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Herodian's Roman History


Marcus Aurelius. Equestrian statue on the Capitol, Rome. Photo Marco Prins.
Herodian (late second, first half third century): Greek historian, author of a History of the Roman Empire since the Death of Marcus Aurelius (table of contents) in which he describes the reign of Commodus (180-192), the Year of the Five Emperors (193), the age of the Severan dynasty (211-235), and the Year of the Six Emperors (238).

The translation was made by Edward C. Echols (Herodian of Antioch's History of the Roman Empire, 1961 Berkeley and Los Angeles) and was put online for the first time by Roger Pearse (Tertullian.Org). The version offered on these pages is hyperlinked and contains notes by Jona Lendering.
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Statue of Commodus as Hercules Romanus. Musei Capitolini, Roma (Italy). Photo Marco Prins.
Commodus as Hercules
(Musei Capitolini, Roma)

1.7: Commodus returns to Rome

[180] When the emperor's decision was announced, the army was in turmoil; all the soldiers wanted to leave with him, so that they might stop wasting their time in the war and enjoy the pleasures at Rome. When the news was circulated and messengers arrived to report the approach of the emperor, the Roman people were overjoyed; they had the highest hopes for the reign of the young emperor, believing that he would rule as his father had ruled.

Speeding with the vigor of youth, Commodus passed quickly through the cities between Pannonia and Rome. Received everywhere with imperial pomp, he appeared in person before the celebrating crowds, a pleasing sight to all.

As he drew near Rome, the entire Senate and the people of the city cast aside all restraint. Bearing laurel branches and every kind of flower then in bloom, each man carrying as much as he could manage and eager to be first, they came out some distance from the city to welcome their young and nobly born emperor.


Faustina. Bust from the Louvre, Paris (France). Photo Marco Prins.
Faustina (Louvre)

For they did indeed give him all their affection, since he was born and reared among them and was of imperial ancestry through three generations of distinguished Romans. His father's family tree included a number of distinguished senators; his mother, the empress Faustina, was the daughter of Antoninus Pius; she was the granddaughter of Hadrian on her mother's side and traced her ancestry to Trajan, her great-grandfather.

Such was Commodus' family background. At this time he was in the prime of youth, striking in appearance, with a well-developed body and a face that was handsome without being pretty. His commanding eyes flashed like lightning; his hair, naturally blond and curly, gleamed in the sunlight as if it were on fire; some thought that he sprinkled his hair with gold dust before appearing in public, while others saw in it something divine, saying that a heavenly light shone round his head. To add to his beauty, the first down was just beginning to appear on his cheeks.



This was the emperor upon whom the Romans feasted their eyes and welcomed with garlands and showers of blossoms. Entering the city, Commodus went immediately to the temple of Jupiter and the other shrines. After expressing his gratitude to the senate and to the soldiers on duty in Rome for their loyal protection, he entered the imperial palace.

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Online 2007
Revision: 27 June 2007
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