AR Denarius. 2.91g, 16.9mm
MINTED: Rome mint, AD 184.
REF: RIC 92 var. (obv legend)
OBVERSE: M COMMODVS ANTON AVG PIVS, laureate head right.
REVERSE: P M TR P VIIII IMP VII COS IIII P P, Genius, nude, standing left, sacrificing out of patera in right hand over altar and holding corn-ears in left hand.
Very Fine. Pleasantly toned. Nice portrait resembling his father, Marcus Aurelius.
Scarce obverse legend variant not recorded in RIC, which has M COMM ANTON AVG PIVS BRIT for this reverse. This coin's obverse legend uses the previous year's M COMMODVS ANTON AVG PIVS.
Where his father, the philosophically minded Marcus Aurelius, was a dutiful, intelligent and enlightened ruler, Commodus was a vain, easily influenced, and cruel tyrant. Once Aurelius died in 180, the 18-year old Commodus quickly rejected the austere lifestyle and Stoic philosophy of his father, indulging his personal passions and vices while allowing ambitious advisors and freedmen to run the government on his behalf.
Towards the end of his reign, Commodus became mentally unstable and megalomaniacal in the extreme. He believed himself the reincarnation of the demigod Hercules, dressing up in a lionskin and carrying about a club in public. He scandalized the nobility of Rome by performing in public arenas naked as a gladiator, while threatening to execute any who offended him. In a bizarre act of egomania, he renamed Rome and all the months of the year after himself. Finally, in 192, a group of those closest to him, including his chamberlain Eclectus, his concubine Marcia, and the praetorian prefect Laetus, joined a conspiracy to murder him. On December 31, they poisoned his food and had his wrestling trainer, Narcissus, strangle him in his bath.
In the 2000 film Gladiator, Commodus was the memorably villainous emperor.
COMMODUS . AD 177-192 . AR Denarius . Genius . Scarce obverse legend variant
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