Admin moved page What was the impact of Commodus on Rome? to What was the impact of Commodus on Rome
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Emperor Commodus (161 -192 AD) was one of the most despicable 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.
The ‘Five Good Emperors’ era is often seen as Rome and Roman civilization's high point. Gibbon claimed that the period of their rule was the happiest 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. Foreign invaders rarely breached the frontiers of the Empire.
The German tribes were an occasional
treat, 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. There was a great deal of poverty, inequality, banditry, and rebellions that 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 stable and secure realm after the achievements of his father, Marcus Aurelius.
==How did Commodus become Emperor?==
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200px| thumb|left|Bust of Marcus Aurelius]]Commodus was born on August 31, 161 AD. His father was Emperor Marcus Aurelius, who was revered by his subjects and 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 the 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, which had lasted almost 18 years.
Commodus returned to Rome, and after securing the Senate's loyalty, he held a spectacular Triumph. It soon became apparent that Commodus did not have any interest in ruling and the day-to-day administration. 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>
The ruler of Rome began to portray himself as the demi-god Heracles. This was more than just propaganda; he appeared to believe that he was 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 divinity was a strategy to strengthen his rule and secure the population's obedience.
No one in the elite and his government
was safe. By 190, Commodus was completely paranoid. The Emperor personally killed citizens who refused to attend the Games. <ref>Adams, p 118. </ref> On December 31, 192, the Prefect of Rome and some members of the Emperor’s inner circle had him strangled while he was bathing with the champion wrestler, Narcissus. The Senate immediately proclaimed Pertinax, the city prefect, one of Commodus's assassins, the new Emperor. <ref>Herodian, CHP. 1</ref> His death marked the end of the Nerva-Antonine dynasty.
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 Marcomanni and their allies' territory, the Qadi. Marcus Aurelius hoped that one more campaign season would result in a complete and total victory and expand Rome into central Europe. His death changed all of this. Soon after his death, Commodus ended the war, and many ancient writers regretted this, and later historians echoed this until recent times.
If he had continued his father's policy 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.
==How did Commodus centralize power when he was the Emperor?==
In 193 AD, five different men held the title of Emperor. The Praetorian Guard assassinated Petrinax when he tried to reform the Imperial Bodyguard. His successor bought the Imperial throne before Septimius Severus overthrew him. <ref> Historia Augusta, Life of Petrinax, 8 2</ref> Severus fought two bitter civil wars to secure his claim to the throne. Commodus's disastrous reign led to the most protracted period of instability in the Imperial lands since 66 AD. However, Septimius Severus proved that he was an able leader and stabilized the chaotic Empire a year after Commodus's assassination. The reign of the man who was obsessed with the Games and gladiators was one that ended the political stability that Rome had enjoyed for almost a century. <ref>Speidel, p 110</ref>
a Bad Emperor?==
Marcus Aurelius was arguably one of the most respected Roman rulers and one of its greatest philosophers. His son, Commodus, was completely unsuited by temperament and character to be the sole ruler of an extensive state. He revolted against his father's influence and Stoic education and acted contrary to what had been expected of him. He also became increasingly mentally unstable sometime during his reign. Commodus is arguably one of the worst emperors in its history.