Losing a fight in the Colosseum didn't guarantee death for a fearless gladiator. Even the words "Habet Hoc Habet" (he's had it!) didn't necessarily mean death. Life - or death - depended on the direction of the spectators' thumbs.

If thumbs were flicked away from the spectators' bodies - as though in disgust - the gladiator would die. (Today people often refer to that action as "thumbs down.") Sometimes even courageous fighters couldn't please the crowd.) A man dressed as Charon, the ferryman of the underworld, would finish off the gladiator if the verdict were "Pollice Verso." Men, dressed as Mercury, would remove the slain body from the field.

If thumbs were thrust toward the spectators' chests - as though in approval - the gladiator would live to die another day. (Today people often refer to that action as "thumbs up.") But what discretion did the spectators have for an Emperor who played at being a gladiator? What kind of impression did that emperor make on Herodian, the historian, who watched from the stands?

Then he (Commodus) took off the dress of a Roman emperor and took to wearing a lion skin and carrying a club in his hand.  (Herodian, History of the Empire Since the Death of Marcus Aurelius, Book One, Section 1.15.)

People from Italy and nearby provinces came to Rome to see the Emperor who

Promised he would kill all the wild animals with his own hand and engage in gladitorial combat with the stoutest of the young men.

From the safety of a protected, raised enclosure, Commodus carried out his promise. He slaughtered so many animals that 1600 years would pass before some of the species he killed were once again seen in Europe.
On the last day of 192 AD, the killing stopped. After twelve years of rule by a madman, people close to the Emperor had a plan of their own.
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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: May 01, 2000

Updated Last Revision: Sep 30, 2019

To cite this story (For MLA citation guidance see easybib or OWL ):

"COMMODUS IN THE ARENA" AwesomeStories.com. May 01, 2000. Jan 29, 2020.
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