Mimicking Gods and Gladiators: The Assassination Of Emperor Commodus – Ancient Origins
Commodus, the son and heir of the distinguished ‘ philosopher emperor’ Marcus Aurelius , was a failure as a Roman emperor. He was appointed co-emperor of Rome and ruled alongside his father when he was just 16 years old and became the sole emperor after the death of his father in 180 AD. Then followed years of brutal misrule which precipitated civil strife that ended 84 years of the Roman empire’s stability and prosperity and led to several assassination attempts on his life. His eventual execution came from an unexpected source.
Marcus Aurelius Distributing Bread to the People by Joseph-Marie Vien (1765) Musée de Picardie ( Public Domain)
Arrogant Young Emperor
At the age of 16 years, Commodus became the consul in 177 AD, making him the youngest consul in Roman history. He married Bruttia Crispina, before accompanying his father to the Danube front in 178 AD. Emperor Marcus Aurelius died at the front two years later in 180 AD, leaving the 18-year-old Commodus as the sole emperor.
Commodus had a solid start to his solo reign. By the time he had assumed power, Rome was already a thriving empire which had enjoyed the leadership of the ‘ Five Good Emperors’ for 84 years. Commodus also inherited many of his father’s senior advisers, such as his sister Lucilla’s second husband Tiberius