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COMMODUS (Lucius Aurelius) ANTONIUS, who on his coins is also called MARCUS, was the son of M. Aurelius and of Faustina junior; and was born at Lanuvium, in Latium, 914 (A. D. 161), the year in which his father entered on his third consulate, and succeeded Antonius in the sovereignty - viz. the day before the calends of September. His mother gave birth at the same time to another son, named Antoninus, and, in reference to the event, Geminus; but that child died at the age of four years. Capitolinus, however, gives it as his opinion, that Commodus was the son, not of Aurelius, but of some gladiator. Whichever of the two may be the correct version, it is certain that Aurelius constantly acknowledged him as his own child; and was much attached to him, frequently carrying him in his arms, and shewing him to the soldiers; and not only endeavoured himself to instil virtuous principles into his mind, but also committed his education to the care of men remarkable for their moral and intellectual qualifications; with how little benefit was shewn throughout the whole of his atrocious career.
In 919 (A. D. 166), Commodus received the title of CAESAR, in conjunction with his brother Aunius Verus, at the request of L. Verus, on the occasion of the triumph celebrated by both emperors, over the Parthians.
925 (A. D. 172). He was styled CERMANICVS.
928 (A. D. 175). Admitted as a priest into all the sacerdotal colleges, he went the same year from Rome into Germania, by order of his father, who there conferred on him the toga virilis, at the time of the revolt of Avidius Cassius, i.e. the 7th of July. On that occasion he was also styled PRINCEPS IVVENTVTIS, and before the customary time nominated consul. Same year, he set out with his father for the East, in order to put an end to the disturbances still resulting from the revolt of Cassius. The title of SARMATICVS, which Aurelius assumed this year, was also shared by Commodus.
929. (A. D. 176). Towards the close of this year, he returned with his father from the East, and received, in conjunction with Aurelius, the title of IMPERATOR, on the 27th of November. The honours of a triumph for victories over the Germani, and Sarmatae, were conferred by a Senatus Consultum upon his father and himself on the 23rd of December. Shortly afterwards he was associated by Aurelius in the Tribunitia Potestas; on which occasion a congiarium was distributed to the people.
930 (A.D. 177). In January of this year, he proceeded Consul; about this time he married Crispina. The same year Aurelius conferred the title of AUGUSTUS and also that of PATER PATRIAE on his unworthy son; and in consequence of victories gained, associated him with himself as IMPERATOR II.
931 (A. D. 178). On the 5th of August, he set out with his father for the war in Germania.
932 (A. D. 179). Commodus was present in the German campaign. A bloody victory was gained over the Marcomanni, the Hermanduri, and the Sarmatae, in consequence of which Aurelius was styled IMP. X. and Commodus IMP. III.
933 (A. D. 180). Marcus Aurelius dying on the 17th March, Commodus succeeded to the sole sovereignty. Leaving the war still unfinished, and concluding a peace with the barbarians, for which, it would appear, he received the victorious title of IMP. IV. he returned to Rome, and celebrated a triumph.
935 (A. D. 182). Nothing of importance is recorded to have taken place, under his reign, during the preceding year. But in the latter part of this year, Commodus was declared IMPERATOR V. by acclamation, according to the tetimony of coins, although in reward of what victory is not known; for historians record several wars, conducted by his lieutenants, without specifying dates.
936 (A. D. 183). Serving the consulate (IV.) with Aufidius Victorianus for his colleague, Commodus was styled IMP. VI. at the close of this year, though it is uncertain for what victory. Tillermont expresses his opinion that it was for one over the Britons. Commodus escaped a dangerous conspiracy set on foot by his sister Lucilla, whom, as well as his wife, he caused to be put to death. This year the agnomen of PIVS is added to his titles.
937 (A. D. 184). The title PONT. MAX. begins. This year the Caledonians having crossed the wall, an important war was waged, with them by the Roman forces in Britain, under the generalship of Ulpius Marcellus, a man of the highest military renown; in consequence of whose victories, Commodus gained first the title of IMP. VII. and afterwards of BRITannicus.
938 (A. D. 185). The soldiers demanded that Perennis, the pretorian prefect, should be given up to execution. Terrified by their threats, Commodus surrendered him to their fury; and they put him to death, with his whole family. After this, Commodus received the title of FELIX.
939 (A. D. 186). In his fifth consulate, Commodus was declared IMPERATOR VIII. by acclamation, but for what victory is doubtful. It is also uncertain what occurrences are to be assigned to the succeeding year.
941 (A. D. 188) On pretence of an expedition to Africa, he levied a vast sum of money. And in April VOTA were entered into for his success. Detained, however, at Rome, by his faithful Senate and People, he applied the cash to feasting and gaming.
942 (A. D. 189). To this year Tillemont assigns another cowardly abandonment of a public functionary to the vengeance of a mutinous soldiery. Cleander, the pretorian prefect, like his predecessor Perennis, was given up by his base emperor at the first summons, and with his whole family was slaughtered.
943 (A. D. 190). In his sixth consulship, M. Petronius Septimianus being his colleague, Commodus named Rome after himself, Colonia Commodiana, adding the prenomina of LUCIA ANTONINIANA.
944 (A. D. 191). In this, or the following year, the magnificent temple of PAX was destroyed by a terrible conflagration.
945 (A. D. 192). In his seventh consulate, Helvius Pertinax being his colleague, on the day before the calends of January, in the dead of night, Commodus perished by a violent death, aged 31 years and 4 months.--Eckhel, vii. 102.
For cuelty and profligacy he is to be classed with the worst of the many bad princes who swayed the affairs of Rome; and by the proficiency he displayed in gladiatorial exercises, he gave a colour to the prevalent rumour of his having owed his birth, not to Marcus Aurelius, but to the criminal intimacy of Faustina with some gladiator. Alike insensible to the influence of good example, and incapable of profiting from the advantages of education, he, soon after the death of his imperial predecessor, developed the whole wickedness of his disposition. He ordained himself to be worshipped as Jupiter and as Hercules, whose attributes be assumed. Abandoning himself to the grossest intemperance, and to the most odious vices, palaces and temples became, under his reign, the scenes of riot, debauchery, and crime. Pestilence, famine, and incendiary conflagrations, visited the widespread dominions of which he was at once the sovereign and the scourge.
That during his reign, the empire maintained its ascendency, in spite of the disaffection of so many provinces--the Mauritanians, the Dacians, the Pannonians, the Britons, and the Germans--is to be attributed solely to the valour and fidelity of his distinguished generals, Pertinax, Severus, Pescennius Niger, and Albinus. His own time was passed at Rome in cowardly inaction; if we except the fact of his there directing his arms not merely against brutes, both wild and tame, but also against human beings, provided they were wealthy, or ever so lightly suspected of designs against himself: nay, he declared war even against the months of the year, to which, instead of the old and received appellations, according to the testimony of Dion, his contamporary, he gave the following:--Amazonius, Invictus, Felix, Pius, Lucius, Aelius, Aurelins, Commodus, Augustus, Herculens, Romanus, Exuperatorius. At length, having signalized his government by deeds of monstrous folly and of unspeakable infamy, of which many of his coins furnish the proof, and after having escaped from repeated attempts upon his life, this execrable tyrant perished at last by a conspiracy of his favourite concubine Marcia. This woman, seeing in the hands of a boy, to whom Commodus was much attached, a tablet which he had taken in play from his sleeping master, and on which she discovered her own name in a list of intended victims, on that very evening, which was the last in the year, first attempted to administer poison to Commodus, and when he offered resistance, called in the aid of a gladiator, by whom he was strangled. Thus Commodus, as he resembled Domitian in his life, met also a similar fate, the cruel designs of both becoming fatal to themselves, by being betrayed unwittingly by a boy. On the report of his death, the Senate and the People with one voice demanded that his corpse should be dragged thro' the streets with a hook, and thrown into the Tiber.-And here, without acquitting Commodus and other bad emperors, whose just doom for their crimes is in the hands of Eternal Justice--it may with truth be said, that it was the corrupt and pusillanimous conduct of the Senate, coupled with the wretched weakness of parents, and the blandishments of base and selfish flatterers, that mainly contributed to ruin them-by making them bad, and keeping them so.
MINTAGES OF COMMODUS.