A Business Lesson from a Roman Emperor you’ve probably never heard of

A Business Lesson from a Roman Emperor you've probably never heard of

I happen to have a fountain of random stories and characters from history perpetually stuck in my brain. Today I intend to subject you guys to one of them.

Long time ago, there was this fella, Emperor Commodus was his name. He ruled for roughly 15 years at the end of the 2nd century. The dude’s example can to teach every single life lesson known to man. And I’m not exaggerating. The interesting thing is, even history buffs don’t know much about him. I intend to correct this and dig out some of the man’s wisdom from this bottomless well of ancient history.

Here’s a quick (and nowhere near complete) journey into his accomplishments.

I supplemented it with direct quotes from Historia Augusta (the one historical document we know Commodus’ biography from). Make sure you read the quotes, they are much more vivid than my summaries:

 He began acting like an adult and taking responsibility at a young age.

“Even from his earliest years he was base and dishonourable, and cruel and lewd, defiled of mouth, moreover, and debauched. […] In the twelfth year of his life, at Centumcellae, he gave a forecast of his cruelty. For when it happened that his bath was drawn too cool, he ordered the bathkeeper to be cast into the furnace;”

– He was loyal to his friends and appointed expert advisers.

“[…] The more honourable of those appointed to supervise his life he could not endure, but the most evil he retained, and, if any were dismissed, he yearned for them even to the point of falling sick”

 He understood how to build relationships and conduct himself.

“[Commodus] never showed regard for either decency or expense. He diced in his own home. He herded together women of unusual beauty, keeping them like purchased prostitutes in a sort of brothel for the violation of their chastity. […] Indeed, one would have believed him born rather to a life of infamy than to the high place to which Fortune advanced him.”

– He was a born winner and a well-mannered gentleman.

“[Commodus] abandoned the war which his father had almost finished and submitted to the enemy’s terms, and then he returned to Rome. After he had come back he led the triumphal procession with Saoterus, his partner in depravity, seated in his chariot, and from time to time he would turn around and kiss him openly, repeating this same performance even in the orchestra.”

– Hell, the guy even knew how to do fundraising and public relations.

“[Commodus] pretended once that he was going to Africa, so that he could get funds for the journey, then got them and spent them on banquets and gaming instead. […] He kept among his minions certain men named after the private parts of both sexes, and on these he liked to bestow kisses.”

ALRIGHT! … horrified yet?

Good, the following advice is not for folks who need fainting couches. I actually hinted at this in the beginning:

Only one document that we know of talks directly about Commodus’ life story. Furthermore, Historia Augusta happens to be among the least trustworthy documents known to man. Put bluntly, its’s full of crap.

We can’t say much about the dude’s life for certain. Frankly, that ancient hit-piece forever tainted everything we can say. Which brings me to the point of this article: make sure there’s more than one source for what people know you by.

Else history will remember you like the good old Commodus.

Actually, let’s face it, you weren’t born an Emperor. So, probably won’t be remembered at all if you ain’t playing your cards right. If you want to learn more about how to do so, feel free to reach out.