Monday, December 31, 2012

[December 31] Commodus, emperor of Rome

Full Name: Marcus Aurelius Commodus Antoninus
Parents: Marcus Aurelius, emperor of Rome, and Faustina the Younger
Date of Birth: 31 August 161
House: Antonine
Spouse(s): Bruttia, daughter of Gaius Bruttius Praesens, consul of Rome
Predecessor: Marcus Aurelius
Reign: 180 – 192
Brief: Commodus was one of few heirs born to a reigning emperor before the era of Constantine in the 300s. His elder twin, Titus, died at the age of four and Commodus became sole heir. He was elected caesar with his younger brother in 166. In 175, Commodus joined the college of pontiffs and entered public life. Marcus Aurelius elevated his son to Augustus (co-emperor) in 177 and nominated him consul,  the youngest such Senator in history to the time. Marcus Aurelius died in 180 while fighting on the Danubian front, after which Commodus took control over the Roman Empire. Though often portrayed as a weak and selfish ruler, Commodus' reign is, in fact, poorly documented and it did not lead directly to the fall of Rome nearly two centuries later. His reign was externally peaceful, signing a treaty with the Danube tribes and relegating the government to loyal advisors. Throughout his reign, Commodus dealt with assassination attempts, attempted coups, and upstart usurpers, forcing him to become more directly involved in his government. Until 188, Commodus left the government under the management of a man named Cleander, whose mismanagement of affairs led to famine and his eventual beheading by Commodus. Commodus' megalomania peaked in 191 following a fire that destroyed much of the city of Rome. The emperor proclaimed a new Rome and himself, a new Romulus. He renamed the city, the months of the year, the legions, the fleet, the Senate, and even the people. On 31 December 192, after a failed poisoning, Commodus was strangled to death in his bath by a former wrestling partner. The city and everything was restored to Rome, though Commodus was later, under Septimus Severus, deified as per the standard procedures of the day. His death prompted the Year of the Five Emperors in 193.
Date of Death: 31 December 192
Successor: Pertinax

Other Monarchs Who Died Today:
  • St. Silvester I, pope of Rome (335)
  • Ottokar III, margrave of Styria (1164)
  • Leopold V, duke of Austria (1194)
  • Frederick III, duke of Lorraine (1302)
  • Shimazy Tadayoshi, daimyo in Japan (1568)
  • Dorgon, emperor of China (1650)
  • Charles III Philip, count palatine of the Rhine (1742)
  • Sabah III Al-Salim, emir of Kuwait (1977)

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