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not possible to determine how long this state of affairs might have

continued but for the sudden development by the provocation of a conspiracy

of the criminal instincts of the Emperor, The ambitious Lucilla, widow of

that Verus who but for his premature death would have come to the imperial

purple, fretting under her disappointments, concocted a plan of revenge to

be obtained by the assassination of Commodus. The murderer who struck the

blow at the Emperor exclaimed as he did so: "This from the Senate!" But the

assassin was frustrated in the attempt. His expression, however, was

accepted as the truth by Commodus, who conceived the most malignant hatred

of the senatorial order. He revived the old band of informers and began the

extermination, one by one, of those whom he regarded as his enemies.

Presently the government was practically devolved upon a favorite named

Perennis, an unprincipled parvenu who had attached himself to the royal

court. This worthy was soon detected in a plot against his new master, and

was overthrown to make room for the freedman, Cleander, as minister of

state. A second insurrection, headed by a certain Maternus, was also

detected and suppressed. About the same time the Asiatic pestilence again

broke out, and the feverish, half-starved multitude attributed the

recurrence of the plague to Cleander, whose head, they demanded. The

Emperor granted the request, and the blind Dragon of superstition. was


For sixteen years Rome continued to groan under the vices and tyranny of

Commodus. The Senate was terrorized in its individual membership and

silently endured what it had not the spirit or power to cure. The Emperor

became the chief roue of his times. The vices of the city ran as usual to

the circus for gratification. The shows of the arena were multiplied and

made more bloody. The fame of Nero disturbed the slumbers of Commodus. To

be applauded by the multitude for the slaughter of wild beasts was greater

praise than to receive titles and honors at the hands of the effete Senate!

So the Emperor entered the arena. A hundred African lions fell before an

equal number of arrows from his quiver. Then the people shouted and Rome

was great. Seven hundred and fifty times he fought as a gladiator, and as

many victims lay bleeding before his victorious sword. "Habet" cried the

delighted multitude. But it was not long until habet resounded from another

quarter. This time it was Commodus himself who had it. Marcia, one of his

concubines, plotted with Electus, the chamberlain, and Laetus the prefect

of the praetorians, to destroy him before whose jealous caprices they all

stood trembling. Marcia herself administered a poison to her noble lord,

but the drug worked slowly, and the gladiator, Narcissus, was called in to

finish him by strangling.

The conspirators had carefully considered the succession. They immediately

named Pertinax, a man of senatorial rank, then prefect of the city. It was

a good choice by bad electors. The nominee was cordially accepted,