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818

COMMODUS.

colleague in the tribunician power; on the 1st of January, 177, he entered on his first consulship ; in the same year he married Bruttia Crispina, daugh­ter of Bruttius Praesens, was hailed as Augustus and Pater Patriae^ and thus at the age of 16 was admitted to a full participation in all the imperial dignities except the chief pontificate, which, ac­cording to the principle maintained inviolate until the reign of Balbinus and Pupienus [balbinus], could be held by one individual only. On the 5th of August he set forth to take part in the war then raging on the Upper Danube, which, as is mentioned elsewhere [M, aurelius], was prose­cuted with signal success until the death of M. Aurelius, on the 17th of March, 180.

Impatient of hardship and eager to indulge without restraint in the pleasures of the capital, Commodus, disregarding alike the last injunctions of his sire and the earnest advice of the trusty counsellors to whose care he had been consigned, concluded a hasty and therefore uncertain peace with the barbarians, who in their depressed and enfeebled condition might by a vigorous effort have been crushed for ever. In autumn he reached Rome, where his authority was as fully and freely acknowledged by the senate, the praetorians, and the people, as it had been by the legions which he commanded in person and the armies of the distant provinces. No prince ever commenced a career of power under fairer auspices. The love and venera­tion entertained by men of every condition for the father had descended like an inheritance on the ?xm, and although some who knew him well and had marked his boyhood might whisper distrust and fear, such murmurs were drowned by the general acclamations which greeted his first ap­pearance as emperor. Nor were the hopes of men for a while disappointed. Grave and calculating statesmen might feel displeasure and alarm at the reckless profusion which characterised the very commencement of the new reign; but since a large portion of the sums squandered was lavished upon the soldiers and the people, the lower or­ders at least of the community were enthusiastic in their attachment to the new ruler. This state of things did not endure long, A formidable plot against his life was organised (a. d. 183) by his sister Lucilla, jealous, it was believed, of the su­perior influence and position of Crispina; but the scheme failed in consequence of the awkwardness of the assassin, who, instead of dealing the fatal blow at the proper moment, put the prince upon his guard by exclaiming as he rushed forward, " The senate sends thee this." The event seems to have awakened the slumbering ferocity of a temper which now burst forth with frightful vehemence, and raging from that time forward without controul, especially against the members of that body in which the conspiracy was said to have originated, rendered the remainder of his life an unbroken tissue of sanguinary excesses. Every pretext was seized for the exhibition of the most savage cruelty ; false accusations, vague suspicions, great wealth, high birth, distinguished learning, or any conspicuous virtue, were sufficient to point out and doom his victims, long lists of whom have been preserved by Lampridius, including nearly all who had risen to fame and fortune under M. Aure­lius, with the exception of Pertinax, Pompeianus, and Victorinus. [pertinax ; pompeianus ; Vic-torinus.] All other passions were indulged with

COMMODUS.

the same freedom as the thirst for blood. Resign­ing the reins of government into the hands of the various favourites who followed each other in rapid succession [see perennis ; cleander ; laetus ; eclectus], he abandoned himself without inter­ruption to the most shameless and beastly de­bauchery. But while devouring in gluttony the resources of the empire and wallowing in every description of sensual filth, he was at the same time the slave of the most childish vanity, and sought for popular applause with indefatigable activity. He disdained not to dance, to sing, to play the charioteer and the buffoon, to disguise himself as a pedlar or a horse-dealer, and to essay his skill in the practical pursuits of the humble artizan. Frequently he would appear and officiate as a sacrificing priest, and eagerly assisted in all the orgies of foreign superstition, celebrating the rites of Isis, of Anubis, of Serapis, or of Mithra, in all their folly and all their horror. His pride and boast, however, was his skill in the use of martial weapons. This he sought not to display against the enemies of his country in the field, but he fought as a gladiator upwards of seven hundred times, and slew many thousands of wild beasts in the amphitheatre with bow and spear. Other em­perors had sought or accepted the compliment of having one month named after themselves, but Commodus decreed that the whole twelve should be designated by the epithets and titles which he had at different periods assumed, and that they should be arranged and enumerated in the following order : —Amazonius, Invictus, Felix., Pius, Lucius, AeliuS) Aureiius9 Commodus7 Augustus•, Herculeus9 Romanus., Eocsuperatorius, ordaining also that the happy epoch during which he had sojourned on earth should be distinguished as Seculum aureum Commodianuin,) the nation as Commodiana^ the senate as Commodianus, the armies as Commodiani^ and the eternal city itself as Golonia Commodiana. At length the miserable craving could be no longer appeased by the homage and flatteries which a mere mortal might claim. Long ere this, indeed, the Greeks had been wont to compare their rulers, both domestic and foreign, to deities, and the Ro­mans had sometimes delicately hinted at some such resemblance by the devices stamped on the reverse of the coins of their August!. But as yet no in­scription had appeared openly ascribing divine attributes to living princes, nor had any symbol appeared on their medals which could openly and directly convey such impious meaning. It was left for Commodus to break through these decent restrictions; his exploits in the slaughter of wild beasts suggested an analogy with the Tirynthian hero; he demanded that he should be worshipped as Hercules, and hence from the year 191 we find a multitude of coins on which he is represented in the attire of the immortal son of Alcmena, with the epigraph of Hercules Commodianus or Hercules Romanus. His statues also, we are told by the historians of the day, were clad in the appropriate robes; sacrifices were publicly offered as to a pre­sent God; when he went abroad the lion's hide and other insignia were borne before him; and, to crown the whole, a number of unhappy wretches were inclosed in cases terminating in serpent-tails, and these he slaughtered with his club, as if they had been the giants warring against heaven.

After having escaped many plots provoked by atrocious tyranny, he at length came to a fitting

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