Friday, March 3, 2017

New Article: Emperor Commodus—History Is Better That Fiction

The Real Emperor Commodus Was Much More Bizarre and Odd Than The Way He Is Portrayed In Film

  (Bust of Commodus photographed by Wolfgang Sauber in the Antiques Museum in the Royal Palace, Stockholm, via Creative Commons (CC 1.0))

Film Portrayal
After watching the 2016 Netflix miniseries-documentary hybrid about Commodus called Roman Empire: Reign of Blood, I began to think about the ways Emperor Commodus has been depicted in film. In the hit movie, Gladiator, released in 2000, Commodus was portrayed as an incestuous snob who murdered his father, the great philosopher-emperor Marcus Aurelius.  At the end of that movie, Commodus was killed in a gladiatorial battle with the masses of Rome in audience. It made great cinema, but it was hardly a factual depiction of Commodus’ reign.

Netflix’s Roman Empire: Reign of Blood was much more factual, but there were noticeable differences between what the historians featured on the show said, compared to how the filmmakers recreated the scenes. The information provided by the historians was spot-on, but the filmmakers could not help but make the scenes more elaborate. The two scenes that really stood out in this regard were Commodus fighting as a gladiator and the depiction of his assassination. In the show’s gladiatorial scenes, Commodus was shown to be in dramatic (mostly fair) fights, but historically, Commodus likely only fought the crippled, the injured or the incapacitated in the arena. If he actually fought against skilled opponents, he would win by forfeit without any real combat. As to Commodus’ assassination, Gladiator and Roman Empire: Reign of Blood, both set the scene up as a final hand-to-hand combat showdown between the emperor and a gladiator, while history claims that Commodus was strangled by his wrestling instructor while bathing.

Yet, criticism is not the aim of this article. In the following paragraphs, read about the life and reign of Commodus and determine for yourselves if the historical Commodus is more interesting and bizarre than the interpretations provided by filmmakers.

Read about the real Emperor Commodus, HERE.

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