Incommoded by Cruelty

Historia Augusta, Commodus (10-11)

“He was both a glutton and a degenerate. As a young man, he disgraced every kind of person who was with him, and was disgraced in turn. He used to throw people who laughed at him to the beasts. He even had a man, who was reading the book of Suetonius containing the life of Caligula, to be thrown to the beasts, because he had the same birthday as Caligula. If anyone expressed a wish to die, he ordered the execution to be hurried up, even if the person was actually unwilling. He was even given to harm in his jokes. He had once seen a man who had some gray hairs which resembled worms among his black hair, and had placed before him a starling who pecked at his head, thinking that he was pecking at worms; this left his head suppurating from the blows of the beak.

He cut a fat man in the middle of the stomach, so that his intestines poured out. He called people “Limpy” or “Winky” after he himself had deprived them of an eye or broken their foot. Further, he killed many more because they had run into him in barbarian dress, and others because they were noble or famous. He had among his favorites people named after the genitals of each sex, whom he used to shower with kisses. He had with him a man with a penis far exceeding the measure of those of animals; he called this man, who was dearest to him, Onos (The Ass), and he both enriched him and made him head of the priesthood of the Rustic Hercules. It is said that he often mixed human shit into even the most expensive foods, and did not even refrain from tasting them himself, making (as he thought) a mockery of others.”

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Iam puer et gulosus et impudicus fuit. Adulescens omne genus hominum infamavit, quod erat secum, et ab omnibus est infamatus. Inridentes se feris obiciebat. Eum etiam, qui Tranquilli librum vitam Caligulae continentem legerat, feris obici iussit, quia eundem diem natalis habuerat, quem et Caligula. Si quis sane se mori velle praedixisset, hunc invitum praecipitari iubebat. In iocis quoque perniciosus. Nam eum, quem vidisset albescentes inter nigros capillos quasi vermiculos habere, sturno adposito, qui se vermes sectari crederet, capite suppuratum reddebat obtunsione oris. Pinguem hominem medio ventre dissicuit, ut eius intestina subito funderentur. Monopodios et luscinios eos, quibus aut singulos oculos tulisset aut singulos pedes fregisset, appellabat. Multos praeterea passim extinxit alios, quia barbarico habitu occurrerant, alios quia nobiles et speciosiores erant.  Habuit in deliciis homines appellatos nominibus verendorum utriusque sexus, quos libentius suis osculis applicabat. Habuit et hominem pene prominentem ultra modum animalium, quem Onon appellabat, sibi carissimum. quem et ditavit et sacerdotio Herculis rustici praeposuit. Dicitur saepe pretiosissimis cibis humana stercora miscuisse nec abstinuisse gustum aliis, ut putabat, inrisis.

3 thoughts on “Incommoded by Cruelty

    1. That’s a brilliant idea! Like a lot of teachers, I have thought of putting together an introductory book before, but I am always deterred by the colossal amount of work it would take. It *would* be nice to have a book that captured students interest with the thing that attracts everyone to imperial Rome: unbridled depravity.

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