Commodus            177 - 192 A.D.


Commodus vies with Caligula and Nero as Roman history's most perverse and sadistic of rulers. Like Caligula and Nero before, Commodus was an ordinary (by imperial standards) ruler who succeeded Marcus Aurelius, his father, upon his death. In his one major positive deed, Commodus called off the expedition against the Germans which his father had commenced on terms favorable to Rome. He sped off to Rome where he much preferred living the perks of an emperor to the dirty business of waging wars. While he whiled away his time pursuing a hedonistic lifestyle he was happy to delegate administrative responsibilities to others.

Unfortunately, his appointees never seemed to last long on the job. Whether through incompetence, bad luck or corruption, one by one these fell and needed replacement. Commodus little by little began gaining a taste for power as the shuffling of his foremen took place and, finally, he decided to manage the empire himself. It is starting with this period that Commodus began to act increasingly unpredictably and growingly cruel. A botched conspiration against him, orchestrated by no less than his beloved sister Lucilla, was discovered and his surviving the episode turned him afterwards into a highly paranoid individual who had countless officials executed for disloyalty imagined or real.

In his final year of life he shocked Romans of all classes by personally moonlighting as a gladiator. Of course, these fights were arranged so that he could invariably come out the victor. Because of this a record-breaking 700+ victories were scored in his name, each one ending in the deaths of one or more gladiators and/or wild beasts at the Coliseum. A successful conspiracy against him was finally hatched by one of his lovers who first tried poisoning him but he threw up and a wrestler was summoned who strangled him to death on the last day of the year 192.

The recent Hollywood release "The Gladiator" is a fictionalized account of Commodus as emperor which has him at odds with a popular gladiator.


AR Denarius 177--192 A.D.


3.6 g., 17 mm.

Obv. COMM ANT AVG P BRIT: Laureate head right

Rev. PM TR P IMP VII COS IIII PP: Felicitas standing left, holding caduceus and


C. 472, Van Meter 65/4

AR Denarius 166--192 A.D.

16 mm. 191--192 A.D.

Obv. L AEL AVREL COMM AVG P FEL: Head wearing lion's skin, right

Rev. HERCVL/ROMAN/AVGV: Legend in three lines, divided by a club and surrounded

by an oak wreath

RSC 140, C. 190, Van Meter 21

AR Denarius 177--192 A.D/


3.03 g., 17 mm.

Obv. M COMM ANT P FEL AVG BRIT: Laureate head right

Rev. PM TR P XII IMP VIII COS V PP: Libertas standing left, holding pileus and scepter

C. 521, Van Meter 81/1

AR Denarius 177--192 A.D.


17 mm.

Obv. M COMMODVS ANTON AVG PIVS: Laureate head right

Rev. PM TR P VIIII IMP VII COS IIII PP: Mars standing right, holding shild and spear

C. 458, Van Meter 60/1

AE Sestertius 177--192 A.D.

18.53 g., 31 mm.

Obv. L AVREL COMMODVS AVG GERM SARM: Laureate head right

Rev. TR P II COS/DE SARM/S C: A pile of Sarmation arms, with two Sarmatian captives

seated beneath the trophy (refers to the victories won

over the Sarmatians by Aurelius and Commodus, about

175 A.D.)

RIC 1571, C. 99, Van Meter 167