Commodus as Hercules

Historian Edward Watts chronicles the infamous exploits of the emperor Commodus from his teenage years to his gruesome death. After multiple escapes from assassination by his loved ones, Commodus was finally killed at age 31 and the memory of his reign erased (not well enough).

Edward J. Watts is Alkiviadis Vassiliadis Endowed Chair and Professor of History at the University of California, San Diego. An expert on the Roman world from the early Empire to the Byzantine period, he has published six books and five edited volumes on a wide range of topics.


Find Watts's two most recent books here: Mortal Republic: How Rome Fell into Tyrrany and The Eternal Decline and Fall of Rome. If you are interested in Caesar's assassination, watch this Getty program with Ed Watts and Stefan Chrissanthos, The Ides of March.

Deep dive: Ed Watt's timeline of Commodus's life (PDF).

First, take this quiz and find out...

Which Rotten Roman Ruler Do You Resemble?

Learn more about Commodus and other rotten emperors

Portraits of Commodus

Life of Commodus

The Worst Roman Emperors

Damnatio Memoriae: The Erasure of Memory

In Roman times it was common for statues and images of despised leaders to be mutilated and removed. Explore this topic and its relevance to contested statues today.

Serial Killers in Antiquity

Some ancient rulers can be considered serial killers.

Modal Image



{{selectedEvent.eventDateString.$t}} {{selectedEvent.eventTimeString.$t}}



Get Tickets