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“...He is blood thirsty, wants to kill his family and name everything after him.. but I believe Commodus is essentially a good lad and is being misjudged by society..He will be a great Emperor as soon as he has served his imperial ASBO order ...”
“AM I NOT MERCIFUL?”
“It vexes me, I am terribly vexed.”
Commodus (full name : Loonicatus Marcus Commodus 'Look at Me ! I'm Mad' Caesar) is widely credited with destroying the Roman Empire and giving actors like Christopher Plummer and Joaquin Phoenix the chance to chew the scenery by playing him as a crazy man in movies.
First Signs of Nuttiness
The reason for Commodus's later full on lunacy can be blamed on his mother Faustina. She really doted on 'Commie' as he grew up in the Imperial court of his father Emperor Marcus Aurelius. Whereas his father liked writing a lot of very boring books - the young Commodus preferred to run wild in Rome with his equally dissolute friend - the poet Juvenile (founder of the Urinal School of Poetry). At this stage Commodus seemed reasonably sane - he enjoyed going to see criminals being executed live and a partook in a few modest teenage orgies - nothing exceptional for rich kids in that age or indeed this age.
However Commodus was already showing signs that he believed he was the "bees knees" and would command everyone to worship him as a Living God. However when his father heard of his sons behavior, he confiscated his chariot and banished him to a remote nightclub in Glasgow as punishment. But Faustina intervened and Commodus escaped punishment. Instead he was obliged to spend Saturnalia with his dreary dad on the Roman frontier in the deepest winter snow. Dragging his feet and whining , Commodus went and was pleased when his father died on the second day of the holiday after opening a present with a Dagger-in-the-Box. Officially a story was put out that old Marcus had died from hypothermia and Commodus quickly hid the knife under his imperial pillow.
Hail Fruitcake !
As soon as he became Emperor in 180 A.D. , Commodus quickly showed that he was going to have fun at everyone's expense. A huge party was thrown to start the reign which saw the usual circus of freaks, basket cases and psychopaths applying for jobs in the Empire. Commodus agreed and replaced the sane with the insane and so started off the collapse of the Roman Empire.
It was probably about this time that Commodus had further delusions of grandeur, though being the Supreme Ruler of the Roman Empire he was in a position to make this a reality. And no one batted any eyelid as he insisted that from now on everything and everyone was to named 'Commodus'. So from 183 A.D. The Roman Empire was rebranded as the Commodian Empire and also renamed all the months of the year in his honour:-
- January - Madtime
- February - Barking
- March - Looney Tunes
- April - Gibbering
- May - Kooky
- June - Frothing
- July - Foaming
- August- Batshit
- September - Barmy
- October - Off Me Rocker
- November - Deranged
- December - Demented
The days of the week were just listed 'Wackaday 1 - through to Wackaday 6 when Sunday became 'Wacked Out'. Rome also renamed Commodium Central and the provinces had various stupid names like 'Shittitania' , 'Asia Arsehole' and 'Transvestite Gaul'.
Did Anyone Notice?
That is the strange thing. No Romans seemed to mind the Emperor's name changing but they were surprised when he started walking around in animal skins and said he wanted to be a top gladiator. This really offended many Romans who paid good money to watch their leader dispatch a stream of pensioned off fighters in the name of ratings. When the Colosseum authorities ran out of crocked gladiators - they emptied the zoos but first drugged the wretched animals before they were thrown into the arena with the emperor. At least the crowds in the cheap seats (the' Vulgars' ) liked it at the time though soon taking bets agains Commodus were deemed treasonable and worthy of a no expenses paid tour of duty as an imperial galley slave.
Tell Me More Crazy Things !
Commodus didn't like his sisters much except Cruella . She liked skinning dogs for her own fashion range , the prestigious Charnel House Number 5 Label . Commodus also got rid of anyone who got in his way or didn't like. His favourite trick was to stand in front of the Senators and their wives sitting in the posh seats in the Colosseum and decapitating a live chicken. He would then throw the bloodied head into the seats and made a cutting action across his throat to everyone watching to show that he meant murderous business that day !
Operation : Non Compost Methanol
Eventually.....well twelve years later - and not like in the movies after about two hours before Christopher Plummer/Joaquin Phoenix get their just deserts - a conspiracy was hatched, matched and dispatched against the frenzied Emperor. His estranged girlfriend Marcia (she being just 'estranged' and not strangled like her predecessor) and her boyfriend - a fashion model named Narcissus - finally did away with the imperial unhingedness. Commodus wasn't offered counselling or a retraining course or even a spell in a rest home - no ... he was strangled in his bath by Narcissus - which was at least a clean way to go.
Oops..Almost forgot ! The Church
Marcia (now Saint Mascara) had become a Christian when she had her boyfriend bumped off in the bathroom. It is also related by the Christian authors that Commodus was nice mad emperor unlike Caligula and Nero as he didn't persecute the church. It seems he was so busy naming everything after him and saying he was a Living God - he forgot to indulge in any mild mass killing of Christians. So perhaps thanks to Marcia - Commodus's memory wasn't especially damned until the historian Edward Gibbon blamed him for everything and the movie industry took their cue from that - and went about turning this otherwise normal lunatic into Neronic Grand Madness instead.
The Romans celebrated the death of Commodus by honouring all their bathrooms as 'Commodes' - but we should note - this was meant as a very grave insult. Naturally everyone ditched calling each other Commodus and would have lived happily every after - just like in the movies - but the Praetorian Guard decided that now that Rome was without an imperial ruler - they were going to start a new tv show : 'Who Wants To Be a Roman Emperor ?'
- Commodus's mental health has been the subject of a very very long article by a professor in Imperial Psychology at Kings College, Cambridge. If you want to read it - the link is http://www.crazyman.com/
- The Urinal Poetry School is still going strong today.
- Commodus's other sisters were called Vanilla and Sarsaparilla .You will meet them later !
- With everyone called Commodus - life became confusing if very interesting.
- Or according to Juvenile. No
- Rome Zoo was closed down shortly afterwards.
- Saint Marcia/Mascara was later killed by emperor Didius Julianus when she defaulted on a bank loan. Narcissius survived longer until Emperor Septimius Severus turned him into to lion food to appease the angry and incoherent spirit of Commodus.
- A Funny Thing Happened On My Way to the Colosseum - a now lost play by Atticus Ovus Billious.
- Russell Crowe
- Sonic the Gladiator
- Intellectual Challenge of Truth
- Prince John