Commodus is a character based on Lucius Aurelius Commodus who lived from 161 to 192 and was the son of the reigning Ceasar Marcus Aurelius. After his father died, he acceded to power over of the Roman empire from 180 until his death - he wasn't very popular with his subjects during his reign. He is portrayed by Joaquin Phoenix
(2000) under the single name, "Commodus". Gladiator
must not be taken as the Truth Be Told as it as only an approximation of true events.
In the movie, Gladiator
, he was emotionally wounded and desperately wanted to be loved and respected. He was very sure he was going to become emperer of all Rome when his father ceded the throne. However when his father told him his old nemesis, Maximus, was going to be emperer instead of himself, Commodus lost control, and he was so humiliated that his father should have been witness to his uncontrolled emotions, that he smothered his father to death. Which had an added benefit - nobody would know that Marcus Aurelius hadn't given him the crown and he, Commodus, could be emperer in spite of his father's wishes. When Maximus later refused to kiss his hand, Commodus ordered him killed. (hey, he was the emperer; he could do that) So the soldiers took him out into the bushes and reported back that they killed Maximus and his family.
Thus began a reign of comedic proportions with Maximus out of the way (or so Commodus thought) Meanwhile, Commodus went along merrily thinking all was good. He ordered 300 days of gladiatorial fights to honor his father. The people in the towns feared Commodus and ridiculed him at the same time.
One day at one of the gladiatorial exercises, one they called the Spaniard, did an outstanding job at chopping up people. Commodus said to his hand servent, "I think I will meet him." So Commodus went down into the arena to meet this guy and asked him his name. "My name is Spaniard" "No your real name. Certainly you have a name." Ahh, Spaniard will do
and he turned around to leave and Commodus was enraged. "How dare you turn your back to me! Take off your mask and tell me your name." So Spaniard turned around slowly took off his mask and said, "My name is Maximus Decimas Meridius, commander of the armies of the North, General of the Felix nation, loyal servant to Marcus Aurelius, father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife, and I will have my vengence in this life or the next." Case closed.
Well, needless to say, Commodus was floored and had a temper tantrum in the basement where he hacked at his father's bust. Later that day, he complained to his sister (Lucilla), "They lied when they told me he was dead. If they lied, how can they respect me. If they don't respect me, how can they love me?" . Well, he went about killing the two who lied to him. (They were disrespectful in lying to him, they had to be shot. No matter that they'd have been shot if they came back and reported Maximus was yet alive.)
So Commodus went about on his plans to kill Maximus with more and more obstacles in the arena. He brought out the tigers. Max slew the tigers. He brought out Tigris from Gall and Max did him in. He even tried to goad Maximus into reacting so he'd have a reason to tell the guards to attack this unarmed guy-that didn't work either. Maximus kept coming out the winner in these conflicts. The culmination of all this came when Maximus had Tigris on the ground and when Commodus gave the thumbs down sign to finish the guy off, Maximus spat and said "forget you" and walked off. This really brought out the crowd approval out with huge hollers and yells as the common belief of the crowd was one of disapproval of Commodus. Hey take that you - emperor.
Well Commodus didn't know what to do. If he ordered Maximus killed now, he would be a martyr. This whole thing stunk of some putrid disease. His right hand man, Falco advised keeping his enemies closer. Really? hmmm that might be a good idea.
Meanwhile Lucilla, Gracchus and Maximus plotted together to overthrow the current government but Commodus found out about it and the plan was foiled and Maximus jailed. Commodus went to Maximus who was held in the basement and told him he would fight him and then stabbed Maximus in his kidney, mortally wounding him. This time, Maximus would be unable to fight and Commodus would win the respect of everyone when Maximus was massacred. But alas Commodus' plans of grandiosity were foiled once again when Maximus (even though he was mortally wounded) was able to stick a knife in his jugular vein and as life slowly ebbed out of Commodus, he had an incredulous look on his face (Max should have been the one to be defeated-how on earth did this happen). Max held onto him as he died then dropped him onto the floor of the arena like a sack of flour.