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Commodus fought as gladiator

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Joaquin Phoenix as Commodus
Joaquin Phoenix as Commodus

Emperor Commodus – reigning in 180-192 CE – often fought as a gladiator in the arena, armed with an iron sword. His rivals wielded a heavier lead weapon to make it harder for them to hurt the ruler.

The passion for fighting in the arena and the dirty fight of Commodus from the film Gladiator by Ridley Scott is consistent with ancient accounts. The duel of Commodus with the film Gladiator can also be an indirect reference to the duel of the emperor with the gladiator Sceva, who detected the trick of the emperor. After this fact, the scared emperor did not fight but dismissed the powerful gladiator.

According to Edward Gibbon, Commodus also measured wild animals. Once he was to kill 100 lions in the arena one day and another giraffe. Cassius Dio mentions that the emperor was also to take the head of a running ostrich with a special “arrow”. The ruler, after killing the big bird, was to approach the bleeding head with the animal’s head, where the senators sat and gestured, suggesting that they would be next. The Roman author claims that senators responded to this event with more laughter than terror; apparently they even had to chew bay leaves to refrain from laughing. Commodus in the amphitheatre arena was also supposed to knock down an elephant himself.

  • Aurelius Viktor, De Caesaribus
  • Gibbon Edward, Zmierzch Cesarstwa Rzymskiego, Warszawa 1975
  • Herodian, History of the Empire from the Death of Marcus
  • Cassius Dio, Roman history

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