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Book LXXII

This webpage reproduces a Book of
Roman History

by
Cassius Dio

published in Vol. IX
of the Loeb Classical Library edition, 1927

The text is in the public domain.

This text has not yet been proofread.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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Book LXXIV

(Vol. IX) Cassius Dio
Roman History

Thayer's Note: Before e-mailing me with questions, comments, or corrections involving the numbering of Books, chapters, and sections in this text, please read the orientation page.

Vol. IX
p73
Epitome of Book LXXIII

LXXII

1 This man [Commodus] was not naturally wicked, but, on the contrary, as guileless as any man that ever lived. His great simplicity, however, together with his cowardice, made him the slave of his companions, and it was through them that he at first, out of ignorance, missed the better life and then was led on into lustful and cruel habits, which soon became second nature. 2 And this, I think, Marcus clearly perceived beforehand. Commodus was nineteen years old when his father died, leaving him many guardians, among whom were numbered the best men of the senate. But their suggestions and counsels Commodus rejected, and after making a truce with the barbarians he rushed to Rome; for he hated all exertion and craved the comfortable life of the city.

2 The Marcomani by reason of the multitude of their people that were perishing and the constant ravishing of their lands no longer had an abundance of either food or men. At any rate they sent only two of their chief men and two others of inferior rank as envoys to sue for peace. 2 And, although Commodus might easily have destroyed them, yet he made terms with them; for he hated all exertion and was eager for the comforts of the city. In addition to the conditions that his father had imposed upon them he also demanded that they restore to him the deserters and the captives that they had taken in the meantime, and that they furnish annually p75a stipulated amount of grain — a demand from which he subsequently released them. 3 Moreover, he obtained some arms from them and soldiers as well, thirteen thousand from the Quadi and a smaller number from the Marcomani; and in return for these he relieved them of the requirement of an annual levy. 4 However, he further commanded that they should not assemble often nor in many parts of the country, but only once each month and in one place, and in the presence of a Roman centurion; and, furthermore, that they should not make war upon the Iazyges, the Buri, or the Vandili. On these terms, then, he made peace and abandoned all the outposts in their country beyond the strip along the frontier that had been neutralized . . .

3 Commodus granted peace to the Buri when they sent envoys. Previously he had declined to do so, in spite of their frequent requests, because they were strong, and because it was not peace that they wanted, but the securing of a respite to enable them to make further preparations; 2 but now that they were exhausted he made peace with them, receiving hostages and getting back many captives from the Buri themselves as well as fifteen thousand from the others,1 and he compelled the others to take an oath that they would never dwell in nor use for pasturage a five-mile2 strip of their territory next to p77Dacia. 3 The same Sabinianus also, when twelve thousand of the neighbouring Dacians had been driven out of their own country and were on the point of aiding the others, dissuaded them from their purpose, promising them that some land in our Dacia should be given them.

4 Commodus was guilty of many unseemly deeds, and killed a great many people.

Many plots were formed by various people against Commodus, and he killed a great many, both men and women, some openly and some by means of poison, secretly, making away, in fact, with practically all those who had attained eminence during his father's reign and his own, 2 with the exception of Pompeianus, Pertinax and Victorinus; these men for some reason or other he did not kill. I state these and subsequent facts, not, as hitherto, on the authority of others' reports, but from my own observation. On coming to Rome he addressed the senate, uttering a lot of trivialities; and among the various stories that he told in his own praise was one to this effect, 3 that once while out riding he had saved the life of his father, who had fallen into a deep quagmire. Such were his lofty pratings. 4 But as he was entering the hunting-theatre, Claudius Pompeianus formed a plot against him: thrusting out a sword in the narrow entrance, he said: "See! This is what the senate has sent you." This man had been betrothed to the daughter out of Lucilla, but had intimate relations both with the girl herself and with her mother; 5 in this way he had become friendly with Commodus, so that he was his companion both at banquets and in p79youthful escapades. Lucilla, who was no more modest or chaste than her brother Commodus, detested her husband, Pompeianus. It was for this reason that she persuaded him to make the attack upon Commodus; and she not only caused his destruction but was herself detected and put out of the way. 6 Commodus also put Crispina to death, having become angry with her for some act of adultery. But before their execution both women were banished to the island of Capreae.

There was a certain Marcia, the mistress of Quadratus (one of the men slain at this time), and Eclectus, his cubicularius;3 the latter became the cubicularius of Commodus also, and the former, first the emperor's mistress and later the wife of Eclectus, 7 and she saw them also perish by violence. The tradition is that she greatly favoured the Christians and rendered them many kindnesses, inasmuch as she could do anything with Commodus.

5 Commodus also killed Salvius Julianus and Tarrutenius Paternus, who was enrolled among the ex-consuls, and others with them, including even a woman of the nobility.4 And yet Julianus, after the death of Marcus, could have done at once anything whatever that he wished against Commodus, 2 since he was a man of great renown, was in command of a large army, and enjoyed the devotion of his soldiers; but he had refused to make any rebellious move, both because of his own probity and because of the good will that he bore to Marcus even after that p81emperor's death. And Paternus, if he had plotted against Commodus, as he was accused of doing, could easily have killed him while he himself was still in command of the Pretorians; but he had not done so.

3 Commodus likewise killed the two Quintilii, Condianus and Maximus; for they had a great reputation for learning, military skill, brotherly accord, and wealth, and their notable talents led to the suspicion that, even if they were not planning any rebellion, they were nevertheless displeased with existing conditions. 4 And thus, even as they had lived together, so they died together, along with the son of one of them. They had offered the most striking example ever seen of mutual affection; and at no time had they ever been separated, even in the offices they held.5 They had grown prosperous and exceedingly wealthy, and were wont to hold office together and to act as assistants to each other.

6 Sextus Condianus, the son of Maximus, who surpassed all others by reason both of his native ability and his training, when he heard that sentence of death had been pronounced against him, too, drank the blood of a hare (he was living in Syria at the time), after which he mounted a horse and purposely fell from it; then, as he vomited the blood, which was supposed to be his own, he was taken up, apparently on the point of death, and was carried to his room. 2 He himself now disappeared, while a ram's body was placed in a coffin in his stead and burned. After this, constantly changing his appearance and clothing, he wandered p83about here and there. And when this story got out (for it is impossible that such matters should remain hidden very long), diligent search was made for him high and low. 3 Many were punished in his stead on account of their resemblance to him, and many, too, who were alleged to have shared his confidence or to have sheltered him somewhere; and still more persons who had perhaps never even seen him were deprived of their property. 4 But no one knows whether he was really slain, — though a great number of heads purporting to be his were brought to Rome, — or whether he made good his escape. Some other man, however, after the death of Commodus boldly claimed to be Sextus and undertook to recover his wealth and rank. And he played the part bravely, though questioned much by many persons; 5 yet when Pertinax asked him something about Grecian affairs, with which the real Sextus had been well acquainted, he showed the greatest embarrassment, being unable even to understand the question. Thus, though nature had made him like Condianus in appearance and practice had made him similar in other respects, yet he did not share in his learning.

7 As for this matter, now, that I have just related, I myself was present and heard it; and I will mention another thing, that I saw. There is in the city of Mallus, in Cilicia, an oracle of Amphilochus that gives responses by means of dreams. Now it had given a response also to Sextus, that he had indicated by means of a drawing; the picture which he had put on the tablet represented a boy strangling two serpents and a lion pursuing a fawn. 2 I was with my father, who was governor of Cilicia p85at the time, and could not comprehend what the figures meant, until I learned that the brothers had been strangled, so to speak, by Commodus (who later emulated Hercules), just as Hercules, when an infant, is related to have strangled the serpents sent against him by Juno (for the Quintilii, too, had been strangled), and until I learned also that Sextus was a fugitive and was being pursued by a more powerful adversary.

3 I should render my narrative very tedious were I to give a detailed report of all the persons put to death by Commodus, of all those whom he made away with as the result of false accusations or unjustified suspicions or because of their conspicuous wealth, distinguished family, unusual learning, or some other point of excellence.

4 Commodus displayed in Rome itself many indications of wealth and very many more, even, of a love of the beautiful. In fact, he occasionally performed an act of public service. Thus, when Manilius, who had been associated with Cassius, had been secretary of his Latin correspondence, and had possessed the greatest influence with him, was captured after taking to flight, the emperor would not listen to a word from him, though he offered to give a great deal of information, and he burned all the conspirator's papers without reading them.

8 He also had some wars with the barbarians beyond Dacia, in which Albinus and Niger, who later fought against the emperor Severus, won fame; but the greatest struggle was the one with the Britons. p872 When the tribes in that island, crossing the wall that separated them from the Roman legions, proceeded to do much mischief and cut down a general together with his troops, Commodus became alarmed but sent Ulpius Marcellus against them. 3 This man, who was temperate and frugal and always lived like a soldier in the matter of his food as well as in everything else when he was at war, was becoming haughty and arrogant; he was most conspicuously incorruptible, and yet was not of a pleasant or kindly nature. 4 He showed himself more wakeful than any other general, and as he wished the others who were associated with him to be alert also, he used to write orders on twelve tablets, such as are made out of linden wood, almost every evening, and bid an aide to deliver them to such-and‑such persons at various hours, so that these officers, believing the general the always awake, might not themselves take their fill of sleep. For nature in the first place had made him able to resist sleep, and he had developed this faculty by the discipline of fasting. 5 For in general he would never eat to satiety, and in order that he might not take his fill even of bread, he used to send to Rome for it. This was not because he could not eat the bread of the country, but in order that his bread might be so stale that he should be unable to eat even a small portion more than was absolutely necessary; for his gums were tender and, if the bread was very dry, would soon begin to bleed. However, he purposely exaggerated his natural tendency by simulating, in order that he might have the greatest possible reputation for p89wakefulness. 6 Such a man was Marcellus; and he ruthlessly put down the barbarians of Britain, and later, when, thanks to his peculiar excellence, he was all but on the point of being put to death by Commodus, he was nevertheless pardoned.

9 Perennis,6 who commanded the Pretorians after Paternus, met his death as the result of a mutiny of the soldiers. For, inasmuch as Commodus had given himself up to chariot-racing and licentiousness and performed scarcely any of the duties pertaining to his office, Perennis was compelled to manage not only the military affairs, but everything else as well, and to stand at the head of the State. 21 The soldiers, accordingly, whenever any matter did not turn out to their satisfaction, laid the blame upon Perennis and were angry with him.

2a The soldiers in Britain chose Priscus, a lieutenant, emperor; but he declined, saying: I am no more an emperor than you are soldiers"

The lieutenants in Britain, accordingly, having been rebuked for their insubordination, — they did not become quiet, in fact, until Pertinax quelled them, — now chose out of their number fifteen hundred javelin men and sent them into Italy. 3 These men had already drawn near to Rome without encountering any resistance, when Commodus met them and asked: "What is the meaning of this, soldiers? What is your purpose in coming?" And when they p91answered, "We are here because Perennis is plotting against you and plans to make his son emperor," Commodus believed them, especially as Cleander insisted; for this man had often been prevented by Perennis from doing all that he desired, and consequently he hated him bitterly. 4 He accordingly delivered up the prefect to very soldiers whose commander he was, and had not the courage to scorn fifteen hundred men, though he had many times that number of Pretorians. 10 So Perennis was maltreated and struck down by those men, and his wife, his sister, and two sons were also killed. Thus Perennis was slain, though he deserved a far different fate, both on his own account and in the interest of the entire Roman empire, — except in so far as his ambition for office had made him chiefly responsible for the ruin of his colleague Paternus. For privately he never strove in the least for either fame or wealth, but lived a most incorruptible and temperate life; and as for Commodus and his imperial office, he guarded them in complete security.

2 Commodus was wholly devoted to pleasure and gave himself up to chariot-racing, caring nothing for anything of that nature;7 and, indeed, if he had been deeply concerned, he would not have been able to administer them by reason of his indolence and his inexperience.

And the imperial freedmen, with Cleander at p93their head, after getting rid of this man [Perennis], refrained from no form of mischief, selling all privileges, and indulging in wantonness and debauchery.

Commodus devoted most of his life to ease and to horses and to combats of wild beasts and of men. 3 In fact, besides all that he did in private, he often slew in public large numbers of men and beasts as well. For example, all alone with his own hands, he dispatched five hippopotami together with two elephants on two successive days; and he also killed rhinoceroses and a camelopard. This is what I have to say with reference to his career as a whole.

11 A statue was set up to Victorinus,8 who had been prefect of the city. He had not died as the victim of any plot; in fact, at one time, when a persistent rumour and many reports, one may almost say, were being circulated about his death, he became emboldened, and approaching Perennis, said: "I hear that you men wish to kill me. Why, then, do you delay? Why do you put it off, when you might do it this very day?" 2 Yet not even after that was he molested by any outside person, but he took his own life; and yet he had been honoured among the foremost men by Marcus, both in point of moral p95excellence and forensic eloquence stood second to none of his contemporaries. Indeed, two incidents that I shall now relate will reveal his whole character. 3 When he was governor of Germany at one time, he at first attempted by private persuasion at home to induce his lieutenant not to accept bribes; but when the latter would not listen to him, he mounted the tribunal, and after bidding the herald proclaim silence, took oath that he had never accepted bribes and never would. 4 Then he bade the lieutenant take the same oath, and when the other refused to perjure himself, he ordered him to resign his office. And later, when he was governor of Africa and had an associate of similar character to the man just mentioned, though he did not adopt the same method, he nevertheless put him on board a ship and sent him back to Rome. Such, then, was the character of Victorinus.

12 As for Cleander, who possessed the greatest influence after Perennis, he had formerly been sold as one of a group of slaves and had been brought to Rome with the others to be a pack-carrier; but in the course of time he advanced to such a point that he actually became Commodus' cubicularius, married the emperor's concubine Damostratia, 2 and put to death Saoterus of Nicomedeia, his predecessor in this office, together with many others. Yet Saoterus, too, had possible very great influence, so great, in fact, that thanks to it the privilege of celebrating some games and of erecting a temple to Commodus. 3 So Cleander, raised to greatness by p97the favour of Fortune, bestowed and sold senatorships, military commands, procuratorships, governorships, and, in a word, everything. In fact, some men became senators only after spending all they possessed, so that it was said of Julius Solon, a very obscure man, that he had been stripped of all his property and banished to — the senate. 4 Besides all this, Cleander appointed twenty-five consuls for one year, a thing that never happened before or since; one of these consuls was Severus, who later became emperor. 5 Cleander, accordingly, was obtaining money from every source, and he amassed more wealth than any who had ever been named cubicularii. A great deal it he gave to Commodus and his concubines, and he spent a great deal on houses, baths, and other works of benefit either to individuals or to cities.

13 So this Cleander, too, who had been raised to so exalted a station, fell suddenly and perished in dishonour. It was not the soldiers, however, that killed him, as in the case of Perennis, but the populace. A famine occurred, sufficiently grievous in itself; but its severity was vastly increased by Papirius Dionysius, the grain commissioner, in order that Cleander, whose thefts would seem chiefly responsible for it, might incur the hatred of the Romans and be destroyed by them. 3 And so it came to pass. There was a horse-race on, and as the horses were about to contend for the seventh time, a crowd of children ran into the Circus, led by a tall maiden of grim aspect, who, because of what afterwards happened, was thought to have been a divinity. p994 The children shouted in concert many bitter words, which the people took up and then began to bawl out every conceivable insult; and finally the throng leaped down and set out to find Commodus (who was then in the Quintilian suburb),9 invoking many blessings on him and many curses upon Cleander. The latter sent some soldiers against them, who wounded and killed a few; 5 but, instead of being deterred by this, the crowd, encouraged by its own numbers and by the strength of the Pretorians, pressed on with all the greater determination. They were already drawing near to Commodus, whom no one had kept informed of what was going on, when Marcia, the notorious wife of Quadratus, reported the matter to him. 6 And Commodus was so terrified (he was ever the greatest coward) that he at once ordered Cleander to be slain, and likewise his son, who was being reared in the emperor's charge. The boy was dashed to the earth and so perished; and the Romans, taking the body of Cleander, dragged it away and abused it and carried his head all about the city on a pole. They also slew some other men who had enjoyed great power under him.

14 Commodus, taking a respite from his amusements and sports, turned to murder and was killing off the prominent men. Among these was Julianus, the prefect, whom he had been wont even and public to embrace and kiss and address as "father." Another was Julius Alexander, who was executed for having brought down a lion with his javelin p101while on horseback.10 2 This man, when he learned of the arrival of the assassins, murdered them at night, and also destroyed all his enemies at Emesa, his native city; then he mounted a horse and set out to go to the barbarians. And he would have escaped, had he not taken along a boy-favourite with him, since he himself was an excellent horseman; 3 but he could not bring himself to desert the lad, who had become wearied, and so, when he was being overtaken, he killed both the boy and himself. Dionysius, the grain commissioner, also met his death by the orders of Commodus.

Moreover, a pestilence occurred, the greatest of any of which I have knowledge; for two thousand persons often died in Rome in a single day. 4 Then, too, many others, not alone in the City, but throughout almost the entire empire, perished at the hands of criminals who smeared some deadly drugs on tiny needles and for pay infected people with the poison by means of these instruments. The same thing had happened before in the reign of Domitian.11

15 Now the death of these victims passed unheeded for Commodus was a greater curse to the Romans than any pestilence or any crime. Among other reasons was this, that whatever honours they had been wont to vote to his father out of affection they were now compelled out of fear and by direct command to assign also to the son. 2 He actually ordered that Rome itself should be called Commodiana, the legions Commodian, and the day on which these measures were voted Commodiana. p103Upon himself he bestowed, in addition to a great many other names, that of Hercules. Rome he styled the "Immortal, Fortunate Colony of the Whole Earth"; for he wished it to be regarded as a settlement of his own. 3 In his honour a gold statue was erected of a thousand pounds weight, representing him together with a bull and a cow. Finally, all the months were named after him, so that they were enumerated as follows: Amazonius, Invictus, Felix, Pius,12 Lucius, Aelius, Aurelius, Commodus, Augustus, Herculeus, Romanus, Exsuperatorius. 4 For he himself assumed these several titles at different times, but "Amazonius" and "Exsuperatorius" he applied constantly to himself, to indicate that in every respect he surpassed absolutely all mankind superlatively; so superlatively mad had the abandoned wretch become. 5 And to the senate he would send messages couched in these terms: "The Emperor Caesar Lucius Aelius Aurelius Commodus Augustus Pius Felix Sarmaticus Germanicus Maximus Britannicus, Pacifier of the Whole Earth, Invincible, the Roman Hercules, Pontifex Maximus, Holder of the Tribunician Authority for the eighteenth time, Imperator for the eighth time, Consul for the seventh time, Father of his Country, to consuls, praetors, tribunes, 6 and the fortunate Commodian senate, Greeting." Vast numbers of statues were erected representing him in the garb of Hercules. And it was voted that his age should be named the p105"Golden Age," and that this should be recorded in all the records without exception.

16 Now this "Golden One," this "Hercules," (this "god" (for he was even given this name, too) suddenly drove into Rome one afternoon from his suburb and conducted thirty horse-races in the space of two hours. These proceedings had much to do with his running short of funds. 2 He was also fond, it is true, of bestowing gifts, and frequently gave largesses to the populace at the rate of one hundred and forty denarii per man; but most of his expenditures were for the objects I have mentioned. Hence he brought accusations against both men and women, slaying some and to others selling their lives for their property.13 3 And finally he ordered us, our wives, and our children each to contribute two gold pieces14 every year on his birthday as a kind of first-fruits, and commanded the senators in all the other cities to give five denarii apiece. Of this, too, he saved nothing, but spent it all disgracefully on his wild beasts and his gladiators.

17 In public he nowhere drove chariots except sometimes on a moonless night, for, though he was eager to play the charioteer in public, too, he was ashamed to be seen doing so; but in private he was constantly p107doing it, adopting the Green uniform. 2 As for wild beasts, however, he slew many both in private and in public. Moreover, he used to contend as a gladiator; in doing this at home he managed to kill a man now and then, and in making close passes with others, as if trying to clip off a bit of their hair, he sliced off the noses of some, the ears of others, and sundry features of still others; but in public he refrained from using steel and shedding human blood. 3 Before entering the amphitheatre he would put on a long-sleeved tunic of silk, white interwoven with gold, and thus arrayed he would receive our greetings; but when he was about to go inside, he put on a robe of pure purple with gold spangles, donning also after the Greek fashion a chlamys of the same colour, and a crown made of gems from India and of gold, and he carried a herald's staff like that of Mercury. 4 As for the lion-skin and club, in the street they were carried before him, and in the amphitheatres they were placed on a gilded chair, whether he was present or not. He himself would enter the arena in the garb of Mercury, and casting aside all his other garments, would begin his exhibition wearing only a tunic and unshod.

18 On the first day he killed a hundred bears all by himself, shooting down at them from the railing of the balustrade; for the whole amphitheatre had been divided up by means of two intersecting cross-walls which supported the gallery that ran its entire length, the purpose being that the beasts, divided into four herds, might more easily be speared at short range from any point. 2 In the midst of the struggle he became weary, and taking from a woman p109some chilled sweet wine in a cup shaped like a club, he drank it at one gulp. At this both the populace and we senators all immediately shouted out the words so familiar at drinking-bouts, "Long life to you!"

3 And let no one feel that I am sullying the dignity of history by recording such occurrences. On most accounts, to be sure, I should not have mentioned this exhibition; but since it was given by the emperor himself, and since I was present myself and took part in everything seen, heard and spoken, I have thought proper to suppress none of the details, but to hand them down, trivial as they are, just like any events of the greatest weight and importance. 4 And, indeed, all the other events that took place in my lifetime I shall describe with more exactness and detail than earlier occurrences, for the reason that I was present when they happened and know no one else, among those who have any ability at writing a worthy record of events, who has so accurate a knowledge of them as I.

19 On the first day, then, the events that I have described took place. On the other days he descended to the arena from his place above and cut down all the domestic animals that approached him and some also that were led up to him or were brought before him in nets. He also killed a tiger, a hippopotamus, and an elephant. 2 Having performed these exploits, he would retire, but later, after luncheon, would fight as a gladiator. The form of contest that he practised and the armour that he used were those of the secutores, as they were called: he held the shield in his right hand and the wooden p111sword in his left, and indeed took great pride in the fact that he was left-handed. 3 His antagonist would be some athlete or perchance a gladiator armed with a wand; sometimes it was a man that he himself had challenged, sometimes one chosen by the people, for in this as well as in other matters he put himself on an equal footing with the other gladiators, except for the fact that they enter the lists for a very small sum, whereas Commodus received a million sesterces from the gladiatorial fund each day. 4 Standing beside him as he fought were Aemilius Laetus, the prefect, and Eclectus, his cubicularius; and when he had finished his sparring match, and of course won it, he would then, just as he was, kiss these companions through his helmet. After this the regular contestants would fight. The first day he personally paired all the combatants down in the arena, where he appeared with all the trappings of Mercury, including a gilded wand, and took his place on a gilded platform; and we regarded his doing this as an omen. 5 Later he would ascend to his customary place and from there view the remainder of the spectacle with us. After that the contests no longer resembled child's play, but were so serious that great numbers of men were killed. Indeed, on one occasion, when some of the victors hesitated to slay the vanquished, he fastened the various contestants together and ordered them all to fight at once. 6 Thereupon the men so bound fought man against man, and some killed even those who did not belong to their group at all, since the numbers and the limited space had brought them together.

20 That spectacle, of the general character I have described, lasted fourteen days. When the emperor p113was fighting, we senators together with the knights always attended. Only Claudius Pompeianus the elder never appeared, but sent his sons, while remaining away himself; for he preferred even to be killed for this rather than to behold the emperor, the son of Marcus, conducting himself in such a fashion. 2 For among other things that we did, we would shout out whatever we were commanded, and especially these words continually: "Thou art lord and thou art first, of all men most fortunate. Victor thou art, and victor thou shalt be; from everlasting, Amazonian, thou art victor." But of the populace in general, many did not enter the amphitheatre at all, and others departed after merely glancing inside, partly from shame at what was going on, partly also from fear, inasmuch as a report spread abroad that he would want to shoot a few of the spectators in imitation of Hercules and the Stymphalian birds. 3 And this story was believed, too, because he had once got together all the men in the city who had lost their feet as the result of disease or some accident, and then, after fastening about their knees some likenesses of serpents' bodies, and giving them sponges to throw instead of stones, had killed them with blows of a club, pretending that they were giants.

21 This fear was shared by all, by us senators as well as by the rest. And here is another thing that he did to us senators which gave us every reason to look for our death. Having killed an ostrich and cut off his head, he came up to where we were sitting, holding the head in his left hand and in p115his right hand raising aloft his bloody sword; 2 and though he spoke not a word, yet he wagged his head with a grin, indicating that he would treat us in the same way. And many would indeed have perished by the sword on the spot, for laughing at him (for it was laughter rather than indignation that overcame us), if I had not chewed some laurel leaves, which I got from my garland, myself, and persuaded the others who were sitting near me to do the same, so that in the steady movement of our armies we might conceal the fact that we were laughing.

3 After the events described he raised our spirits. For when he was intending to fight once more as a gladiator, he bade us enter the amphitheatre in the equestrian garb and in our woollen cloaks, a thing that we never do when going to the amphitheatre except when one of the emperors has passed away; and on the last day his helmet was carried out by the gates through which the dead are taken out. These events caused absolutely every one of us to believe that we were surely about to be rid of him.

22 And he actually did die, or rather was slain, before long. For Laetus and Eclectus, displeased at the things he was doing, and also inspired by fear, in view of the threats he made against them because they tried to prevent him from acting in this way, formed a plot against him. 2 It seems that Commodus wished to slay both the consuls, Erucius Clarus and Sosius Falco, and on New Year's Day to issue forth both as consul and secutor from the quarters of the gladiators; in fact, he had the first cell there, as if p117he were one of them. 3 Let no one doubt this statement. Indeed, he actually cut off the head of the Colossus, and substituted for it a likeness of his own head; then, having given it a club and placed a bronze lion at its feet, so as to cause it to look like Hercules, he inscribed on it, in addition to the list of his titles which I have already indicated, these words: "Champion of secutores; only left-handed fighter to conquer twelve times (as I recall the number) one thousand men."15

4 For these reasons Laetus and Eclectus attacked him, after making Marcia their confidant. At any rate, on the last day of the year, at night, when people were busy with the holiday, they caused Marcia to administer poison to him in some beef. 5 But the immoderate use of wine and baths, which was habitual with him, kept him from succumbing at once, and instead he vomited up some of it; and thus suspecting the truth, he indulged in some threats. Then they sent Narcissus, an athlete, against him, and caused this man to strangle him while he was taking a bath. 6 Such was the end of Commodus, after he had ruled twelve years, nine months, and fourteen days. He had lived thirty-one years and four months; and with him the line of the genuine Aurelii ceased to rule.

23 After this there occurred most violent wars and civil strife. I was inspired to write an account of these struggles by the following incident. I had p119written and published a little book about the dreams and portents which gave Severus reason to hope for the imperial power; 2 and he, after reading the copy I sent him, wrote me a long and complimentary acknowledgment. This letter I received about nightfall, and soon after fell asleep; and in my dreams the Divine Power commanded me to write history. Thus it was that I came to write the narrative with which I am at this moment concerned. 3 And inasmuch as it won the high approval, not only of others, but, in particular, of Severus himself, I then conceived a desire to compile a record of everything else that concerned the Romans. Therefore, I decided to leave the first treatise no longer as a separate composition, but to incorporate it in this present history, in order that in a single work I might write down and leave behind me a record of everything from the beginning down to the point that shall seem best to Fortune. 4 This goddess gives me strength to continue my history when I become timid and disposed to shrink from it; when I grow weary and would resign the task, she wins me back by sending dreams; she inspires me with fair hopes that future time will permit my history to survive and never dim its lustre; she, it seems, has fallen to my lot as guardian of the course of my life, and therefore I have dedicated myself to her. 5 I spent ten years in collecting all the achievements of the Romans from the beginning down to the death of Severus, and twelve years more in composing my work. As for subsequent events, they also shall be recorded, down to whatever point it shall be permitted me.

24 Before the death of Commodus there were the following portents: many eagles of ill omen soared p121about the Capitol and moreover uttered screams that boded nothing peaceful, and an owl hooted there; and a fire that began at night in some dwelling leaped to the temple of Pax and spread to the storehouses of Egyptian and Arabian wares, whence the flames, borne aloft, 2 entered the palace and consumed very extensive portions of it, so that nearly all the State records were destroyed. This, in particular, made it clear that the evil would not be confined to the City, but would extend over the entire civilized world under its sway. 3 For the conflagration could not be extinguished by human power, though vast numbers both of civilians and soldiers carried water, and Commodus himself came in from the suburb and encouraged them. Only when it had destroyed everything on which it had laid hold did it spend its force and die out.


The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 "Others" (in this line and at the end of the paragraph) is perhaps corrupt; "Alani" has been suggested in its place.

2 Literally, 40 stades; see note on LXXI (LXXII).15.

3 The official who had charge of the sleeping and living rooms.

4 Vitrasia Faustina.

5 Cf. the account of the Scribonii in LXIII (LXII).17.

6 This is the Latin form of the name; Dio and Herodian call him Perennius.

7 If the text is correct, this must be a reference to the duties of his office.

8 Cf. Xiph.: "The statue was granted to Victorinus, who had been city prefect, at his death. This man, when Commodus wished to slay him but kept putting the matter off and hesitating, . . . approached Perennis and said: 'I hear,' " etc.

9 Probably near Laurentum; cf. Herodian I.12.

10 Probably because the "Roman Hercules" (ch. 15) feared Alexander might detract from his glory.

11 See LXVII.11.6.

12 Boissevain believes that the order of Felix and Pius should be reversed, inasmuch as the title Pius nearly always precedes Felix in the inscriptions; compare the order of the titles just below.

13 Cf. Exc. Val.: "Commodus used to make many unusual expenditures, and for this reason neither his other revenues nor the funds provided by Cleander, though incalculable in amount, sufficed him, and he was compelled to bring charges against even women — charges not calling for capital punishment, yet full of vague terror and threats. In consequence he sold them their lives for a large price and got something from them by force under the guise of a voluntary offering."

14 See note on p54.

15 Cf. Patr.: ". . . was written by Lucius Commodus Hercules, and upon it was inscribed the well-known couplet:

'Jove's son, victorious Hercules, am I,
Not Lucius, e'en though forced that name to bear.' "


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