Imperial Portraits of Commodus Home

Up to Imperial Portraits


Commodus was

Preceded by Marcus Aurelius

Son of Faustina the Younger

Succeeded by Pertinax

Husband of Crispina


  Photos by Bill Storage and Laura Maish
Email us about this page
Marcus Aurelius Commodus Antoninus, emperor from 180 to 192 AD, when he has assassinated. He was son and successor of Marcus Aurelius and Faustina the Younger. The verdict of history on Commodus has been negative, although much of the primary source material is of dubious accuracy. Ancient sources, report however, that Commodus was well-liked by the public. Upon his assassination, his memory was official erased (damnatio memoriae), although it was rehabilitated soon after during the reign of Septimius Severus. He co-reigned and succeeded Marcus Aurelius, and preceded Pertinax.

The first two photos are of a great masterpiece of imperial Roman iconography, Commodus as Hercules. The Herculean scene depicted is the taking of apples from Hesperides, thereby acquiring virtue and immortality.

Art historians commonly see arrogance and deceit in these portraits. I do not; and I seriously doubt that such traits were intended to be shown by the artists who produced these works. It is also commonly reported that the portrait of Commodus as Hercules is evidence of his megalomanic nature, but in its day, this portrait would be perfectly in line with earlier portraits associating rulers with divinities or divine attributes; statues of Augustus as Hercules, Claudius as Jupiter, etc. are fairly common.

                Enter gallery   


Commodus as Hercules, from the Esquiline
Hill. Capitoline Museum, Rome.


Young Commodus. Museo Capitolino
inv. MC454 (MC0454).

Vatican Museum

Vatican Museum. Braccio Nuovo.

Sala dei Busti. Vatican Museums.

Museo Nazionale Romano,

Museo Nazionale Romano, Albani collection.

Copyright 2007 William Storage. Created 2/10/2007


Keywords: emperor, Roman imperial portraits, pictures of roman emperors, statue, sculpture, art history, iconography, William Storage, Bill Storage, Laura Maish, art history, Roman, ancient Rome