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Gladiator Commodus

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Joaquin Phoenix as Commodus
Joaquin Phoenix as Commodus in Gladiator

Roman emperor Commodus, son of the “emperor-philosopher” Marcus Aurelius he was known for his love of blood and games, especially gladiatorial fights. His participation in the clashes – during the reign (180-192 CE) – was very badly received and treated as part of the scandal.

With time, rumors even began to circulate suggesting that Commodus is not the de facto son of Marcus Aurelius, but the “fruit” of the relationship of Empress Faustina and the gladiator-lover she met in the seaside town of Caieta.

Commodus in the arena most often appeared as secutor – a heavily armed type of gladiator, equipped with a large shield (like scutum), a shoulder pad on the right hand, a closed helmet and sword. In the arena, Commodus won all fights, and his rivals gave up asking for mercy. So this type of duels usually didn’t end in death.

Interestingly, Commodus was also supposed to fight wild animals in the arena. Edward Gibbon reports that Commodus killed 100 lions in one day. Another time he was to kill three elephants and a giraffe. There are also reports saying that Commodus hunted down the ostrich in the arena, cut off his head and with that went to the section of the stands, where the senators were sitting. Then, clearly gesturing with the animal’s head, he would suggest that he would do the same with them. However, as Cassius Dio points out, the high-born Romans took the whole situation so absurd that they could barely refrain from laughing, chewing bay leaves.

  • Gibbon Edward, Zmierzch Cesarstwa Rzymskiego, Warszawa 1975
  • Herodian, History of the Empire from the Death of Marcus
  • Historia Augusta
  • Cassius Dio, Roman history

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