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Upon his accession Commodus devalued the Roman currency. He reduced the weight of the denarius from 96 per Roman pound to 105 (3.85 grams to 3.35 grams). He also reduced the silver purity from 79% to 76% — the silver weight dropping from 2.57 grams to 2.34 grams. In 186 he further reduced the purity and silver weight to 74% and 2.22 grams respectively, being 108 to the Roman pound.[2] 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, even though he preferred books over war, 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, his accession marked the descent "from a kingdom of gold to one of rust and iron"[3]—a famous comment which has led some historians, notably Edward Gibbon, to take Commodus's reign as the beginning of the decline of the Roman Empire.

Historical accuracy

The film is loosely based on historical events. In making the film Ridley Scott wanted to portray the Roman culture more accurately than in any previous film and to that end hired several historians as advisors. Nevertheless, some deviations from historical fact were made to increase interest, some to maintain narrative continuity, and some were for practical or safety reasons. The public perception of what ancient Rome was like, due to previous Hollywood movies, made some historical facts, according to Scott, "too unbelievable" to include. At least one historical advisor resigned due to the changes made, and another asked not to be mentioned in the credits (though it was stated in the director's commentary that he constantly asked, "where is the proof that certain things were exactly like they say"). Historian Allen Ward of the University of Connecticut believed that historical accuracy would not have made Gladiator less interesting or exciting and stated: "creative artists need to be granted some poetic license, but that should not be a permit for the wholesale disregard of facts in historical fiction".[30][31]

Marcus Aurelius died of plague at Vindobona and was not murdered by his son Commodus. The character of Maximus is fictional, although in some respects he resembles the historical figures of Narcissus (the character's name in the first draft of the screenplay and the real killer of Commodus),[32] Spartacus (who led a significant slave revolt), Cincinnatus (a farmer who became dictator, saved Rome from invasion, then resigned his 6-month appointment after fifteen days),[33][34][35] and Marcus Nonius Macrinus (a trusted general, Consul of AD 154, and friend of Marcus Aurelius).[36][37] Although Commodus engaged in show combat in the Colosseum, he was strangled by the wrestler Narcissus in his bath, not killed in the arena, and reigned for several years, unlike the brief period shown in the film.

The name Maximus Decimus Meridius is inaccurate in terms of Roman naming conventions, which would use Decimus Meridius Maximus, as Maximus was a cognomen and Decimus a given name. He is also called Aelius Maximus

Commodus (Latin: Marcus Aurelius Commodus Antoninus Augustus;[1] 31 August 161 – 31 December 192), was Roman Emperor from 180 to 192. He also ruled as co-emperor with his father Marcus Aurelius from 177 until his father's death in 180. His name changed throughout his reign; see changes of name for earlier and later forms. His accession as emperor was the first time a son had succeeded his father since Titus succeeded Vespasian in 79. Commodus was the first (and up until 337 the last) emperor "born in the purple"; i.e., born during his father's reign.

Commodus the gladiator

The emperor also had a passion for gladiatorial combat, which he took so far as to take to the arena himself, dressed as a gladiator. The Romans found Commodus' naked gladiatorial combats to be scandalous and disgraceful.[11] It was rumoured that he was actually the son, not of Marcus, but of a gladiator whom his mother Faustina had taken as a lover at the coastal resort of Caieta.[12] In the arena, Commodus always won since his opponents always submitted to the emperor. Thus, these public fights would not end in a death. Privately, it was his custom to slay his practice opponents.[13] For each appearance in the arena, he charged the city of Rome a million sesterces, straining the Roman economy.

Commodus raised the ire of many military officials in Rome for his Hercules persona in the arena. Often, wounded soldiers and amputees would be placed in the arena for Commodus to slay with a sword. Commodus' eccentric behaviour would not stop there. 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.[14] These acts may have contributed to his assassination.

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.[15] Later, he decapitated a running ostrich with a specially designed dart[16] and afterwards carried the bleeding head of the dead bird and his sword over to the section where the Senators sat and gesticulated as though they were next.[17] On another occasion, Commodus killed three elephants on the floor of the arena by himself.[18] Finally, Commodus killed a giraffe which was considered to be a strange and helpless beast.[19]

In 2000's Academy Award-winner for Best Picture, Gladiator, Commodus serves as the main antagonist of the film. He is depicted as cowardly, greedy and ruthless. He is played by Joaquin Phoenix.

Marcus Nonius Macrinus Roman general and statesman fl. 161 AD in the era of Emperor Marcus Aurelius. He served as Consul (suffectus) in 154, and several terms as proconsul thereafter.

According to the inscriptions on his tomb, he was originally from Brescia. During his lifetime, he served not only as an adviser to Marcus Aurelius, but also as proconsul of the Roman province of Asia.[1]

In October 2008 his tomb was discovered by archaeologists on the banks of the river Tiber, near the Via Flaminia north of Rome.[2] [3]

His life was one of the inspirations for Russell Crowe's character Maximus Decimus Meridius in the film Gladiator.[4] However, while both Marcus Nonius Macrinus and the fictitious Maximus Decimus Meridius are placed in the same time period and share similarities such as being liked and well known to Emperor Marcus Aurelius, Marcus Nonius Macrinus went on to enjoy a successful career and died a wealthy man. In the movie, Maximus Decimus Meridius is portrayed with having a much different later life, losing his family and being sold into slavery.

Gladiator A man standing at the center of the image is wearing armor and is holding a sword in his right hand. In the background is the top of the Colosseum with a barely visible crowd standing in it. The poster includes the film's title, cast credits, and release date.
18th Emperor of the Roman Empire

Commodus as Hercules,
Capitoline Museums
Reign 177 – 17 March 180
(with Marcus Aurelius);
18 March 180–
31 December 192 (alone)
Full name Marcus Aurelius Commodus Antoninus Augustus
(from birth to 166);
Caesar Lucius Aurelius Commodus (166 to 176);
Caesar Lucius Aurelius Commodus Augustus (176 to 180);
Caesar Lucius Aurelius Commodus Antoninus Augustus (180);
Caesar Marcus Aurelius Commodus Antoninus Augustus (180 to 191);
Caesar Lucius Aelius Aurelius Commodus Augustus (191 to death)
Born 31 August 161
Birthplace Lanuvium, near Rome.
Died 31 December 192 (aged 31)
Place of death Rome

The end of the reign (192)

In November 192, Commodus held Plebian Games in which he shot hundreds of animals with arrows and javelins every morning, and fought as a gladiator every afternoon, naturally winning all the bouts. 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 his 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 to the city of Rome and its institutions. Commodus' statues were thrown down. His body was buried in the Mausoleum of Hadrian. However, in 195, the emperor Septimius Severus, trying to gain favour with the family of Marcus Aurelius, rehabilitated Commodus's memory and had the Senate deify him.

Commodus was succeeded by Pertinax, whose reign was short lived, being the first to fall victim to the Year of the Five Emperors. Commodus's death marked the end of the Nervan-Antonian dynasty.

Narcissus was a Roman athlete,[1][2] likely a wrestler,[3] from the 2nd century AD. He is best known to history as the assassin of the Roman Emperor Commodus, by whom he was employed as a wrestling partner,[2][3] and personal trainer in order to train Commodus for his self-indulgent appearances in the Colosseum as a gladiator. In the year 192 AD he was recruited by several senators, led by Praetorian prefect Quintus Aemilius Laetus, to assassinate the emperor.

On December 31 of that same year, Commodus's concubine[2] and conspirator Marcia admitted Narcissus into Commodus's bedchamber. Commodus was supposedly in a drunken stupor after Marcia had poisoned him[1] and Narcissus proceeded to strangle his master in his bathtub[1] or, according to Herodian, in his bed.[3]

The fictional character of general Maximus Decimus Meridius (played by Russell Crowe in the movie Gladiator) was partially based on Narcissus alongside being based on Marcus Aurelius's general Marcus Nonius Macrinus, Spartacus, Cincinnatus and Maximus of Hispania.


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