May 6, 2008
Some claim that Commodus was the worse emperor in the history of Rome. The fact that his father, Marcus Aurelius, was a popular and successful ruler may have raised the precedent that Commodus had to live up to. But for whatever reason, Commodus proved a disconnected and self indulgent leader. At the age of five Commodus was named Caesar, and at the age of seventeen he became co-Augustus with his father. He spent his childhood accompanying his father Marcus Aurelius on political campaigns, and learned a lot on how to run an empire. However, after the death of his father the people of Rome found that the years under Marcus Aurelius had not impacted Commodus' leadership skills. Commodus' reign was filled with bad decisions, causing the people of Rome to suffer. Commodus' first bad move took place immediately following his father's death. The new emperor made a treaty with the German tribe of Marcomanni, his father's enemies. From then on Commodus gradually lost favor in the eyes of his people. Commodus thought of himself as equal to the Gods, so he began dressing like Hercules, son of the god Jupiter. His clothes consisted of lion's skin, and he carried around a club. Commodus appropriated his identification with Hercules by fighting in the arenas as a gladiatorial combatant. This did not impress his people. In fact, they could not believe that their emperor willingly reduced himself to the lowest human being on earth. Although he claimed to have killed 12,000 men in his numerous combats, the people of Rome knew it had nothing to do with his skill as a gladiator. The men and beasts Commodus fought were not adequately armed. The emperor had the most modern weaponry, and his opposition was lucky if they received wooden weapons to fight with. It was even said that some of the spectators had to keep themselves from laughing, under penalty of death, while watching these combats. As Commodus' reign continued it became...