Posted by: ken98 | September 23, 2009

Commodus to Pertinax

Day 11 Ken here

Gibbon describes the son of the philosopher king (Marcus Aurelius – the last of the good Antonines) descending into what was basically a quarterback for the local sports team, playing games he never lost to packed capacity crowds cheering for their very lives.

Again, we are in Augustan History land as sources for a great deal of this, so it is suspect. But its a very old story of young emperor starting out with good intentions, but going bad, and dying by poison administered by his family. The picture from the previous day showed him in a lion’s head – that was his name – the Roman Hercules – or the name he wanted to be called. I guess kind of like the president of the U.S. wanting to be called spiderman.

Gibbon seriously relates the story (Aug Hist) that crowds were forced to chant the name of his favorite gladiator hundreds and hundreds of times, and Gibbon begins more graphically describing the sexual depravity of Commodus – but buries it in Latin in a footnote (DF p.116, fn 28) – one of the first of many untranslated passages. Maybe it all happened. Maybe not.


In the end, we get the reluctant accession of Pertinax, son of a woodcutter, but a career military man. He had long years of service in the Roman military, moved up into the bureaucracy of the capital, was tapped on the shoulder one night, expecting to be executed by Commodus and instead became emperor – for 4 months. Sometimes life isn’t fair.

Pertinax dec192-Mar193

Pertinax dec192-Mar193

until tomorrow

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