Commodus as Hercules
|Commodus (31 August 161 – 31 December 192), born Lucius Aurelius Commodus was Roman Emperor from AD 180 to 192. He also ruled as co-emperor with his father Marcus Aurelius from 177 until his father's death in 180.|
Holding a huge club to beat his enemies with, the Roman emperor Commodus wears a lion skin in a marble portrait bust made in the second century AD, which is one of the treasures of Rome’s Capitoline Museum. The portrait literally equates the strength of Hercules with the power of the emperor. When the son of the respected Marcus Aurelius took control of the Roman empire in AD161 and embarked on a career of bizarre, erratic behavior and monstrous cruelty. As well as executing his enemies and perceived enemies, he liked to fight in the arena, killing gladiators with his own hands in a spectacle that Romans found shameful.
|His accession marked the descent "from a kingdom of gold to one of iron and rust" – a famous comment which has led some historians to take Commodus' reign as the beginning of the decline of the Roman Empire.|
He would go on to claim to be the son of Jupiter, the representative of the supreme god of the Roman pantheon. He began to view himself in megalomaniacal proportions.
|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 of his bouts easily as his opponents always submitted. For each appearance in the arena, he charged the city of Rome a million sesterces, a vast sum that strained the Roman economy. He announced his intention to inaugurate the year 193 as both consul and gladiator.|
His foes had had enough. They poisoned his food but he vomited up the poison; so the conspirators sent his wrestling partner Narcissus to strangle him in his bath in 192. Upon his death, the Senate declared him a public enemy. (a de facto damnatio memoriae)