Emperor Commodus (161 -192 AD) was one of the most despicable rulers in Rome’s long and violent history. He has been portrayed in many popular movies and tv series. Joaquin Phoenix even played a fictionalized version of Commodus in the movie Gladiator. Commodus’s reign was a complete disaster.
His cruelty was legendary and comparable to Nero and Caligula. On a positive note, he did successfully end the Marcomannic War. Still, Commodus’s gross mismanagement and madness led to instability and civil war in the short term and, in the longer term, undermined the Imperial system.
The ‘Five Good Emperors’ era is often seen as Rome and Roman civilization’s high point. Gibbon claimed that the period of their rule was the happiest in human existence. The Roman Empire was largely peaceful and well-governed. The provinces had become more urbanized and Romanized, and a host of religions and minorities generally lived in peaceful harmony. The economy was generally buoyant, and long-distance trade flourished. Foreign invaders rarely breached the frontiers of the Empire.
The German tribes were an occasional threat, but the Parthians in the east had been humbled and weakened by Trajan. However, this era was not quite the golden age, as depicted by Gibbon. There was a great deal of poverty, inequality, banditry, and rebellions that were not unknown. During the Marcomannic Wars, Marcus Aurelius, after many hard battles, defeated a powerful confederation of German tribes. But it was an indication that the Romans were not invincible. Moreover, the so-called Antonine Plague had decimated the population of the Empire, and this demographic disaster was to have long-term consequences for Rome. However, Commodus inherited a stable and secure realm after the achievements of his father, Marcus Aurelius. Commodus quickly destabilized the Roman Empire and brought an to the era of The Five Good Emperors to a disastrous end.