An Emperor's Pursuit of Pleasure

Topics: Gladiator

Good leaders are often thought to be organized, uniting the people under them through the order. By providing firm commands for subjects to look to they gain the people’s support. Then from that point on they have a responsibility to provide for their people. They are meant to look out for them and keep them secure, not run off to fulfill their desires in vain. One of the best Roman emperors, Marcus Aurelius led the empire through many achievements by respecting his people and working hard to fulfill his responsibilities to these people.

Though, he produces a son that later comes into power and becomes one of the biggest burdens the Roman empire will ever experience. Known as Commodus; the people assumed that he would be a great ruler because his father was, however they did not realize how wrong they were. This man was nothing like his father in his leadership, or rather lack of leadership because he did not lead the people.

He was much like a child in how he led, fulfilling every whim and ignoring all his responsibility.

It seems that Commodus has no code of conduct that he abides by and advocates for. He is a self-serving individual who only goes out of his way for his pleasures and gains. In this way he seems more like a rebellious child than a ruler, ignoring his responsibilities and pursuing his desires. This led to him becoming a gladiator (Roman Emperors – DIR Commodus). He lived for the praise of his people and gladiators were highly respected and praised, therefore his becoming one allowed him to receive applause from his people without taking on much responsibility.

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The more the people applauded him the more his ego inflated. This leads him to believe the compliments he was receiving and eventually he acquired the delusional idea that he was the reincarnation of Hercules and therefore should be treated as so. This caused him to separate himself more from the people of the empire. Commodus’ indifference to the affairs of the empire is continuously shown throughout his rule. He constantly neglects the concerns of his people and never really deals with internal conflicts. Which inevitably sent the Roman government into chaos.

When trouble started to rise in the empire, he stayed out not trying to fix the problems. Also in other conflicts such as one that occurred with barbarians he did not prioritize his people. When they complained of being homesick, he bribes barbarian kings to leave and satisfy his craving for home (“Roman Emperors – DIR Commodus). This shows the extent of his selfishness, he left his army knowing that they were tired and wanted to go back, but he didn’t care he was focused on himself and his wants. Commodus was a Hellenistic ruler, completely consumed with fulfilling his desires. His way of leading steered the empire into chaos. He would often give his responsibilities over to members of his counsel that he thought would be capable of handling them while he indulged in the pleasures life had to offer (Herodian of Antioch, History of the Roman Empire). The constant changing of people that he acquired to take over his duties made the political structure of the empire unstable. The fact that he seemed not to care much for politics and his primary motive was to pursue his pleasures shows that his moral guidelines aligned with cretinism. This philosophy views pleasure as what leads to happiness and politics as a road to pain, which should, therefore, be ignored (The Birth of Hedonism). Commodus’ entire rule is characterized by him putting his desires before his people. It was his selfish tendencies that lead to his downfall in the end. The hedonistic nature of Commodus has led to the conclusion that he exemplifies the Cyrenaic philosophy. He indulges more in pleasures of the body than the mind, believing that knowledge takes too much effort to obtain.

This is the biggest factor in his character that makes him seem more hygienic than epicurean. He does not fit perfectly into the guidelines of cyreanism, though this is the best philosophy to suit him. At times it seems as though he may be being led by a greater motive, but overall he is just a selfish ruler with too much pride.

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An Emperor's Pursuit of Pleasure. (2022, Apr 26). Retrieved from

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