Ceionius Commodus was born Lucius Ceionius Commodus on January 13, 101 CE. He was the adopted son of the Roman Emperor Hadrian. Commodus was elevated by Hadrian to the dignity of Caesar as Lucius Aelius Verus Caesar and was predicted to be heir to the throne. However, he died a few months before him.
Young Lucius Ceionius Commodus came from gens Ceionia. His father, also Lucius Ceionius Commodus, was a consul for 106 CE. His paternal grandfather was in turn a consul for 78 CE. Generally, Commodus’s ancestors from his paternal side came from Etruria and often held the consulate. His mother’s name was Plautia Foundation.
Before 130 CE, Lucius married Avidia Plautia, a well-to-do Roman noblewoman who was the daughter of Senator Gaius Avidius Nigrinus. Avidia gave birth to four children to Commodus:
- Lucius Ceylon Commodus the Younger – future Lucius Verus, co-ruler together with Marcus Aurelius from 161 to 169 CE Verus married Lucilla, Aurelius’ second daughter.
- Gaius Avidius Ceionius Commodus – known from the inscription found in Rome.
- Ceionia Fabia
- Ceionia Plautia
On the way to the throne
For a long time Hadrian envisioned a certain Lucius Julius Ursus Serwianus (CE 45-136) as heir to the throne Roman. He was a gifted politician with Spanish roots. During the reign of Trajan, Serwianus served twice as consul and developed very friendly contacts with the senator Pliny the Younger. Hadrian, after assuming the imperial office, considered him for a long time as the rightful heir. However, as he approached the end of his reign, he gradually departed from this idea. Even though Serwianus seemed capable and suitable for the position, he had one drawback – he was nearly 90.
The emperor’s eyesight was caught by his grandson – 18-year-old Gnaeus Pedanius Fuscus Salinator II. Hadrian promoted the young Salinator, to whom he gave special status at his court, and prepared for his successor. Servianus was delighted with the vision of his grandson assuming the future Roman throne.
However, in 136 CE Hadrian almost died of disease, which was manifested by severe haemorrhages, swelling and pain. He was in such pain that he wanted to commit suicide. He was even supposed to ask for poison or a dagger. Sick and recovering in his villa in Tivoli, he changed his mind about the succession. He appointed Lucius Ceionius Commodus as his successor, whom he had adopted earlier. The choice was made on the basis of invitis omnibus (“against the opinion of others”). Naturally, Servianus and his grandson were extremely dissatisfied with the ruler’s decision and planned to distract Hadrian from this decision. In fact, to this day it is difficult to clearly define what caused the sudden change of Hadrian’s decision. It is likely that Salinator was on the verge of carrying out a coup d’état in which Serwianus himself was supposed to dip his fingers. In order to counteract the conspirators and avoid problems with Commodus assuming the throne, the emperor ordered Servianus and Salinator to commit suicide honourably.
Although Lucius had virtually no military experience, he assumed the office of senator and made numerous political contacts. As a result of his adoption, Commodus was given the name Lucius Aelius Caesar. It seemed that Hadrian had secured Rome with proper succession to the throne. As it turned out, Commodus was in very poor health.
After being stationed at the Danube border for a year, Commodus returned to Rome to deliver a speech at the first session of the Senate in 138 CE. However, the night before his speech, Lucius suddenly felt sick and died of a haemorrhage. It was January 13.
On January 24, 138 CE Hadrian appointed Aurelius Antoninus as his successor, the future emperor of Antonius Pius, whom he adopted on February 25 this year.