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[[File: Commodus one.jpg|200px|thumb|left| A bust of Commodus]]__NOTOC__
Emperor Commodus (161 -192 AD) is regarded as one of the evilest rulers in Rome’s long and violent history. He has been portrayed in many popular movies and tv series. Joaquin Phoenix even played a fictionalized version of Commodus in the movie <i>Gladiator</i>. Commodus's reign was a complete disaster. His cruelty was legendary and comparable to Nero and Caligula. On a positive note, he did successfully end the Marcomanni Wars. Still, Commodus gross mismanagement
, and madness led to instability and a civil war in the short term and in the longer term, undermined the Imperial system.
The era of the ‘Five Good Emperors’ is often seen as the high point of Rome and Roman civilization. Gibbon claimed that the period of their rule was the happiest period in human existence <ref>Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Hamondsworth, Penguin, 1984), p 17</ref>. The Roman Empire was largely peaceful and well-governed. The provinces had become more urbanized and Romanized and a host of religions and minorities generally lived in peaceful harmony. The economy was generally buoyant and long-distance trade flourished. The frontiers of the Empire were rarely breached by foreign invaders. The German tribes were an occasional threat but the Parthians in the east had been humbled and weakened by Trajan. However, this era was not quite the golden age as depicted by Gibbon. In fact, there was a great deal of poverty, inequality, banditry, and rebellions were not unknown. The Macromannic War, when Marcus Aurelius after many hard battles defeated a powerful confederation of German tribes, was an indication that the Romans were not invincible. Moreover, the so-called Antonine Plague, had decimated the population of the Empire and this demographic disaster was to have long-term consequences for Rome <ref> Gilliam, J. F. "The Plague under Marcus Aurelius". American Journal of Philology 82.3 (July 1961), pp. 225–251 </ref>. However, Commodus was to inherit a realm that was stable and secure after the achievements of his father Marcus Aurelius.
====Life of Commodus====
Comm 3.jpg|200px|thumb|left| The Colosseum in Rome, where Commodus killed animals and gladiators]]
Commodus was born on August 31, 161 AD. His father was Emperor Marcus Aurelius, who was revered by his subjects and who was also a great philosopher. The young Commodus received an excellent education, based on Stoic principles and from an early age accompanied his father on his campaigns in the Marcomanni Wars <ref>Geoff W Adams, Emperor Commodus : gladiator, Hercules or a tyrant? (Boca Raton, Brown Walker Press, 2013), p 17</ref>. In 177 AD he was made the joint ruler of the Empire with his father. In 180 AD Marcus Aurelius died while on campaign beyond the Danube. Commodus became sole and absolute ruler of the Roman world. He immediately paid a donative to the legions. To fund this, he devalued the coinage for the first time since the reign of Nero. Commodus continued the campaign against the German tribes on the Danube but soon entered into negotiations with the enemy. He signed a peace treaty that ended the Macromannic Wars, that had lasted almost 18 years. Commodus returned to Rome and after securing the loyalty of the Senate he held a spectacular Triumph. It soon became apparent that Commodus did not have any interest in ruling and the day-to-day administration and soon he invested a favorite freedman with the management of the Imperial government. Commodus lived a very lavish existence and he provided many mass entertainments and regularly gave the army donatives <ref>Adams, p 119</ref>. Soon there was discontent among the elite concerning his rule and especially his arbitrary tax demands on the senatorial elite, to fund his extravagant spending. In 182 AD a conspiracy organized by Commodus sister was discovered and this led to her, and a number of nobles execution. After this Commodus became increasingly brutal and unpredictable and his mental health deteriorated. However, opposition was growing, and he had his chief minister executed to appease the legions and in 189 AD he allowed another favorite to be torn limb from limb by a mob <ref>Herodian, History of the Roman Empire since the Death of Marcus Aurelius, Book I, Ch. 1</ref>. Later Commodus came under the complete influence of his mistress and her circle. It is widely believed that Commodus became totally deranged. He was obsessed with gladiatorial games and he personally took part in combats, despite it being regarded as scandalous. At first in a private arena, he fought and killed many gladiators, who were only armed with wooden weapons. Commodus later participated in the Games and killed many wild and exotic animals and numerous gladiators. In one inscription Commodus claimed to have killed hundreds of men in the arena <ref> Dio Cassius, Roman History 73.22.3 </ref>. The ruler of Rome and her Empire began to portray himself as the god Heracles and this appears to have been more than propaganda and he appears to have considered himself to be a manifestation of the legendary hero. It is claimed by Roman authors, that he believed that he was the God when he was killing lions with a bow and arrow in the arena, just as the demigod had in the myths. Some believe that his identification with the divinity was a strategy to strengthen his rule and to secure the obedience of the population. No one in the elite and in his own government was safe and Commodus was by 190 AD, completely paranoid<ref> Adams, p 118</ref>. Citizens who refused to attend the Games were personally killed by the Emperor. On December 31, 192, the Prefect of Rome and some members of the Emperor ’s inner circle had him strangled while in a bath by a champion wrestler, Narcissus. The Senate immediately proclaimed Pertinax, the city prefect, who was involved in the assassination of Commodus, the new Emperor <ref>Herodian, chp. 1</ref>. His death marked the end of the Nerva-Antonine dynasty.
==== Ending the Macromannic War====
By 180 AD, the legions had been at war for eighteen years. It seemed that Rome was on the verge of a complete victory and was about to annex the territory of the Marcomanni and their allies the Qadi. Marcus Aurelius hoped that one more campaign season would result in a complete and total victory and the expansion of his Rome into central Europe. His death changed all of this. Soon after his death Commodus ended the war, and this was deplored by many ancient writers, and this was echoed by later historians until recent times. The wars of Marcus Aurelius on the Danube had strained the resources of the provinces and the German tribes during their raids had devastated large parts of the Balkans and even Northern Italy. Many contemporary historians believe that Commodus was correct to end the wars. Rome was exhausted by war and also by the plague. The teenage ruler of much of the known world possibly guided by his father’s advisors ended the conflict. If he had continued the policy of his father and was successful in the wars, it is highly likely that the conquered lands would have only been a drain on the Imperial treasury and would have been impossible to defend <ref>McLynn, Frank, Marcus Aurelius, Warrior, Philosopher, Emperor (Vintage Books, London, 2009), p 279</ref>. Commodus by ending the war, on favorable terms, had probably taken the correct strategic decision. He can be seen as continuing the policy of Augustus which warned against further expansion.