Why was Commodus murdered


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Lucius Aelius Aurelius Commodus

Origin, youth and career

Lucius Aurelius Commodus was born on August 31, 161 as the son of Emperor Marc Aurel and Annia Galeria Faustina (Faustina the Younger). It got its name after Lucius Verus, who was originally called Lucius Ceionius Commodus. He was the 10th of 14 children and had a twin brother named Titus Aurelius Fulvius Antonius, who died at the age of four. Of all the sons, Commodus was the only one to reach adulthood.

His youth is in the dark for us today and what we know is still obscured by the negative coloring of historians. Due to the obvious contrast to his father, contemporary sources had already rumored that he could be the result of an affair with his mother.

However, Commodus seems to have been designated heir to the throne from the start. At the age of five he was awarded the title of Caesar and by 171 he also took over the title of winner from his father Emperor, Germanicus and Sarmaticus as well as the honorary name Augustus. He also took part in the triumphal procession of Marcus Aurelius in 176. A year later he was finally promoted to co-regent. At the same time he held the consulate for the first time, for which, however, due to his age, he needed a special permit.

When Avidius Cassius rose against Marc Aurel in the eastern provinces, it was his plan to take the young Commodus prisoner in Italy. But the bold plan failed because Cassius was previously murdered.

Both fought successfully on the Danube in 178 and 179. During the preparations for a campaign against the Marcomanni in 180, Marc Aurel died. Commodus had the order to continue the war single-handedly due to the weakness of the enemy, but this - in agreement with his chamberlain Saoterius - hastily made peace with the Marcomanni. The reason given was the excessive demands on the resources available to the empire. Maybe he was right about that.

His contemporaries saw this as a shame, but Commodus had negotiated an apparently favorable peace. The Danube border was secured for the next few decades. However, no emperor was to comply with his father's wish to expand the empire to the north in order to secure the borders.

Since Domitian - 100 years earlier - no one had been proclaimed emperor in hereditary line to the throne. In addition, Commodus was the first heir to the throne who was born while his father was already exercising the imperial office. At the age of 16 he was married to Bruttia Crispina, whose father G. Bruttia Praesens had accompanied Marc Aurel on his campaigns, without any major festivities. About ten years later, this relationship ended tragically, as she was first exiled to Capri and then executed for adultery.

After his return from the border, Commodus began to live out his peculiar characteristics. The first thing he did was change his name to Marcus Aurelius Commodus Antoninus. During the triumphal procession on October 22nd, 180, a certain Saoterius drove with him in his triumphal chariot, for which he was so fond that he even kissed it several times during the journey. Saoterius became his chamberlain and the first of several influential court officials to whom he was only too happy to leave the affairs of state.

Portrait bust
of the Commodus