Commodus as Hercules, Capitoline Museum

late 2nd century CE

A symbolic Hercules

Marcus Aurelius Commodus Antoninus, the son of Marcus Aurelieus, was born in 161 and ruled from 180 to 192. The only son to survive until childhood, he was given the name Commodus in honour of Marcus Aurelius' co-emperor, who had originally had this name. (He is played admirably by Joaquin Phoenix in the movie The Gladiator.) He claimed a relationship to Hercules and ordered many statues representing him as this Greek hero--here with the lion's skin over his head, the club in his right hand, and the golden apples in his left--all reminders of the heroic exploits and labors of Hercules. As the supposed reincarnation of Hercules, he even appeared in the arena to display his physical prowess.

The base

Two Amazons (only one of which is preserved) kneel on the base beside a globe with signs of the Zodiac. On top of the globe is a cornucopia with the Amazon's shield, one large enough to almost cover her torso.

A Triton

This portrait bust was discovered with Triton figures flanking the main statue, indicating, according to the official Guide of the the Capitoline Museums, Commodus' apotheosis (114).

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© 2006 Mary Ann Sullivan. I have photographed (on site), scanned, and manipulated all the images on these pages. Please feel free to use them for personal or educational purposes. They are not available for commercial purposes.