Commodus (/ˈkɒmədəs/;[1] 31 August 161 – 31 December 192), born Lucius Aurelius Commodus[2] and died Lucius Aelius Aurelius Commodus, was Roman emperor with his father Marcus Aurelius from 177 to his father's death in 180, and solely until 192.

During his father's reign, he accompanied Marcus Aurelius during the Marcomannic Wars in 172 and on a tour of the Eastern provinces in 176. He was made the youngest consul in Roman history in 177 and later that year elevated to co-emperor with his father. His accession was the first time a son had succeeded his biological father since Titus succeeded Vespasian in 79. He was also the first emperor to have both a father and grandfather (who had adopted his father) as the two preceding emperors. Commodus was the first (and until 337, the only) emperor "born in the purple", i.e. during his father's reign.

During his solo reign, the Empire enjoyed a period of reduced military conflict compared with the reign of Marcus Aurelius, but intrigues and conspiracies abounded, leading Commodus to an increasingly dictatorial style of leadership that culminated in a God-like personality cult. His assassination in 192 marked the end of the Nerva–Antonine dynasty. He was succeeded by Pertinax, the first emperor in the tumultuous Year of the Five Emperors.

Commodus Musei Capitolini MC1120
Emperor of the Roman Empire
Reign177 – 31 December 192
PredecessorMarcus Aurelius
Co-emperorMarcus Aurelius (177 – 17 March 180)
Born31 August 161
Lanuvium, near Rome
Died31 December 192 (aged 31)
Full name
Lucius Aurelius Commodus
(from birth to 166);
Regnal name
Caesar Lucius Aurelius Commodus (166 to 176);
Imperator Caesar Lucius Aurelius Commodus Augustus (177 to 180);
Imperator Caesar Lucius Aurelius Commodus Antoninus Augustus (180);
Imperator Caesar Marcus Aurelius Commodus Antoninus Augustus (180 to 191);
Imperator Caesar Lucius Aelius Aurelius Commodus Augustus (191 to death)
FatherMarcus Aurelius

Early life and rise to power (161–180)

Early life

Bust of Commodus 180-192 AD
A bust of Commodus as a youth (Roman-Germanic Museum, Cologne).

Commodus was born on 31 August AD 161 in Lanuvium, near Rome.[3] He was the son of the reigning emperor, Marcus Aurelius, and Aurelius's first cousin, Faustina the Younger, the youngest daughter of Emperor Antoninus Pius, who had died only a few months before. Commodus had an elder twin brother, Titus Aurelius Fulvus Antoninus, who died in 165. On 12 October 166, Commodus was made Caesar together with his younger brother, Marcus Annius Verus.[4][5] The latter died in 169 having failed to recover from an operation, which left Commodus as Marcus Aurelius's sole surviving son.[5]

He was looked after by his father's physician, Galen,[6][7] who treated many of Commodus' common illnesses. Commodus received extensive tutoring by a multitude of teachers with a focus on intellectual education.[8] Among his teachers, Onesicrates, Antistius Capella, Titus Aius Sanctus, and Pitholaus are mentioned.[8][9]

Commodus is known to have been at Carnuntum, the headquarters of Marcus Aurelius during the Marcomannic Wars, in 172. It was presumably there that, on 15 October 172, he was given the victory title Germanicus, in the presence of the army. The title suggests that Commodus was present at his father's victory over the Marcomanni. On 20 January 175, Commodus entered the College of Pontiffs, the starting point of a career in public life.

In April 175, Avidius Cassius, Governor of Syria, declared himself Emperor following rumours that Marcus Aurelius had died. Having been accepted as Emperor by Syria, Judea and Egypt, Cassius carried on his rebellion even after it had become obvious that Marcus was still alive. During the preparations for the campaign against Cassius, Commodus assumed his toga virilis on the Danubian front on 7 July 175, thus formally entering adulthood. Cassius, however, was killed by one of his centurions before the campaign against him could begin.

Commodus subsequently accompanied his father on a lengthy trip to the Eastern provinces, during which he visited Antioch. The Emperor and his son then traveled to Athens, where they were initiated into the Eleusinian mysteries. They then returned to Rome in the autumn of 176.

Joint rule with father (177)

L'Image et le Pouvoir - Tête de Crispine 01
Head of Bruttia Crispina

Marcus Aurelius was the first emperor since Vespasian to have a legitimate biological son and, though he himself was the fifth in the line of the so-called Five Good Emperors, each of whom had adopted his successor, it seems to have been his firm intention that Commodus should be his heir. On 27 November 176, Marcus Aurelius granted Commodus the rank of Imperator and, in the middle of 177, the title Augustus, giving his son the same status as his own and formally sharing power.

On 23 December of the same year, the two Augusti celebrated a joint triumph, and Commodus was given tribunician power. On 1 January 177, Commodus became consul for the first time, which made him, aged 15, the youngest consul in Roman history up to that time. He subsequently married Bruttia Crispina before accompanying his father to the Danubian front once more in 178, where Marcus Aurelius died on 17 March 180, leaving the 18-year-old Commodus sole emperor.

Solo reign (180–192)

Upon his ascension, Commodus devalued the Roman currency. He reduced the weight of the denarius from 96 per Roman pound to 105 per Roman pound (3.85 grams to 3.35 grams). He also reduced the silver purity from 79 percent to 76 percent – the silver weight dropping from 2.57 grams to 2.34 grams. In 186 he further reduced the purity and silver weight to 74 percent and 2.22 grams respectively, being 108 to the Roman pound.[10] His reduction of the denarius during his rule was the largest since the empire's first devaluation during Nero's reign.

Whereas the reign of Marcus Aurelius had been marked by almost continuous warfare, that of Commodus was comparatively peaceful in the military sense but was marked by political strife and the increasingly arbitrary and capricious behaviour of the emperor himself. In the view of Dio Cassius, a contemporary observer of the period, his accession marked the descent "from a kingdom of gold to one of iron and rust".[11]

Despite his notoriety, and considering the importance of his reign, Commodus' years in power are not well chronicled. The principal surviving literary sources are Herodian, Dio Cassius (a contemporary and sometimes first-hand observer, but for this reign, only transmitted in fragments and abbreviations), and the Historia Augusta (untrustworthy for its character as a work of literature rather than history, with elements of fiction embedded within its biographies; in the case of Commodus, it may well be embroidering upon what the author found in reasonably good contemporary sources).

Commodus denier verso ag1
A denarius featuring Commodus

Commodus remained with the Danube armies for only a short time before negotiating a peace treaty with the Danubian tribes. He then returned to Rome and celebrated a triumph for the conclusion of the wars on 22 October 180. Unlike the preceding Emperors Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius, he seems to have had little interest in the business of administration and tended throughout his reign to leave the practical running of the state to a succession of favourites, beginning with Saoterus, a freedman from Nicomedia who had become his chamberlain.

Dissatisfaction with this state of affairs would lead to a series of conspiracies and attempted coups, which in turn eventually provoked Commodus to take charge of affairs, which he did in an increasingly dictatorial manner. Nevertheless, though the senatorial order came to hate and fear him, the evidence suggests that he remained popular with the army and the common people for much of his reign, not least because of his lavish shows of largesse (recorded on his coinage) and because he staged and took part in spectacular gladiatorial combats.

One of the ways he paid for his donatives (imperial handouts) and mass entertainments was to tax the senatorial order, and on many inscriptions, the traditional order of the two nominal powers of the state, the Senate and People (Senatus Populusque Romanus) is provocatively reversed (Populus Senatusque...).

Conspiracies of 182

Commodus, Hermitage Museum
Commodus with attributes of Helios, Apollo and Jupiter, late 2nd century AD, sardonyx cameo relief, Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg.

At the outset of his reign, Commodus, aged 18, inherited many of his father's senior advisers, notably Tiberius Claudius Pompeianus (the second husband of Commodus' eldest sister Lucilla), his father-in-law Gaius Bruttius Praesens, Titus Fundanius Vitrasius Pollio, and Aufidius Victorinus, who was Prefect of the City of Rome. He also had four surviving sisters, all of them with husbands who were potential rivals. Lucilla was over ten years his senior and held the rank of Augusta as the widow of her first husband, Lucius Verus.

The first crisis of the reign came in 182, when Lucilla engineered a conspiracy against her brother. Her motive is alleged to have been envy of the Empress Crispina. Her husband, Pompeianus, was not involved, but two men alleged to have been her lovers, Marcus Ummidius Quadratus Annianus (the consul of 167, who was also her first cousin) and Appius Claudius Quintianus, attempted to murder Commodus as he entered a theater. They bungled the job and were seized by the emperor's bodyguard.

Quadratus and Quintianus were executed. Lucilla was exiled to Capri and later killed. Pompeianus retired from public life. One of the two praetorian prefects, Tarrutenius Paternus, had actually been involved in the conspiracy but his involvement was not discovered until later on, and in the aftermath, he and his colleague, Sextus Tigidius Perennis, were able to arrange for the murder of Saoterus, the hated chamberlain.

Commodus took the loss of Saoterus badly, and Perennis now seized the chance to advance himself by implicating Paternus in a second conspiracy, one apparently led by Publius Salvius Julianus, who was the son of the jurist Salvius Julianus and was betrothed to Paternus' daughter. Salvius and Paternus were executed along with a number of other prominent consulars and senators. Didius Julianus, the future emperor and a relative of Salvius Julianus, was dismissed from the governorship of Germania Inferior.


Perennis took over the reins of government and Commodus found a new chamberlain and favourite in Cleander, a Phrygian freedman who had married one of the emperor's mistresses, Demostratia. Cleander was in fact the person who had murdered Saoterus. After those attempts on his life, Commodus spent much of his time outside Rome, mostly on the family estates at Lanuvium. Being physically strong, his chief interest was in sport: taking part in horse racing, chariot racing, and combats with beasts and men, mostly in private but also on occasion in public.

Dacia and Britain

Commodus, Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna - 20100226
A bust of Commodus (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna). According to Herodian[12] he was well proportioned and attractive, with naturally blond and curly hair.[13]

Commodus was inaugurated in 183 as consul with Aufidius Victorinus for a colleague and assumed the title Pius. War broke out in Dacia: few details are available, but it appears two future contenders for the throne, Clodius Albinus and Pescennius Niger, both distinguished themselves in the campaign. Also, in Britain in 184, the governor Ulpius Marcellus re-advanced the Roman frontier northward to the Antonine Wall, but the legionaries revolted against his harsh discipline and acclaimed another legate, Priscus, as emperor.[14]

Priscus refused to accept their acclamations, and Perennis had all the legionary legates in Britain cashiered. On 15 October 184 at the Capitoline Games, a Cynic philosopher publicly denounced Perennis before Commodus. His tale wasn't believed and he was immediately put to death. According to Dio Cassius, Perennis, though ruthless and ambitious, was not personally corrupt and generally administered the state well.[14]

However, the following year, a detachment of soldiers from Britain (they had been drafted to Italy to suppress brigands) also denounced Perennis to the emperor as plotting to make his own son emperor (they had been enabled to do so by Cleander, who was seeking to dispose of his rival), and Commodus gave them permission to execute him as well as his wife and sons. The fall of Perennis brought a new spate of executions: Aufidius Victorinus committed suicide. Ulpius Marcellus was replaced as governor of Britain by Pertinax; brought to Rome and tried for treason, Marcellus narrowly escaped death.

Cleander's zenith and fall (185–190)

1699 - Archaeological Museum, Athens - A youth, possibly Commodus - Photo by Giovanni Dall'Orto, Nov 11 2009
Remnants of a Roman bust of a youth with a blond beard, perhaps depicting emperor Commodus, National Archaeological Museum, Athens

Cleander proceeded to concentrate power in his own hands and to enrich himself by becoming responsible for all public offices: he sold and bestowed entry to the Senate, army commands, governorships and, increasingly, even the suffect consulships to the highest bidder. Unrest around the empire increased, with large numbers of army deserters causing trouble in Gaul and Germany. Pescennius Niger mopped up the deserters in Gaul in a military campaign, and a revolt in Brittany was put down by two legions brought over from Britain.

In 187, one of the leaders of the deserters, Maternus, came from Gaul intending to assassinate Commodus at the Festival of the Great Goddess in March, but he was betrayed and executed. In the same year, Pertinax unmasked a conspiracy by two enemies of Cleander – Antistius Burrus (one of Commodus' brothers-in-law) and Arrius Antoninus. As a result, Commodus appeared even more rarely in public, preferring to live on his estates.

Early in 188, Cleander disposed of the current praetorian prefect, Atilius Aebutianus, and himself took over supreme command of the Praetorians at the new rank of a pugione ("dagger-bearer") with two praetorian prefects subordinate to him. Now at the zenith of his power, Cleander continued to sell public offices as his private business. The climax came in the year 190, which had 25 suffect consuls – a record in the 1,000-year history of the Roman consulship—all appointed by Cleander (they included the future Emperor Septimius Severus).

In the spring of 190, Rome was afflicted by a food shortage, for which the praefectus annonae Papirius Dionysius, the official actually in charge of the grain supply, contrived to lay the blame on Cleander. At the end of June, a mob demonstrated against Cleander during a horse race in the Circus Maximus: he sent the praetorian guard to put down the disturbances, but Pertinax, who was now City Prefect of Rome, dispatched the Vigiles Urbani to oppose them. Cleander fled to Commodus, who was at Laurentum in the house of the Quinctilii, for protection, but the mob followed him calling for his head.

At the urging of his mistress Marcia, Commodus had Cleander beheaded and his son killed. Other victims at this time were the praetorian prefect Julius Julianus, Commodus' cousin Annia Fundania Faustina, and his brother-in-law Mamertinus. Papirius Dionysius was executed, too.

The emperor now changed his name to Lucius Aelius Aurelius Commodus. At 29, he took over more of the reins of power, though he continued to rule through a cabal consisting of Marcia, his new chamberlain Eclectus, and the new praetorian prefect Quintus Aemilius Laetus.

Megalomania (190–192)

Denarius of Commodus (YORYM 2000 4292) obverse
A denarius of Commodus

In opposition to the Senate, in his pronouncements and iconography, Commodus had always stressed his unique status as a source of god-like power, liberality, and physical prowess. Innumerable statues around the empire were set up portraying him in the guise of Hercules, reinforcing the image of him as a demigod, a physical giant, a protector, and a battler against beasts and men (see "Commodus and Hercules" and "Commodus the Gladiator" below). Moreover, as Hercules, he could claim to be the son of Jupiter, the supreme god of the Roman pantheon. These tendencies now increased to megalomaniacal proportions. Far from celebrating his descent from Marcus Aurelius, the actual source of his power, he stressed his own personal uniqueness as the bringer of a new order, seeking to re-cast the empire in his own image.

During 191, the city of Rome was extensively damaged by a fire that raged for several days, during which many public buildings including the Temple of Pax, the Temple of Vesta, and parts of the imperial palace were destroyed.

Perhaps seeing this as an opportunity, early in 192 Commodus, declaring himself the new Romulus, ritually re-founded Rome, renaming the city Colonia Lucia Annia Commodiana. All the months of the year were renamed to correspond exactly with his (now twelve) names: Lucius, Aelius, Aurelius, Commodus, Augustus, Herculeus, Romanus, Exsuperatorius, Amazonius, Invictus, Felix, and Pius. The legions were renamed Commodianae, the fleet which imported grain from Africa was termed Alexandria Commodiana Togata, the Senate was entitled the Commodian Fortunate Senate, his palace and the Roman people themselves were all given the name Commodianus, and the day on which these reforms were decreed was to be called Dies Commodianus.[15]

Thus, he presented himself as the fountainhead of the Empire, Roman life, and religion. He also had the head of the Colossus of Nero adjacent to the Colosseum replaced with his own portrait, gave it a club, and placed a bronze lion at its feet to make it look like Hercules Romanus, and added an inscription boasting of being "the only left-handed fighter to conquer twelve times one thousand men".[16]

Assassination (192)

Römermuseum Osterburken (DerHexer) 2012-09-30 008
Damnatio memoriae of Commodus on an inscription in the Museum of Roman History Osterburken. The abbreviation "CO" has been restored with paint.

In November 192, Commodus held Plebeian Games, in which he shot hundreds of animals with arrows and javelins every morning, and fought as a gladiator every afternoon, winning all the fights. Also, in December, he announced his intention to inaugurate the year 193 as both consul and gladiator on 1 January.

At this point, the prefect Laetus formed a conspiracy with Eclectus to supplant Commodus with Pertinax, taking Marcia into their confidence. On 31 December, Marcia poisoned Commodus' food but he vomited up the poison, so the conspirators sent his wrestling partner Narcissus to strangle him in his bath. Upon his death, the Senate declared him a public enemy (a de facto damnatio memoriae) and restored the original name of the city of Rome and its institutions. Statues of Commodus were demolished. His body was buried in the Mausoleum of Hadrian.

Commodus' death marked the end of the Nerva–Antonine dynasty. Commodus was succeeded by Pertinax, whose reign was short lived, being the first to fall victim to the Year of the Five Emperors.

In 195, the emperor Septimius Severus, trying to gain favour with the family of Marcus Aurelius, rehabilitated Commodus' memory and had the Senate deify him.[17]

Character and physical prowess

Character and motivations

Commode pièce
Denarius of Commodus
Commodo, 180-192 dc, collez. albani
Bust of Commodus from the Capitoline Museum

Cassius Dio, a first-hand witness, describes him as "not naturally wicked but, on the contrary, as guileless as any man that ever lived. His great simplicity, however, together with his cowardice, made him the slave of his companions, and it was through them that he at first, out of ignorance, missed the better life and then was led on into lustful and cruel habits, which soon became second nature."[18]

His recorded actions do tend to show a rejection of his father's policies, his father's advisers, and especially his father's austere lifestyle, and an alienation from the surviving members of his family. It seems likely that he was brought up in an atmosphere of Stoic asceticism, which he rejected entirely upon his accession to sole rule.

After repeated attempts on Commodus' life, Roman citizens were often killed for making him angry. One such notable event was the attempted extermination of the house of the Quinctilii. Condianus and Maximus were executed on the pretext that, while they were not implicated in any plots, their wealth and talent would make them unhappy with the current state of affairs.[19]

Changes of name

Bust of Commodus from the Palazzo Massimo alle Terme

On his accession as sole ruler, Commodus added the name Antoninus to his official nomenclature, presumably to honor his grandfather, Antoninus Pius. In October 180 he changed his praenomen from Lucius to Marcus, presumably in honour of his father. He later took the title of Felix in 185. In 191 he restored his praenomen to Lucius and added the family name Aelius, apparently linking himself to Hadrian and Hadrian's adopted son Lucius Aelius Caesar, whose original name was also Commodus.

Later that year he dropped Antoninus and adopted as his full style Lucius Aelius Aurelius Commodus Augustus Herculeus Romanus Exsuperatorius Amazonius Invictus Felix Pius (the order of some of these titles varies in the sources). "Exsuperatorius" (the supreme) was a title given to Jupiter, and "Amazonius" identified him again with Hercules.

An inscribed altar from Dura-Europos on the Euphrates shows that Commodus' titles and the renaming of the months were disseminated to the furthest reaches of the Empire; moreover, that even auxiliary military units received the title Commodiana, and that Commodus claimed two additional titles: Pacator Orbis (pacifier of the world) and Dominus Noster (Our Lord). The latter eventually would be used as a conventional title by Roman emperors, starting about a century later, but Commodus seems to have been the first to assume it.[20]

Commodus and Hercules

Disdaining the more philosophic inclinations of his father, Commodus was extremely proud of his physical prowess. The historian Herodian, a contemporary, described Commodus as an extremely handsome man.[21] As mentioned above, he ordered many statues to be made showing him dressed as Hercules with a lion's hide and a club. He thought of himself as the reincarnation of Hercules, frequently emulating the legendary hero's feats by appearing in the arena to fight a variety of wild animals. He was left-handed and very proud of the fact.[22] Cassius Dio and the writers of the Augustan History say that Commodus was a skilled archer, who could shoot the heads off ostriches in full gallop, and kill a panther as it attacked a victim in the arena.

Commodus the gladiator

Commodus also had a passion for gladiatorial combat, which he took so far as to take to the arena himself, dressed as a secutor.[23] The Romans found Commodus' gladiatorial combats to be scandalous and disgraceful.[24] It was rumoured that he was actually the son, not of Marcus Aurelius, but of a gladiator whom his mother Faustina had taken as a lover at the coastal resort of Caieta.[25]

In the arena, Commodus always won, since his opponents always submitted to the emperor. Thus, these public fights would not end in death, although wounded soldiers and amputees would be placed in the arena for Commodus to slay with a sword. Citizens of Rome missing their feet through accident or illness were taken to the arena, where they were tethered together for Commodus to club to death while pretending they were giants.[26] Privately, it was his custom to slay his practice opponents.[27] For each appearance in the arena, he charged the city of Rome a million sesterces, straining the Roman economy.

Commodus was also known for fighting exotic animals in the arena, often to the horror of the Roman people. According to Gibbon, Commodus once killed 100 lions in a single day.[28] Later, he decapitated a running ostrich with a specially designed dart[29] and afterwards carried his sword and the bleeding head of the dead bird over to the section where the Senators sat and motioned as though they were next.[30] Dio notes that the targeted senators actually found this more ridiculous than frightening, and chewed on laurel leaves to conceal their laughter.[31] On another occasion, Commodus killed three elephants on the floor of the arena by himself.[32] Finally, Commodus killed a giraffe, which was considered to be a strange and helpless beast.[33]

Media portrayals

  • In 1964's The Fall of the Roman Empire, a fictionalized Commodus who serves as the main antagonist of the film is portrayed by Christopher Plummer.
  • In 2000's Academy Award-winner for Best Picture, Gladiator, a fictionalized Commodus serves as the main antagonist of the film. He is played by Joaquin Phoenix.[34]
  • A character in the 2013 video game Ryse: Son of Rome is named Commodus and is one of the main antagonists of the game. The son of Emperor Nero, he shares several traits with the historic Commodus.[35]
  • In Rick Riordan's book series The Trials of Apollo, Commodus appears as one of the main antagonists, being part of the evil Triumvirate of deified Roman emperors.
  • Commodus is a minor antagonist in the 2005 video game Colosseum: Road to Freedom. The player can fight Commodus in the game, who dresses as the god Hercules. The game takes liberties with the events surrounding his death, with the player being the one who actually kills him rather than the wrestler Narcissus.
  • The 2017 mini-series Roman Empire: Reign of Blood retells his story.[36][37]

Nerva–Antonine family tree

Nerva–Antonine family tree
Q. Marcius Barea SoranusQ. Marcius Barea SuraAntonia FurnillaM. Cocceius NervaSergia PlautillaP. Aelius Hadrianus
(r. 79–81)
Marcia FurnillaMarciaTrajanus PaterNerva
(r. 96–98)
Ulpia[i]Aelius Hadrianus Marullinus
Julia Flavia[ii]Marciana[iii]C. Salonius Matidius[iv]Trajan
(r. 98–117)
PlotinaP. Acilius AttianusP. Aelius Afer[v]Paulina Major[vi]
Lucius Mindius
Libo Rupilius Frugi
Matidia[vii]L. Vibius Sabinus
Paulina Minor[vi]L. Julius Ursus Servianus[ix]
Matidia Minor[vii]Suetonius?[x]Sabina[iii]Hadrian[v][xi][vi] (r. 117–138)Antinous[xii]
Julia Balbilla?[xiii]C. Fuscus Salinator IJulia Serviana Paulina
M. Annius Verus[xiv]Rupilia Faustina[xv]Boionia ProcillaCn. Arrius Antoninus
L. Ceionius CommodusAppia SeveraC. Fuscus Salinator II
L. Caesennius PaetusArria AntoninaArria Fadilla[xvi]T. Aurelius Fulvus
L. Caesennius AntoninusL. CommodusFundania Plautiaignota[xvii]C. Avidius Nigrinus
M. Annius Verus[xv]Domitia Lucilla[xviii]Fundania[xix]M. Annius Libo[xv]FAUSTINA[xvi]Antoninus Pius
(r. 138–161)[xvi]
L. Aelius Caesar[xvii]Avidia Plautia[xvii]
(r. 161–180)[xx]
FAUSTINA Minor[xx]C. Avidius Cassius[xxi]Aurelia Fadilla[xvi]LUCIUS VERUS
(r. 161–169)[xvii]
Ceionia Fabia[xvii]Plautius Quintillus[xxii]Q. Servilius PudensCeionia Plautia[xvii]
Cornificia Minor[xxiii]M. Petronius SuraCOMMODUS
(r. 177–192)[xx]
Fadilla[xxiii]M. Annius Verus Caesar[xx]Ti. Claudius Pompeianus
Lucilla[xx]M. Plautius Quintillus[xvii]Junius Licinius BalbusServilia Ceionia
Petronius AntoninusL. Aurelius Agaclytus
Aurelia Sabina[xxiii]L. Antistius Burrus
Plautius QuintillusPlautia ServillaC. Furius Sabinus TimesitheusAntonia GordianaJunius Licinius Balbus?
Furia Sabina TranquillinaGORDIAN III
(r. 238–244)
  • (1) = 1st spouse
  • (2) = 2nd spouse
  • (3) = 3rd spouse
  •   Reddish purple indicates emperor of the Nerva-Antonine dynasty

      lighter purple indicates designated imperial heir of said dynasty who never reigned

      grey indicates unsuccessful imperial aspirants

      bluish purple indicates emperors of other dynasties
  • dashed lines indicate adoption; dotted lines indicate love affairs/unmarried relationships
  • small caps = posthumously deified (Augusti, Augustae, or other)

Except where otherwise noted, the notes below indicate that an individual's parentage is as shown in the above family tree.

  1. ^ Sister of Trajan's father: Giacosa (1977), p. 7.
  2. ^ Giacosa (1977), p. 8.
  3. ^ a b Levick (2014), p. 161.
  4. ^ Husband of Ulpia Marciana: Levick (2014), p. 161.
  5. ^ a b Giacosa (1977), p. 7.
  6. ^ a b c DIR contributor (Herbert W. Benario, 2000), "Hadrian".
  7. ^ a b Giacosa (1977), p. 9.
  8. ^ Husband of Salonia Matidia: Levick (2014), p. 161.
  9. ^ Smith (1870), "Julius Servianus".
  10. ^ Suetonius a possible lover of Sabina: One interpretation of HA Hadrianus 11:3
  11. ^ Smith (1870), "Hadrian", pp. 319–322.
  12. ^ Lover of Hadrian: Lambert (1984), p. 99 and passim; deification: Lamber (1984), pp. 2–5, etc.
  13. ^ Julia Balbilla a possible lover of Sabina: A. R. Birley (1997), Hadrian, the Restless Emperor, p. 251, cited in Levick (2014), p. 30, who is sceptical of this suggestion.
  14. ^ Husband of Rupilia Faustina: Levick (2014), p. 163.
  15. ^ a b c d Levick (2014), p. 163.
  16. ^ a b c d Levick (2014), p. 162.
  17. ^ a b c d e f g Levick (2014), p. 164.
  18. ^ Wife of M. Annius Verus: Giacosa (1977), p. 10.
  19. ^ Wife of M. Annius Libo: Levick (2014), p. 163.
  20. ^ a b c d e Giacosa (1977), p. 10.
  21. ^ The epitomator of Cassius Dio (72.22) gives the story that Faustina the Elder promised to marry Avidius Cassius. This is also echoed in HA "Marcus Aurelius" 24.
  22. ^ Husband of Ceionia Fabia: Levick (2014), p. 164.
  23. ^ a b c Levick (2014), p. 117.
  • DIR contributors (2000). "De Imperatoribus Romanis: An Online Encyclopedia of Roman Rulers and Their Families". Retrieved 2015-04-14.
  • Giacosa, Giorgio (1977). Women of the Caesars: Their Lives and Portraits on Coins. Translated by R. Ross Holloway. Milan: Edizioni Arte e Moneta. ISBN 0-8390-0193-2.
  • Lambert, Royston (1984). Beloved and God: The Story of Hadrian and Antinous. New York: Viking. ISBN 0-670-15708-2.
  • Levick, Barbara (2014). Faustina I and II: Imperial Women of the Golden Age. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-537941-9.
  • William Smith, ed. (1870). Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.
  1. ^ Sister of Trajan's father: Giacosa (1977), p. 7.
  2. ^ Giacosa (1977), p. 8.
  3. ^ a b Levick (2014), p. 161.
  4. ^ Husband of Ulpia Marciana: Levick (2014), p. 161.
  5. ^ a b Giacosa (1977), p. 7.
  6. ^ a b c DIR contributor (Herbert W. Benario, 2000), "Hadrian".
  7. ^ a b Giacosa (1977), p. 9.
  8. ^ Husband of Salonia Matidia: Levick (2014), p. 161.
  9. ^ Smith (1870), "Julius Servianus".
  10. ^ Suetonius a possible lover of Sabina: One interpretation of HA Hadrianus 11:3
  11. ^ Smith (1870), "Hadrian", pp. 319–322.
  12. ^ Lover of Hadrian: Lambert (1984), p. 99 and passim; deification: Lamber (1984), pp. 2–5, etc.
  13. ^ Julia Balbilla a possible lover of Sabina: A. R. Birley (1997), Hadrian, the Restless Emperor, p. 251, cited in Levick (2014), p. 30, who is sceptical of this suggestion.
  14. ^ Husband of Rupilia Faustina: Levick (2014), p. 163.
  15. ^ a b c d Levick (2014), p. 163.
  16. ^ a b c d Levick (2014), p. 162.
  17. ^ a b c d e f g Levick (2014), p. 164.
  18. ^ Wife of M. Annius Verus: Giacosa (1977), p. 10.
  19. ^ Wife of M. Annius Libo: Levick (2014), p. 163.
  20. ^ a b c d e Giacosa (1977), p. 10.
  21. ^ The epitomator of Cassius Dio (72.22) gives the story that Faustina the Elder promised to marry Avidius Cassius. This is also echoed in HA "Marcus Aurelius" 24.
  22. ^ Husband of Ceionia Fabia: Levick (2014), p. 164.
  23. ^ a b c Levick (2014), p. 117.


Ancestry of Commodus
16. Marcus Annius Verus
8. Marcus Annius Verus
4. Marcus Annius Verus
18. Libo Rupilius Frugi
9. Rupilia Faustina
19. Salonia Matidia
2. Marcus Aurelius
10. Publius Domitius Calvisius Tullus Ruso
5. Domitia Lucilla Minor
11. Domitia Lucilla Major
1. Commodus
24. Titus Aurelius Fulvus
12. Titus Aurelius Fulvus
6. Antoninus Pius
26. Gnaeus Arrius Antoninus
13. Arria Fadilla
27. Boiona Procilla
3. Faustina the Younger
28. Marcus Annius Verus
14. Marcus Annius Verus
7. Faustina the Elder
30. Libo Rupilius Frugi
15. Rupilia Faustina
31. Salonia Matidia



  1. ^ "Commodus". Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary.
  2. ^ EB (1878).
  3. ^ Historia Augusta - Life of Commodus 1
  4. ^ Historia Augusta 12.8
  5. ^ a b David L. Vagi Coinage and History of the Roman Empire Vol. One: History p.248
  6. ^ Susan P. Mattern The Prince of Medicine: Galen in the Roman Empire p. xx
  7. ^ Cassius Dio Roman History 71.33.1
  8. ^ a b Anthony R Birley Marcus Aurelius: A Biography p.197
  9. ^ Historia Augusta 1.6
  10. ^ "Tulane University "Roman Currency of the Principate"".
  11. ^ Dio Cassius 72.36.4, Loeb edition translated E. Cary
  12. ^ Birley, Anthony R.; Birley, Anthony R. (1 June 2002). Septimius Severus: The African Emperor. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 9780203028599 – via Google Books.
  13. ^ Colin Wells (2004) [1984, 1992]. The Roman Empire. Second Edition (sixth reprint edition). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-77770-0, p 255.
  14. ^ a b Dio Cassius 73.10.2, Loeb edition translated E. Cary
  15. ^ "Roman Emperors - DIR commodus".
  16. ^ Dio Cassius 73.22.3
  17. ^ To “accept kinship with Commodus ... the bluntly pragmatic decision was taken to deify the former emperor, thus legitimizing Severus’ seizure of power.” See Annelise Freisenbruch, Caesars' Wives: Sex, Power, and Politics in the Roman Empire (London and New York: Free Press, 2010), 187.
  18. ^ Dio Cassius 73.1.2, Loeb edition translated E. Cary
  19. ^ Dio Cassius 73.5.3, Loeb edition translated E. Cary
  20. ^ Spiedel, M. P (1993). "Commodus the God-Emperor and the Army". Journal of Roman Studies. 83: 109–114. doi:10.2307/300981. JSTOR 300981.
  21. ^ Grant, Michael. The Roman Emperors (1985)pp 99.
  22. ^ Dio, Cassius. Roman History: Epitome of Book LXXIII pp 111.
  23. ^ Gibbon, Edward. The history of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. Vol. 5. Methuen, 1898.
  24. ^ Herodian's Roman History F.L. Muller Edition 1.15.7
  25. ^ Historia Augusta, Life of Marcus Aurelius, XIX. The film The Fall of the Roman Empire makes use of this story: one of the characters is an old gladiator who eventually reveals himself to be Commodus' real father.
  26. ^ Dio Cassius 73.20.3, Loeb edition translated E. Cary
  27. ^ Dio Cassius 73.10.3
  28. ^ Gibbon pg 106 "disgorged at once a hundred lions; a hundred darts"
  29. ^ Gibbon, Edward The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire: Volume I Everyman's Library (Knopf) New York. 1910. pg 106 "with arrows whose point was shaped in the form of a crescent"
  30. ^ Lane Fox, Robin The Classical World: An Epic History from Homer to Hadrian Basic Books. 2006 pg 446 "brandishing a sword in one hand and bloodied neck...He gesticulated at the Senate."
  31. ^ Roman History by Cassius Dio
  32. ^ Scullard, H. H The Elephant in the Greek and Roman World Thames and Hudson. 1974 pg 252
  33. ^ Gibbon pg 107 "*1 Commodus killed a camelopardalis or giraffe ... the most useless of the quadrupeds".
  34. ^ IMDb Commodus (Character) from Gladiator (2000) Retrieved October 2012
  35. ^ Nichols, Derek (8 February 2014). "History Behind The Game – Ryse: Son of Rome". Venture Beat. Retrieved 11 August 2018.
  36. ^ Agius, Den (19 November 2016). "Box Set Binge: Roman Empire: Reign of Blood, The Path and Deutschland 83". What's on TV. TI Media Limited. Retrieved 20 July 2018.
  37. ^ O'Keefe, Meghan (25 November 2016). "'Roman Empire: Reign Of Blood': Who Was The Real Lucilla?". Decider. NYP Holdings, Inc. Retrieved 20 July 2018.


Further reading

  • Geoff W Adams, The Emperor Commodus : gladiator, Hercules or a tyrant?. Boca Raton: BrownWalker Press, [2013]. ISBN 1612337228
  • G. Alföldy, "Der Friedesschluss des Kaisers Commodus mit den Germanen," Historia, 20 (1971), pp. 84–109.
  • P. A. Brunt, "The Fall of Perennis: Dio-Xiphilinus 79.9.2," Classical Quarterly, 23 (1973), pp. 172–77
  • J. Gagé, "La mystique imperiale et l'épreuve des jeux. Commode-Hercule et l'anthropologie hercaléenne," ANRW 2.17.2 (1981), 663-83
  • Olivier Hekster, Commodus: An Emperor at the Crossroads: Dutch monographs on ancient history and archaeology, 23. Brill, 2002. ISSN 0924-3550
  • L. L. Howe, The Praetorian Prefect from Commodus to Diocletian (A. D. 180-305). Chicago, 1942
  • M.P. Speidel, "Commodus the God-Emperor and the Army," Journal of Roman Studies, 83 (1993), pp. 109–114.
  • Jerry Toner, The Day Commodus Killed a Rhino: Understanding the Roman Games. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014.

External links

Cadet branch of the Nerva–Antonine dynasty
Born: 31 August 161 Died: 31 December 192
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Marcus Aurelius
Roman Emperor
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by
Titus Pomponius Proculus Vitrasius Pollio,
and Marcus Flavius Aper II

as ordinary consuls
Consul of the Roman Empire
with Marcus Peducaeus Plautius Quintillus
Succeeded by
Servius Cornelius Scipio Salvidienus Orfitus,
and Domitius Velius Rufus

as ordinary consuls
Preceded by
Servius Cornelius Scipio Salvidienus Orfitus,
and Domitius Velius Rufus

as ordinary consuls
Consul of the Roman Empire
with Publius Martius Verus
Succeeded by
Titus Flavius Claudianus,
and Lucius Aemilius Iuncus

as suffect consuls
Preceded by
Lucius Fulvius Rusticus Gaius Bruttius Praesens II,
and Sextus Quintilius Condianus

as ordinary consuls
Consul of the Roman Empire
with Lucius Antistius Burrus
Succeeded by
Marcus Petronius Sura Mamertinus,
and Quintus Tineius Rufus

as ordinary consuls
Preceded by
Marcus Petronius Sura Mamertinus,
and Quintus Tineius Rufus

as ordinary consuls
Consul of the Roman Empire
with Gaius Aufidius Victorinus
Succeeded by
Lucius Tutilius Pontianus Gentianus,
and ignotus

as suffect consuls
Preceded by
Triarius Maternus Lascivius,
and Tiberius Claudius Marcus Appius Atilius Bradua Regillus Atticus
Consul of the Roman Empire
with Manius Acilius Glabrio II
Succeeded by
Lucius Novius Rufus,
and Lucius Annius Ravus

as suffect consuls
Preceded by
Domitius Iulius Silanus,
and Quintus Servilius Silanus

as suffect consuls
Consul of the Roman Empire
with Marcus Petronius Sura Septimianus
Succeeded by
Lucius Septimius Severus,
and Apuleius Rufinus

as suffect consuls
Preceded by
Popilius Pedo Apronianus,
and Marcus Valerius Bradua Mauricus

as ordinary consuls
Consul of the Roman Empire
with Pertinax
Succeeded by
Quintus Pompeius Sosius Falco,
and Gaius Julius Erucius Clarus Vibianus

as ordinary consuls
2nd century

The 2nd century is the period from 101 to 200 in accordance with the Julian calendar in the Common Era. It is considered part of the Classical era, epoch, or historical period.

Early in the century, the Roman Empire attained its greatest expansion under the emperor Trajan, but after his death became primarily defensive for the rest of its history. Much prosperity took place throughout the empire at this time, ruled as it were by the Five Good Emperors, a succession of well-received and able rulers.

This period also saw the removal of the Jews from Jerusalem during the reign of Hadrian after Bar Kokhba's revolt.

The last quarter of the century saw the end of the period of peace and prosperity known as the Pax Romana at the death of the emperor Marcus Aurelius, last of the "Five Good Emperors", and the ascension of Commodus. After Commodus was murdered in 192, a turbulent period known as the Year of the Five Emperors ensued, which, after the quick successive removals of Pertinax and Didius Julianus from power, had the general-turned-emperor Septimius Severus, founder of the Severan dynasty, pitted against rival claimants in the form of Pescennius Niger, whom his forces defeated at the Battle of Issus in 194, and Clodius Albinus, whom he defeated at the Battle of Lugdunum in 197, granting him sole authority over the empire.

Although the Han Dynasty of China was firmly cemented into power and extended its imperial influence into Central Asia during the first half of the century, by the second half there was widespread corruption and open rebellion. This set in motion its ultimate decline, and in September 189, the Han general Dong Zhuo, after being summoned to the capital by He Jin to help quell the corrupt and powerful eunuch faction by serving as an intimidator to both them and the Empress Dowager, marched his army into Luoyang in light of He Jin's assassination and the subsequent slaughter of the eunuchs, taking over the capital and effectively becoming the de facto head of the government, although warlords and government officials quickly took against him in a campaign that, while failing to put him down, compelled Dong Zhuo to shift the seat of imperial power further west to Chang'an. As Dong Zhuo was killed in 192, the chaos in the wake of the collpase of centralized authority only continued, with various warlords attempting to vye for supremacy in order to establish or hold onto their authority within the decaying empire. The emperor himself, meanwhile, eventually returned to the ravaged city of Luoyang, but shortly thereafter, in 196, was given refuge by the warlord Cao Cao, who relocated him to the new capital city of Xu, from where Cao Cao could control the emperor.

Ceionia (gens)

The gens Ceionia was a Roman family of imperial times. The first member of the gens to obtain the consulship was Lucius Ceionius Commodus in AD 78. The rise of this family culminated in the elevation of the emperor Lucius Aurelius Verus, born Lucius Ceionius Commodus, in AD 161.

Dolichianus of Jerusalem

Dolichianus of Jerusalem was Bishop of Jerusalem in early Christianity. He served during the rule of Commodus about 180AD.


Annia Aurelia Fadilla, most commonly known as Fadilla (159-died after 211) was an influential Roman Princess and was one of the daughters born to Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius and Roman Empress Faustina the Younger. She was a sister to Roman Empress Lucilla and Roman Emperor Commodus. Fadilla was named in honor of her late maternal aunt Aurelia Fadilla. The cognomen Fadilla, was the cognomen of the mother and a half-sister of the previous Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius. Her maternal grandparents were Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius and Roman Empress Faustina the Elder and her paternal grandparents were Domitia Lucilla and praetor Marcus Annius Verus.

Gladiator (2000 film)

Gladiator is a 2000 epic historical drama film directed by Ridley Scott and written by David Franzoni, John Logan, and William Nicholson. The film was jointly produced and released by DreamWorks Pictures and Universal Pictures. It stars Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Connie Nielsen, Ralf Möller, Oliver Reed (in his final role), Djimon Hounsou, Derek Jacobi, John Shrapnel, and Richard Harris. Crowe portrays Hispano-Roman general Maximus Decimus Meridius, who is betrayed when Commodus, the ambitious son of Emperor Marcus Aurelius, murders his father and seizes the throne. Reduced to slavery, Maximus rises through the ranks of the gladiatorial arena to avenge the murders of his family and his emperor.

Inspired by Daniel P. Mannix's 1958 novel Those About to Die, the film's script, initially written by Franzoni, was acquired by DreamWorks and Ridley Scott signed on to direct the film. Principal photography began in January 1999, before the script was completed, and wrapped up in May of that year, with the scenes of Ancient Rome shot over a period of nineteen weeks in Fort Ricasoli, Malta. The film's computer-generated imagery effects were created by British post-production company The Mill, who also created digital body double for the remaining scenes involving of Reed's character Proximo due to Reed dying of a heart attack during production.

Gladiator was released in the United States on May 5, 2000 and received favorable reviews from critics; praise was given to the performances of Crowe and Phoenix, Scott's direction, visuals, action sequences, musical score, and the costume and set designs while criticism was aimed at the script. The film revitalized the career of Scott and solidified Crowe's. The film was a box office success, grossing $187.7 million in the United States, making it the fourth highest-grossing film of 2000 domestically, and grossed $457 million worldwide, making it the second highest-grossing film of 2000. The film won multiple awards, including five Academy Awards at the 73rd Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor for Crowe, Best Costume Design, Best Sound, and Best Visual Effects. It has also been credited with rekindling interest in entertainment centered around ancient Greek and Roman culture, such as the TV series Rome.

Hercules in ancient Rome

In ancient Roman religion and myth, Hercules was venerated as a divinized hero and incorporated into the legends of Rome's founding. The Romans adapted Greek myths and the iconography of Heracles into their own literature and art, but the hero developed distinctly Roman characteristics. Some Greek sources as early as the 6th and 5th century BC gave Heracles Roman connections during his famous labors.Dionysius of Halicarnassus places Hercules among divine figures honored at Rome "whose souls after they had left their mortal bodies are said to have ascended to Heaven and to have obtained the same honours as the gods." His apotheosis thus served as one model during the Empire for the concept of the deified emperor.


Annia Aurelia Galeria Lucilla or Lucilla (March 7, 148 or 150 – 182) was the second daughter and third child of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius and Roman Empress Faustina the Younger. She was the wife of her father's co-ruler Lucius Verus and an elder sister to later Emperor Commodus. Commodus ordered Lucilla's execution after a failed assassination and coup attempt when she was about 33 years old.

Lucius Aelius

Lucius Aelius Caesar (January 13, 101 – January 1, 138) was the father of Emperor Lucius Verus. In 136, he was adopted by Hadrian and named heir to the throne. He died before Hadrian and thus never became emperor. After Lucius' death, he was replaced by Antoninus Pius, who succeeded Hadrian the same year.

Marcus Annius Verus Caesar

Marcus Annius Verus Caesar (born 162 or 163 AD) was the 12th of 13 children of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius and Empress Faustina the Younger. Annius was made caesar on 12 October 166 AD, alongside his brother Commodus, designating them co-heirs of the Roman Empire. Annius died on 10 September 169, at age seven, due to complications from a surgery to remove a tumor from under his ear. His death left Commodus as the sole heir.

Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius ( or ; Latin: Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus; 26 April 121 – 17 March 180), called the Philosopher, was Roman emperor from 161 to 180. He ruled the Roman Empire with his adoptive brother Lucius Verus (who took Verus as a regnal name) until Lucius' death in 169. He was the last of the rulers traditionally known as the Five Good Emperors. He is also seen as the last emperor of the Pax Romana, an age of relative peace and stability for the Empire. His personal philosophical writings, now commonly known as Meditations, are a significant source of the modern understanding of ancient Stoic philosophy. They have been praised by fellow writers, philosophers, and monarchs – as well as by poets and politicians – centuries after his death.

Marcus was born into a Roman patrician family. His father was a praetor, after whose death in 124 Marcus was raised by his paternal grandfather, and his mother was a wealthy heiress. He was educated at home, as children from Roman aristocratic families often were, and later credited his maternal grandmother's step-father Lucius Catilius Severus – who helped Marcus' grandfather to raise him – for his education. His tutors included the artist Diognetus, who may have sparked his interest in philosophy, and Tuticius Proclus. Marcus was betrothed to the daughter of Lucius Aelius, his relative Emperor Hadrian's first adopted son and heir. Aelius died in 138 and Hadrian chose as his new heir Antoninus Pius, the husband of Marcus' aunt, on the condition that Antoninus adopt Marcus and the son of Aelius, Lucius Commodus. Antoninus became emperor later that year upon Hadrian's death, and Marcus and Lucius became joint heirs to the throne. While imperial heir, Marcus studied Greek and Latin. His tutors included Herodes Atticus and Marcus Cornelius Fronto. He kept in close correspondence with Fronto for many years afterwards. Marcus was introduced to Stoicism by Quintus Junius Rusticus and perhaps by other philosophers such as Apollonius of Chalcedon. He was made a quaestor and the symbolic head of the Roman equites (also known as the knight class). He was appointed consul with Antoninus in 140 and 145, the year he married Antoninus' daughter Faustina the Younger, and with his adoptive brother Lucius in 161. On 7 March 161, Antoninus died and the two succeeded to the imperial throne.

Marcus' reign was marked by military conflict. In the East, the Roman Empire fought successfully with a revitalized Parthian Empire and the rebel Kingdom of Armenia. Marcus defeated the Marcomanni, Quadi, and Sarmatians in the Marcomannic Wars. However, these and other Germanic peoples began to represent a troubling reality for the Empire. Marcus modified the silver purity of the Roman currency, the denarius. Persecution of Christians is believed to have increased during his reign. The Antonine Plague that broke out in 166 devastated the population of the Roman Empire. It caused the deaths of five million people, a quarter of those it affected. Marcus never adopted an heir unlike some of his predecessors; he and Faustina had at least thirteen children, including Lucilla – who married Lucius Verus – and Commodus – whom Marcus named as his co-ruler in 177. Marcus became the first emperor to die with a living, adult son since Titus succeeded his father Vespasian a century earlier, but Commodus is considered a disappointment as emperor and his succession has long been the subject of debate among both contemporary and modern historians. The Column and Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius still stand in Rome, where they were erected in celebration of Marcus' military victories.

Marcus Peducaeus Plautius Quintillus

Marcus Peducaeus Plautius Quintillus (died 205) was a Roman noble closely related by birth, adoption, and marriage to the Nerva-Antonine emperors. Through his marriage to Fadilla, the daughter of Emperor Marcus Aurelius and Empress Faustina the Younger, he became the brother-in-law to the future emperor, Commodus. Despite his position, he never became emperor himself. After Commodus was assassinated in 192, he fell out of favor with Septimus Severus during the Year of the Five Emperors. In 205, he committed suicide after Septimus issued an order for his execution.

Nerva–Antonine dynasty

The Nerva–Antonine dynasty was a dynasty of seven Roman Emperors who ruled over the Roman Empire from 96 CE to 192 CE. These Emperors are Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius, Lucius Verus, Marcus Aurelius, and Commodus.

The first five of the six successions within this dynasty were notable in that the reigning Emperor adopted the candidate of his choice to be his successor. Under Roman law, an adoption established a bond legally as strong as that of kinship. Because of this, all but the first and last of the Nerva-Antonine emperors are called Adoptive Emperors.

The importance of official adoption in Roman society has often been considered as a conscious repudiation of the principle of dynastic inheritance and has been deemed one of the factors of the period's prosperity. However, this was not a new practice. It was common for patrician families to adopt, and Roman emperors had adopted heirs in the past: the Emperor Augustus had adopted Tiberius and the Emperor Claudius had adopted Nero. Julius Caesar, dictator perpetuo and considered to be instrumental in the transition from Republic to Empire, adopted Gaius Octavius, who would become Augustus, Rome's first emperor. Moreover, there was a family connection as Trajan adopted his first cousin once removed and great-nephew by marriage Hadrian, and Hadrian made his half-nephew by marriage and heir Antoninus Pius adopt both Hadrian's second cousin three times removed and half-great-nephew by marriage Marcus Aurelius, also Antoninus' nephew by marriage, and the son of his original planned successor, Lucius Verus. The naming by Marcus Aurelius of his son Commodus was considered to be an unfortunate choice and the beginning of the Empire's decline.With Commodus' murder in 192, the Nerva-Antonine dynasty came to an end; it was followed by a period of turbulence known as the Year of the Five Emperors.


Pertinax (; Latin: Publius Helvius Pertinax Augustus; 1 August 126 – 28 March 193) was a Roman military leader and Roman Emperor for the first three months of 193. He succeeded Commodus to become the first emperor during the tumultuous Year of the Five Emperors.

Born the son of a freed slave, Pertinax became an officer in the army. He fought in the Roman–Parthian War of 161–166, where his success led him to be promoted to higher-ranking positions in both the military and political spheres, leading to him achieving the rank of provincial governor and urban prefect. He was a member of the Roman Senate, serving at the same time as the historian Cassius Dio.

Following the death of Commodus, Pertinax was acclaimed emperor. He attempted to institute several reform measures, although the short length of his time as emperor prevented the success of those attempts. One of those reforms, the restoration of discipline among the Praetorian Guards, led to conflict that eventually culminated in Pertinax's assassination by the Guard. After his death, the Praetorians auctioned off the imperial title, which was won by the wealthy senator Didius Julianus, whose reign would last sixty-six days.

Pertinax would be deified by the successor of Julianus, Septimius Severus. His historical reputation has largely been a positive one, in line with the assessment of Dio.

Praetorian prefect

The praetorian prefect (Latin: praefectus praetorio, Greek: ἔπαρχος/ὕπαρχος τῶν πραιτωρίων) was a high office in the Roman Empire. Originating as the commander of the Praetorian Guard, the office gradually acquired extensive legal and administrative functions, with its holders becoming the Emperor's chief aides. Under Constantine I, the office was much reduced in power and transformed into a purely civilian administrative post, while under his successors, territorially-defined praetorian prefectures emerged as the highest-level administrative division of the Empire. The prefects again functioned as the chief ministers of the state, with many laws addressed to them by name. In this role, praetorian prefects continued to be appointed by the Eastern Roman Empire (and the Ostrogothic Kingdom) until the reign of Heraclius in the 7th century AD, when wide-ranging reforms reduced its power and converted it to a mere overseer of provincial administration. The last traces of the prefecture disappeared in the Byzantine Empire by the 840s.

The term praefectus praetorio was often abbreviated in inscriptions as 'PR PR' or 'PPO'.

Roman Empire (TV series)

Roman Empire is an American/Canadian docuseries based on historical events of the Roman Empire. The series comprises two miniseries:

Season One: "Reign of Blood" is a six-part story of Commodus. Jeremiah Murphy and Peter Sherman collaborated on writing the first season, with Richard Lopez directing. It premiered on Netflix on November 11, 2016. Season Two: "Master of Rome" is a five-part story of the rise of Julius Caesar and the fall of the Roman Republic. It premiered on July 27, 2018.

The series was produced by Netflix as a "Netflix Original" series.


A secutor (pl. secutores) was a class of gladiator in ancient Rome.

Thought to have originated around 50 AD, the secutor ("follower" or "chaser", from sequor "I follow, come or go after") was armed similarly to the Murmillo gladiator and like the Murmillo, was protected by a heavy shield. A secutor usually carried a short sword, a gladius, or a dagger. The secutor was specially trained to fight a retiarius, a type of lightly armoured gladiator armed with a trident and net.

The Fall of the Roman Empire (film)

The Fall of the Roman Empire is a 1964 American epic film directed by Anthony Mann and produced by Samuel Bronston, with a screenplay by Ben Barzman, Basilio Franchina and Philip Yordan. The film stars Sophia Loren, Stephen Boyd, Alec Guinness, James Mason, Christopher Plummer, Mel Ferrer, and Omar Sharif.

The film was a financial failure at the box-office. Despite this, it is considered unusually intelligent and thoughtful for a film of the contemporary sword and sandal genre and also enjoys a 100% "Fresh" rating at Rotten Tomatoes. It features the largest outdoor film set in the history of film, a 92,000 m2 replica of the Roman Forum.

The film's name refers not to the final fall of the Roman empire, which did in fact survive for centuries after the period depicted in the film, but rather to the onset of corruption and decadence which led to Rome's final demise. It deals extensively with the problem of imperial succession, and examines both the relationship between father and son on the background of imperial politics as well as the nature and limits of loyalty and friendship.

The film's plot is only loosely based on actual historical events. However, in the long-established view of Roman history, Marcus Aurelius is considered as the last of the Five Good Emperors whose time is considered the best of Roman imperial history. Commodus is generally considered to have fallen far below the standard set by his father and the four earlier Emperors, and his reign is considered as the beginning of the decline - though that would still take several centuries.

Tigidius Perennis

Sextus Tigidius Perennis (died 185) was a prefect of the Roman imperial bodyguard, known as the Praetorian Guard, during the reigns of the emperors Marcus Aurelius and Commodus. Under the latter, Perennis was the man who exercised the chief responsibilities of government in the Roman Empire. In 185 however, Perennis was implicated in a plot to overthrow the emperor by his political rival Marcus Aurelius Cleander, and executed under orders of Commodus.

Year of the Five Emperors

The Year of the Five Emperors refers to the year 193 AD, in which the five claimants for the title of Roman Emperor were: Pertinax, Didius Julianus, Pescennius Niger, Clodius Albinus, and Septimius Severus. This year started a period of civil war when multiple rulers vied for the chance to become Caesar.

The political unrest began with the murder of Emperor Commodus on New Year's Eve 192 AD. Once Commodus was assassinated, Pertinax was named emperor, but immediately aroused opposition in the Praetorian Guard when he attempted to initiate reforms. They then plotted his assassination, and Pertinax was killed while trying to reason with the mutineers. He had only been emperor for three months. Didius Julianus, who purchased the title from the Praetorian Guard, succeeded Pertinax, but was ousted by Septimius Severus and executed on June 1. Severus was declared Caesar by the Senate, but Pescennius Niger was hostile when he declared himself emperor. This started the civil war between Niger and Severus; both gathered troops and fought throughout the territory of the empire. Due to this war, Severus allowed Clodius Albinus, whom he suspected of being a threat, to be co-Caesar so that Severus did not have to preoccupy himself with imperial governance. This move allowed him to concentrate on waging the war against Niger. Most historians count Severus and Albinus as two emperors, though they ruled simultaneously. The Severan dynasty was created out of the chaos of 193 AD.

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