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Roman Emperors as Gladiators

Emperor Commodus as GladiatorWorld War Stories - The Roman Emperor Lucius Aurelius Commodus was born on 31 August AD 161.
Of the 14 offspring of Marcus Aurelius and Faustina the Younger, Commodus was the tenth. He was born with a twin brother, though his twin died when he was only four years old. He was given the name Commodus in respect of Marcus Aurelius' co-emperor.  Commodus was in fact the only son of the royal couple to survive childhood.
During his younger years Commodus was prepared to be successor of his father to the throne. At the age of five, in the year AD 166, he was made Caesar (junior emperor). And in AD 177, after the uprising of Cassius, Marcus Aurelius made him to Augustus and thereby joint emperor. Commodus certainly led the army in the wars jointly with his father from AD 178, until the death of Marcus Aurelius in AD 180. His reign is generally seen to have begun on the death of his father in AD 180.  Commodus' succession to supremacy finished the spell of 80 years in Roman history which had brought men to the throne by merit rather than by birth. The last man who became emperor purely by right of birth had been Domitian.  Rome experienced cruelty, vanity, power and bankruptcy in the hands of Commodus power. Commodus should be remembered as a monster, a tyrant who renamed months in his own honor, and who slaughtered his way through the circuses in ludicrous displays of 'manliness'.
Emperor Commodus as Gladiator.

His Gladiatorial obsession:
  •  Commodus fought as a Secutor in the arena.
  •  In his reign Commodus obsessed in performing as a gladiator.
  •  He altered some areas of his palace into an arena to fight beasts or gladiators.
  • He appeared in public as a gladiator and appeared on many privileged classes. It was a harsh shocking experienced for the Roman public to see their emperor publicly debase himself to the level of a slave or a prostitute in the arena.
  •  He appreciated to appear in the stadium clad in a lion skin as if the ancient hero Hercules, son of Jupiter.
  • The emperor slaughtered helpless animals or hapless gladiators. It is said he had killed one hundred bears. The animals were helplessly tethered with no chance to fight back and were simply stabbed to death.
  • The gladiators who would clash with Commodus in the arena stood evenly little chance of survival. The gladiators were only armed with wooden weapons.
  •  The emperor was not a skillful fighter many spectators are said to have struggled not to laugh out loud at the sight of such ridiculous performance of their emperor.
  • It is said that he slain twelve thousand men in the Arena. But the inscriptions were just to boast his false achievements. He is jealous to the real gladiators who won fame and admiration from the crowd.
  •  He deliberately marches to the senate from a gladiatorial school within the city - dressed as a gladiator.
Commodus was the objective of numerous assassination attempts for his life. His relative popularity to the people and the loyalty of the legions and the praetorians save him from previous attempts. It was not until members of his own inner circle began to feel susceptible that the emperor was in any serious danger to the future of Rome. A plot had been initiated by the Praetorian Prefect Aemilius Laetus and Eclectus, one of Commodus’ servants. Perhaps in fright for their own lives and worried over the emperor’s increasing strange behaviors, they recruited his concubine Marcia and attempted to poison him. Commodus was clever enough to resist the subtle attempt on his life and the conspirators recruited his sparring partner, Narcissus, to do the mission of eliminating the emperor. On December 31 AD 192, Narcissus strangled Commodus in his bath. Commodus ruled of nearly 13 years, along with 125 years of largely stable rule since the death of Nero.
Other Emperors who experienced battle in Arena
  • Caligula
  • Titus
  • Hadrian
  •  Lucius Verus
  • Caracalla
  • Geta
  •  Didius Julianus
They were all said to have experienced gladiatorial role  in the arena . but the risks to themselves were minimal.  Most of the beast and Gladiators they have fought were defenseless, weak and armed with wooden swords.

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