The coinage of Commodus (c.AD 175-192)
Commodus was born in AD 161 and made Caesar by Marcus Aurelius in AD 162. however, it appears that no coins were struck for him until AD 175 ( although RIC III dates some to AD 172-6 ). This article follows the date in
BMC IV which dates his first issues to AD 175 .
Commodus was made Augustus alongside his forefather in AD 177 and an increasing number of coins were struck for him in the last years of Marcus Aurelius ’ reign. Commodus married Bruttia Crispina in AD 178, but the date of her neologism is highly debatable and her neologism will be dealt with in a separate piece. For his neologism with Marcus Aurelius, dating to c. AD 175-80, there are around 50 coins on the PAS Database. These comprise 12 silver denarii, 28 base-metal sestertii, 4 dupondii and 6 asses. On the Database, these coins have the rule dropdown ‘ Commodus under Marcus Aurelius ’ which places the coins in Reece Period 8 .
Coinage as Caesar, c.AD 175-77
Reading: Coin Relief 37 – Commodus
Left to right: Silver denarii of Commodus as Caesar (DENO-839F0E, LANCUM-A587C3, both Portable Antiquities Scheme, License CC-BY-SA). Copper-alloy as of Commodus as Caesar (DENO-D3ACE6, Derby Museums Trust, License CC-BY-SA).
Commodus as joint Augustus with Marcus Aurelius, AD 177-80
Left to right: Copper alloy dupondius of Commodus as Augustus with Marcus Aurelius (BUC-2CD010, Buckinghamshire County Museum, License CC-BY-SA). Silver denarii of Commodus as Augustus with Marcus Aurelius (LVPL-8690C2, National Museums Liverpool, HAMP-FBE581, Winchester Museums Service, both License CC-BY-SA).
Commodus as sole Augustus, AD 180-92
Upon Marcus Aurelius ’ death in AD 180, Commodus assumed power as sole Augustus. however, this occurred halfway within an emergence so it is not possible to date some coins to his joint or sole reign. however, we include these coins under the rule
dropdown for Commodus, linking to Reece Period 9. His reign is marked by considerable scheme and increasing tumult in Rome. The follow outline loosely follows some of the major events and themes of his reign. A few other coins, not related to the specific topics discussed, are included in their chronological put .
Silver denarius of Commodus, Rome, AD 179-80. This issue began to be struck before Marcus Aurelius died in AD 180, but continued after his death. Record ID WILT-EB82E1 (Salisbury & South Wiltshire Museum, License CC-BY-SA).
Excluding the IARCW Welsh datum, there are 1065 coins for Commodus as exclusive Augustus on the PAS Database. They comprise 269 argent denarii, 718 base-metal sestertii, 43 dupondii, 39 asses and 22 dupondii or asses. We witness a major predominance of base-metal coins, notably the sestertius which outnumbers the denarius by over 2.5 to 1. This laterality of the sestertius over the denarius is to on the spur of the moment be reversed in the Severan Period when for Septimius Severus ( AD 193-211 ) the denarius ( 1,449 specimens, including copies ) massively outnumbers sestertii ( 153 specimens ) by about 9.5 to 1 ! It should besides be noted that the
ash grey denarius was debased by Marcus Aurelius around AD 170 and doubly subsequently by Commodus in the AD 180s ; this heralds the increasing degradation of the denarius in the
Severan period .
Liberalitas and Donatives
Commodus struck a large number of coins, showing Liberalitas, which celebrate donations of money made to the populace of Rome. Each Liberalitas is numbered, I and II occurring when he was ruling with Marcus Aurelius ( in c. AD 175 and in AD 177 ). During his lone reign, there were seven such donations, Liberalitas III to VIIII, spanning his whole reign from AD 180 to AD 192. Liberalitas III was in AD 180 and is celebrated on a sestertius which shows the full fit of Commdodus handing out largess to the people. however, the clearest Liberalitas coins on the PAS Database tend to be silver denarii which good show the personification of Liberalitas .
Silver denarius of Commodus, Rome, AD 181-182 with personification of Liberalitas on the reverse. Record ID SWYOR-50A748 (West Yorkshire Archaeology Advisory Service, License CC-BY).
The Conspiracy of Lucilla
nitrogen 181/2, Commodus ’ sister ( and widow of Lucius Verus, AD 161-9 ), Lucilla, led a conspiracy against Commodus. It failed and Lucilla was exiled to Capri. It has been suggested ( BMC IV, p. clvii ) that as a solution of this consequence, Commodus took the title ‘ Pius ’ to align himself with the virtuous Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius, in contrast to the impious Lucilla and her associates .
Silver denarius of Commodus, Rome, AD 182-3, with Pius legend. Record ID DOR-806F42 (Portable Antiquities Scheme, License CC-BY).
AD 184-5 – Britannicus and the fall of Perennis
In the early on 180s there had been problems on Britain ’ s northern frontier, with the apparent transgress of hadrian ’ second Wall. By 184, the governor of Britain, Marcellus, had restored orderliness which was the opportunity for Commodus to take the title Britannicus and
celebrate the victory on his coinage. however, there was unrest within the Roman united states army in Britain, obviously due to changes being made by Perennis, Commodus ’ south foreman minister in Rome. A legionnaire commander called Priscus was even declared emperor in Britain, but the coup d’etat failed. however, this did not stop 1,500 ‘ javelin men ’ from Britain marching to Rome to complain about Perennis. Their complaints were heard by Commodus and Perennis was executed in AD 185 .
Silver denarius of Commodus, Rome, AD 184, with Commodus hearing complaints about Perennis on the reverse. Record ID WILT-867A0D (Salisbury & South Wiltshire Museum, License CC-BY).
The Annona/Corn Supply of Rome
Maintaining the corn supply of Rome ( the Annona ) was a crucial element for imperial contral of Rome, as stated in Juvenal ’ s panem et circenses ( ‘ bread and circuses ’ ). Annona was the
personification of the corn-harvest, most normally used to represent the corn supply brought to Rome by large fleets from Egypt and North Africa. The modius that appears on coins was a corn standard. In AD 186, Commodus did build a new grain
fleet for Rome .
We have seen above how Commodus took the title Pius in AD 183. In AD 184, he added the title Felix. hera, Commodus combines the Felicity of Augustus ( 27 BC – AD 14 ) with the piety of Antoninus Pius ( AD 138-61 ), creating a formula which is to become normally used by emperors of the later Roman Empire ( when it is normally abbreviated P F on coins ). In general usage Pius Felix was to mean ‘ pious to the Gods, blessed by the Gods ’. P FEL / FELIX are the most common abbreviations on the neologism of Commodus .
AD 187 – Commodus’ tenth jubilee (decennalia)
newton AD 186/7, Commodus celebrated his one-tenth year as Augustus. On the mint below, Commodus is seen fulfilling his vows ( vota soluta ) with a sacrifice after ten years of rule .
Silver denarius of Commodus, Rome, AD 186-7, with reverse depicting Commodus sacrificing at a tripod altar. Record ID PUBLIC-72C6C1 (All rights reserved, License CC-BY-SA).
Mint reforms in AD 186-7?
In AD 186-7, Commodus introduced a novel new type showing the three monetae on the reversion of his sestertii. It is suggested that this might refer to mint reforms in Rome .
AD 186-9 – The different guises of Fortuna
Fortuna was regarded as an substantive property of a successful emperor ; without Fortuna on your side you were doomed. She took on different forms, however, as shown intelligibly in Commodus ’ mho neologism, some which are shown above. The visualize under shows, from left to right : ‘ Fortuna Redux ’ ( ‘ Fortune the Home-bringer ’ ), in this casing probably in prediction of Commodus travelling to Germany or Africa ; ‘ Fortuna Manens ’ ( ‘ Fortune the Steadier ’ ) is much rare on coins, but as Harold Mattingly writes she was popular with Romans : ‘ … a Fortuna as hard held as the knight which she herself bridles. ’ ( BMC IV, p. one hundred sixty-five ) ; and ‘ Fortuna Felix ’ who ‘ combines the wealth of Fortuna with the magic fortune of Felicitas. ’
Left to right: copper alloy sestertius (DENO-ED7C9D, Derby Museums Trust); silver denarius (BM-AA3304, Vincent Drost); and copper alloy sestertius (DOR-5F62D5). All images License CC-BY-SA.
AD 188-90 – Extolling Rome’s power and stability, and the fall of Cleander
The neologism of this menstruation presents an order, peaceful and divinely-ordained Rome, with types proclaiming ‘ endless peace ’, victorious Minerva and Mars ‘ the bringer of peace ’. The world was that matters in Rome were becoming increasingly trouble oneself under Commodus ’ chief minister, Cleander. finally, during the races in the Circus Maximus, the people rioted against Cleander because there was a food dearth ; Cleander was forced to flee to Commodus who had him executed. Apollo of the Palatine was the
protective deity of the imperial palace on the Palatine Hill and might be represented on coins to show that after the disturbances Commodus was in residence in the city. The coin downstairs is an unusual type which shows Apollo as a protective deity of the Mint .
Silver denarius of Commodus, Rome, AD 190. Record ID SUR-6FF567 (Surrey County Council, License CC-BY).
Loyalty of the army
It must be remembered that whilst there were court intrigues and increasingly disruptive times in Rome, Commodus maintained the army ’ mho loyalty, both the praetorian Guard in Rome, and the
united states army further afield ( at least for now ). A act of coins show this, some extolling the ‘ Faith of the Cohorts ’ .
Commodus and Hercules
In the last few years of Commodus ’ reign, he increasingly suffered from megalomania. He began to perform in the arena at the games ( as now immortalised in the film Gladiator ). He had already honoured Hercules earlier in his reign but increasingly associated himself with the deity in his late years, giving emanation to a wide range of types in his survive two years, some even depicting him as Hercules on the obverse.
Copper alloy sestertius of Commodus, Rome, AD 192, depicting the emperor as Hercules on the reverse. Record ID HAMP1747 (Portable Antiquities Scheme, License CC-BY-SA).
New Year’s Eve, AD 192 – The demise of Commodus
Commodus ’ reign became increasingly disruptive in AD 192. After a major fire in Rome, Commodus styled himself as a new Romulus and even named the city after himself : Colonia Lucia Annia Commodiana. It appears that in attack to bolster his throne he had two ‘ liberalities ’ ( numbers VIII and VIIII ) to bribe the people of Rome. In the conclusion the praetorian Prefect Laetus hatched a diagram with Commodus ’ servant, Eclectus, which even
included Commodus ’ schoolmarm, Marcia. On New Year ’ south Eve, AD 192, their attempt to poison Commodus failed, but he was strangled by his wrestling collaborator, Narcissus, in the bathtub. He was succeeded by Pertinax who reigned for just under three months .