Commodus (161-192), Roman Emperor from 180 to 192. Dio Cassius describes him as “not naturally wicked but, on the contrary, as guileless as any man that ever lived. His great simplicity, however, together with his cowardice, made him the slave of his companions, and it was through them that he at first, out of ignorance, missed the better life and then was led on into lustful and cruel habits, which soon became second nature.”
Commodus also had a passion for gladiatorial combat, which he took so far as to take to the arena himself, dressed as a gladiator. It was his custom to slay his practice opponents. Often, wounded soldiers and amputees would be placed in the arena for Commodus to slay with a sword. Commodus’s eccentric behaviour would not stop there. Citizens of Rome missing their feet through accident or illness were taken to the arena, where they were tethered together for Commodus to club to death while pretending they were giants.
Commodus was also known for fighting exotic animals in the arena, often to the horror of the Roman people. According to Gibbon, Commodus once killed 100 lions in a single day. Later, he decapitated a running ostrich with a specially designed dart. On another occasion, he killed three elephants on the floor of the arena as well as a giraffe, which was considered to be a strange and helpless beast.
He was assassinated on December 31, 192. The first attempt at assassination involved the poisoning of his food, but the emperor vomited up the poison. The job was completed later that day when he was strangled to death in his bath.