his elder sister Lucilla. Her nephew, Claudius Pompeianus Quintianus, was to lie in wait for Commodus in the entrance to the Colosseum with a dagger concealed in his cloak. But when Commodus drew near, Quintianus rushed from his hiding place brandishing the dagger, but rather than stabbing the emperor at once he wasted time crying, 'See! This is what the senate has sent you!' As he was speaking he was seized by the imperial guard and disarmed. Lucilla and Quintianus were executed.
  • After that, Commodus left government to the commander of his guard, Tigidius Perennis while he himself lived a life of luxery and debauchery.
  • In 185, after a protest from disaffected soldiers from the army of Britain, Perennis fell from power and was executed. In his place the chamberlain Cleander weilded the power.
  • In March 187, a second assassination attempt by an army deserter, Maternus, failed.
  • After a shortage of grain in Rome, in 190, riots ensued and as a result, Commodus had Cleander executed.
  • After this, Commodus showed signs of megalomania, demanding that the Senate deify him as a living god.
  • He took to participating in the gladiatorial games, dressed as Hercules, killing wild animals, although always from the safety of a raised walkway.
  • Worried for their safety a plot was hatched by Eclectus, who had succeeded Cleander as imperial chamberlain, Quintus Aemilius Laetus, commander of the praetorian guard, and Marcia, the emperor's favourite concubine. During the evening of 31st December 193, Marcia secretly gave Commodus poison. He was spending the night at the Vectilian Villa (a school for gladiators near the Colosseum), ready for his appearance the next day. However, he vomited up the poison, so the plotters sent in a young athlete called Narcissus to finish the job by strangulation.

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