The Assassination of the Emperor Commodus (The Play)

by Franc

Preface

There a deadly conspiracy to kill Commodus, and the emperor must discover the conspirators before he is murdered by them.


-Written by Franc Rodriguez

(Contents)

Dramatis

Personae ix

ACT I

ACT II

ACT III

ACT IV

ACT V

ACT VI

(Dramatis Personae)

COMMODUS-Roman emperor.

LAETUS-praetorian prefect of the Roman imperial bodyguard.

ECLECTUS-chamberlain.

PERTINAX-Roman military leader.

MARCIA-mistress of Commodus.

NARCISSUS-assassin of Commodus.

QUIRINUS-member of the Senate.

CASSIUS DIO-statesman and historian of Greek origin.

AELIUS-Roman member of the Roman imperial bodyguard.

FELIX-procurator of the province of Paphlagonia in Asia Minor.

CORNELIUS-member of the Senate that once served the father of Commodus.

Scene in Rome, in the year 192. A.D.

ACT 1.

SCENE I.

At the Imperial Palace in Rome.

Commodus has returned from his trip to his family estate at Lanuvium and speaks at once to his chamberlain Eclectus.

COMMODUS.

Come hither Eclectus! I have great tidings to share with thee, upon this day.

ECLECTUS.

'Tis an immense pleasure to see thee return to Rome emperor. But what are the tidings that thou hast to bespeak?

COMMODUS.

I must be candid in mine admission Eclectus I did not miss Rome at all. However, I much prefer to reveal that I shall announce my bold intention to inaugurate the following year, as both consul and gladiator on the 1st of January.

ECLECTUS.

I was not expecting to hear that, but there is no one deserving than thee of that lordly title, my noble Commodus.

COMMODUS.

Whilst I was at the estate in Lanuvium, I thought only of this brilliant idea. I was inspired by the recent Plebeian Games and their great success. How could I devise a better event than that, then the inauguration at the next Games?

ECLECTUS.

A brilliant idea indeed. Hast thou thought, who shall partake in the incredible event?

COMMODUS.

Naturally, it shall be the greatest spectacle Rome hath not seen ere. I shall include the bravest gladiators and spectacular animals, such as the lions of Africa, the tigers of Asia Minor and the wolves of Germania. The arena shall be full of the spry and colourful acts of entertainment. I must practise my brilliant elocution now. I do not want to sound too loquacious, with my magniloquence.

ECLECTUS.

We are always entertained, by thine innovative emprise.

COMMODUS.

Thou knowest me well Eclectus. I only seek to entertain the people of Rome. As their emperor, I must lead as a prime example for the Romans. They must always cherish me at will!

ECLECTUS.

And they do, emperor. They are always expecting the best from thee.

COMMODUS.

I believe I shall invite the elite patricians and the members of the Senate to this momentous event. I do not want to display any act of a solecism on my part, when magnanimity is what I wish to convey to them openly.

ECLECTUS.

The members of the Senate. Thou art aware that from amongst them, thou hast many enemies.

COMMODUS.

Exactly! This shall allow me to welcome them and greet them, with my new and supreme appellation, as consul and gladiator.

ECLECTUS.

I know thee well, emperor. Thou art conniving a unique scheme. Is that not so?

COMMODUS.

Perhaps, but for the nonce, I want to appease the Senate and give them a performance like no other.

ECLECTUS.

Shall I have a messenger deliver an epistle to the members of the Senate?

COMMODUS.

Of course! Do it at once!

ECLECTUS.

Aye, my noble emperor. I shall effectuate the amandation.

COMMODUS.

But before thou dost that, I must be apprised of how have the affairs of the house been, since my departure?

ECLECTUS.

Good! The servants have wrought their labours assidiously I admit.

COMMODUS.

Excellent, I have had a long trip and a good bath would soothe my body now. I shall take my rest afterwards, in the solitude of my chamber.

ECLECTUS.

Everything hath been prepared for thy bath, emperor.

SCENE II.

At the Imperial Palace.

The next day, Commodus is visited by Cornelius, a member of the Senate.

COMMODUS.

Cornelius. How hast thou been, my good old friend? I remember the days as a youth, when thou visited the palace to speak to my father.

CORNELIUS.

As thou canst imagine emperor, I have been very busy at the Senate lately, with the endless affairs of Rome.

COMMODUS.

Thou art ever so dedicated, as a proud politician of Rome. I admire thy steadfast resolution, amidst the cynical scoundrels in the Senate.

CORNELIUS.

And thou art the great son of Marcus Aurelius, who I had befriended and served in the Senate, with mine intense loyalty.

COMMODUS.

Aye! Thou wert a worthy confidant for my father in the Senate. His haunting death seemeth, like a continuous nightmare for me. If I could only be, as glorious as he was.

CORNELIUS.

We all miss him dearly, including myself. Thy father did a lot for Rome, and Rome is in debt to his tremendous service and contributions.

COMMODUS.

Aye! However, there is still much to accomplish Cornelius. I shall accomplish all the objectives I have, and I shall make Rome once more, the great city that it was before. I shall outdo Claudius, Vespasian, Tiberius, Hadrian, and even my beloved father, Marcus Aurelius.

CORNELIUS.

I have no doubt, thou shalt be successful in that endeavour, emperor.

COMMODUS.

Excellent! Now, I did not invite thee for the sole purpose of my veneration; although I could imbibe myself in my vainglory endlessly. Instead, I invited thee to announce that in January of the next year, I shall resume the Plebeian Games anon.

CORNELIUS.

The Plebeian Games. Wherefore, if I may interject, with my sudden query?

COMMODUS.

To announce to Rome, its citizens and naturally the Senate that I shall become consul and gladiator all at once.

CORNELIUS.

Consul and gladiator, thou hast bespoken?

COMMODUS.

Why dost thou seem to be confounded? Doth it not pleaseth thee? Thou knowest that I loathe the idea of redundancy.

CORNELIUS.

Forgive me, emperor. I do not mean to appear ignorant. Of course! Anything that pleaseth thee, pleaseth me.

COMMODUS.

Mine expectations are high Cornelius and my cordiality to the Romans shall be extended to the Senate. I would hope that thy powerful influence in the senate shall be seen, within its chamber.

CORNELIUS.

I shall address the issue, in the chamber of the senate therewith.

COMMODUS.

I knew that if there was a member of the Senate that I could count on, it would surely be thee, Cornelius.

CORNELIUS.

I shall attempt to convince the Senate of thy noble gesture.

Commodus hands him money to bribe him overtly.

COMMODUS.

Take these golden coins, as a small token of my gratitude.

CORNELIUS.

I am thankful. Rome shall embrace these games and thee, with superb reverence.

SCENE III.

At the atrium of the Imperial Palace.

Eclectus and Commodus discuss the recent visit of Cornelius.

ECLECTUS.

I hope that the visit of the senator was of thy convenience and appeasement emperor.

COMMODUS.

'Twas Eclectus! The old man is very clever, and his loyalty to my father was undeniably resolute. Therefore, this must be taken into consideration. Believe it or not, I must be perceived as tolerant to the Senate.

ECLECTUS.

Dost thou distrust his intention?

COMMODUS.

No more than my distrust in others, including thee. Do I need to distrust thee, Eclectus?

ECLECTUS.

Nay, my lord. Thou hast entrusted me to be thine eyes and ears here at the palace.

COMMODUS.

Then, continue to be mine eyes and ears. I have innumerable enemies in the Senate, and I don't need any more.

ECLECTUS.

I can envision the spectacle of the games, with thee at the forefront.

COMMODUS.

I shall convert the city of Rome, as the symbol of my divine rebirth and greatness.

ECLECTUS.

Shall there be guests from the provinces of the vast empire?

COMMODUS.

Aye! I shall prepare the splendid list of the invited guests afterwards.

ECLECTUS.

Shall I apprise the servants of the festivities, after the event?

COMMODUS.

Of course! The festivity shall be a grand entertainment.

Commodus stares at his large statue, with profound admiration.

COMMODUS.

Behold the mighty statue of thine emperor. 'Tis the ultimate source of my god-like power, liberality and physical prowess. As Hercules, I am the universal son of Jupiter, the supreme god of the Roman pantheon.

ECLECTUS.

There is no one equal to thee, except Hercules. Thou art the embodiment of a living God.

COMMODUS.

What would I do without thee Eclectus? Since the tragic loss of Saoterus, I have not put mine absolute trust in another servant, as a worthy confidant.

ECLECTUS.

Thou knowest that I have served thee well, for over a year and have been as well, thine informative intelligencer.

COMMODUS.

And that is the reason that thou art in charge of the palace. I have rewarded thy dedication, with this intimate position, Eclectus.

ECLECTUS.

And I am extremely grateful, for this consideration and reward.

COMMODUS.

Good! Then, I shall not need to concern myself, with this inconsequential matter.

ECLECTUS.

Not at all emperor!

COMMODUS.

I must depart the palace and head towards the arena. There are hundreds of animals to shoot arrows and javelins at, as I do every morning to exercise my proficiency, as a gladiator.

ECLECTUS.

Shall I tell thy mistress that thou shalt return in the midday afterwards?

COMMODUS.

Tell Marcia to wait for me in my bedchamber. I have a delightful surprise for her.

SCENE IV.

At the entryway, nigh the bedchamber of the emperor, inside the Imperial Palace.

Eclectus informs Marcia that Commodus has left the palace. They are alone to discuss the planned assassination of the haughty emperor in privacy.

MARCIA.

Hath Commodus left the palace?

ECLECTUS.

Aye! He hath gone to the arena, as he doth regularly.

MARCIA.

What tidings hast thou to disclose that I am eager to know of its important relevance?

ECLECTUS.

The emperor hast told me that he shall resume the Plebeian Games anew.

MARCIA.

Wherefore?

ECLECTUS.

I am not certain about the inducement. However, I suspect that there is an ulterior motive for this.

MARCIA.

Such as, for example?

ECLECTUS.

To rid himself of his opponents in the Senate.

MARCIA.

If so, then we must know who.

ECLECTUS.

He hath informed me of the list. However, he hath not reveal to me the complete names of the list.

MARCIA.

'Tis significant that thou hast the list of names!

ECLECTUS.

And I shall, when he returneth from the arena.

MARCIA.

There is one thing that I am uncertain of its strange development.

ECLECTUS.

What is that one thing that troubleth thee?

MARCIA.

The Plebeian Games?

ECLECTUS.

'Tis a designed subterfuge. By proclaiming himself consul and gladiator, he can not only pleaseth his ego, but determineth a scheme to rid himself of his bitter foes for good.

MARCIA.

I forget that thou knowest the emperor as much, as I seem to know him.

ECLECTUS.

We have a mutual cause, and that is the death of the emperor.

MARCIA.

Naturally! But we must know the probable minutiae of this event and his whole itinerary for the month.

ECLECTUS.

That, I shall elaborate, with mine impeccable assiduity.

MARCIA.

Then, what about the Senate and in particular, Cornelius.

ECLECTUS.

There is no need to worry much, since most of the members of the Senate are on our side. They are the first that are readily eager to dethrone the pompous emperor. I shall speak to the prefect Laetus, about this delicate matter at length.

MARCIA.

We must inform Pertinax also of this pertinent revelation. The emperor must never know of our conspiracy. We will need the military prowess of Pertinax. Thou art the emperor's favourite cubicularius.

SCENE V.

At the domus of the Prefect of Rome Laetus.

LAETUS

The lovely Marcia. What hast brought thee to mine home unannounced?

MARCIA.

I did not mean to be inopportune to thee prefect, but I have tidings in respect to the complot that I must share with thee.

LAETUS.

Thou knowest that we cannot risk being caught in public. Thy presence might endanger me. There are wandering eyes of the emperor everywhere.

MARCIA.

I apologise, but I could not tarry any longer.

LAETUS.

What is it that hast brought thee here Marcia, in particular?

MARCIA.

The emperor hath stated that he shall declare himself council and gladiator, at the next Plebeian Games.

LAETUS.

When?

MARCIA.

In January of the next year.

LAETUS.

Why should this concern me one bit? I care less, whether he addeth another worthless appellation to his name. And as for being a gladiator, I admit it amuseth me, but it doth not matter. He can fancy himself as Hercules, but we know that he is a craven in disguise. In opposition to the Senate, in his pronouncements and iconography, around the empire, he hath portrayed himself in the guise of Hercules already, reinforcing the image of him as a demigod, a protector, and a battler against beasts and men. These tendencies, if thou wishest to call them tendencies have increased now to such megalomaniacal proportions.

MARCIA.

It should, if he becometh council, thou shalt surely see thy power as the Prefect of Rome then diminished or pretermitted entirely. He might even send thee far away from Rome to Africa or Britannia to tame the savage Moors or Britons, if thou art fortunate enough.

LAETUS.

He needeth me and I am indispensable to him.

MARCIA.

Thou art no more indispensable than the next prefect. Hast thou forgotten the fate of the poor praetorian prefect Julius Julianus?

LAETUS.

I have not!

MARCIA.

Let us not dawdle any more in stupidities. What must be discussed is the plan that we must perfect. We cannot effectuate this plan, without thine assistance. Thou art the mastermind, behind this plan and thou hast convinced me then in mine acquiescence.

LAETUS.

Aye! However, I did not put a sword unto thy throat. Thou accepted willingly in the end. As for this new revelation, it hath stirred even more the need to rid ourselves of the emperor.

MARCIA.

If we continue the original course of the plan, then we shall be rid of Commodus forever.

LAETUS.

My patience groweth wearisome by the day and thy tidings have definitely compelled me to react sooner than later.

MARCIA.

Be patient! The emperor's hour of death shall befall upon him soon.

LAETUS.

But at what hour?

MARCIA.

Before the next Plebeian Games.

LAETUS.

During the day or during the night?

MARCIA.

That I do not know precisely, but I shall inform thee, when I have received more tidings and a response from Pertinax.

SCENE VI.

At the triclinium, inside the imperial palace.

Commodus has invited to dinner Cassius Dio, a Greek statesman and historian.

COMMODUS.

I am grateful that thou hast accepted mine invitation for this night Cassius Dio.

CASSIUS DIO.

Emperor, I must thank thee, for thy generous invitation. 'Tis not often that I visit the imperial palace in person. 'Tis a wondrous abode of incredible paintings, murals, sculptures and tile mosaics.

COMMODUS.

'Tis not often that I invite a former senator, governor, such as thyself.

CASSIUS DIO.

'Tis a pleasure to be here. And I must salute thee, for thy masterful prowess in the arena.

COMMODUS.

Thou art a man of sagacity, and thy praise is noble.

CASSIUS DIO.

Thou art always welcomed to my modest home in the Palatine Hills emperor.

COMMODUS.

If I visited every domus of a statesman of nobility in Rome, I would be inviting mine own death. Forgive me, mine honourable Cassius Dio. As thou knowest mine enemies are always planning my dethronement and death constantly.

CASSIUS DIO.

Unfortunately, thy foes are envious of thy power and rule.

COMMODUS.

That I do not doubt, but they are more envious of mine intellectual persona than my physical power.

CASSIUS DIO.

With all respect emperor. I cannot fathom the image of absolute power in the hands of one man. It must be difficult to govern, such a vast empire as the Roman Empire.

COMMODUS.

Thou art prudent in thine observation, but I have been accustomed to this power for many years, when I governed with my beloved father before. I was nineteen years old when he died. I have since matured, into the veritable representation of a living God and emperor. I am the reincarnation of Romulus. Now, I have not invited thee to speak of my laurels or perfection, instead to converse about thy proficiency as a historian. I have read thy books of literary activity and heard that thou art interested in writing about Roman History.

CASSIUS DIO.

I did not know thou wert an avid reader of mine.

COMMODUS.

As a proud Roman, I am a fervent student of Roman history, including mine own.

CASSIUS DIO.

Verily as a Greek, I admire Roman history and its magnificent civilisation.

COMMODUS.

Where wert thou born Cassius Dio?

CASSIUS DIO.

I was born in Nicaea, Bithynia, by the lake called Ascania emperor.

COMMODUS.

I, on the other hand was born in Lanuvium, 14 miles southeast of Rome. Ye the interminable Greeks have learnt much from us, as we from ye. Thy Gods are similar to ours, and our architecture was inspired by thine; and thy scholars have enlightened our Roman mentors, with a plethora of knowledge and wisdom.

CASSIUS DIO.

Aye, emperor! We Greeks and Romans are joined together, by the excellence of our proud and illustrious histories.

COMMODUS.

That is exactly the reason that I want thee to write about me.

CASSIUS DIO.

Write about thee, thou hast said?

COMMUDUS.

Aye! I want thee to write about my life, when I am dead.

CASSIUS DIO.

In death? Wherefore?

COMMODUS.

That is simple! I want the world to remember me and my great legacy that I shall leave behind, as an incomparable vestige of myself. My name will surpass the greatest emperors of Rome, such as Julius Caesar, Hadrian, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero.

CASSIUS DIO.

I do not know emperor, if I am worthy of that momentous task and request.

COMMODUS.

I shall not impose my will on thee. However, I shall reward thee, with a spacious latifundium in Hispania Baetica. I can make thee as well, the suffect consul if thou desirest, and easily ascend thee, through the cursus honorum, as Septimius Severus has.

CASSIUS DIO.

It would be an honour to write about thee, but it will take time emperor.

COMMODUS.

Time is not on my side, yet, I shall grant thee a fortnight to make thy decision.

CASSIUS DIO.

I shall know by then!

COMMODUS.

Cassius Dio, there are some gossipers within Rome that say that I am evil, but I am not naturally wicked. On the contrary, I am as guileless as any man that ever lived before. If thou must know, I am a man of superb simplicity, however, together with mine incertitude, it hath made me the slave of my noble companions, and it was through them that I at first, out of clear ignorance, missed the better life and then was led on into lustful and cruel consuetudes, which soon became my second nature afterwards.

CASSIUS DIO.

Unfortunately, 'tis history that shall dictate thy fate in the end.

COMMODUS.

Fate is nothing more than a mere pretext of man. I do not believe at all that man is destined to the greater thing that is called fate. Instead, he createth his own fate, in accordance with the fine betterment of his judgement and decisive actions. Philosophy is an explanatory concept, if we allow our minds to determine the course that is our fate. Dost thou know that the actual source of my power, I stress is based upon mine own personal uniqueness. As the bringer of a new order, I seek to re-cast the empire in mine own personal image.

CASSIUS DIO.

Is it true that thou hast killed three elephants courageously, on the floor of the arena by thyself?

COMMODUS.

Perhaps 'twould be better, if I invite thee to the arena one day to witness mine incredible feats.

ACT 2.

At the partition of the chamber of the Senate, the following day.

SCENE I.

Commodus has come to speak in person to Cornelius.

CORNELIUS.

Emperor, I was not expecting to see thee soon.

COMMODUS.

Cornelius, thou knowest that I am an impatient man and I must know, what the senate is thinking at all times. Thou art mindful of the Senatorial Order.

CORNELIUS.

Forsooth, the Senatorial Order.

COMMODUS.

What tidings hast thou for me upon this fain day?

CORNELIUS.

I have discussed the issue with those faithful members of the Senate and all are in concurrence, with thy proposal to become consul and gladiator.

COMMODUS.

Good! Then I shall proceed to the preparations of the Plebeian Games.

CORNELIUS.

Is there something else emperor that thou art in need of my service?

COMMODUS.

At the present moment, there is nothing else of pertinence.

CORNELIUS.

Shalt thou be remaining in Rome much these days?

COMMODUS.

I have grown weary of Rome and its gradual tedium. To answer that question, I shall only ponder the essential reason to stay, which is to govern the city.

CORNELIUS.

Aye! But for that thou hast most certainly, the Senate to serve thee.

COMMODUS.

Rome, the Senate serveth Rome and its Senatorial Order. However, this shall soon abate, when I have absolute power. I know from amongst ye the Senate, there are restless plotters that are waiting for my manifest demise.

CORNELIUS.

True, but I am not one of them emperor. Dost thou doubtest my service to thee and to thy prestigious family?

COMMODUS.

Thou hast served my beloved father and that for me hath sufficed for the nonce. Nathless, I suggest that thou continuest to appease my demands obediently.

CORNELIUS.

I was always loyal to thy father Marcus Aurelius, and I remain loyal to thee, Commodus, Emperor of Rome.

COMMODUS.

I am Lucius, Aelius, Aurelius, Commodus, Augustus, Herculeus, Romanus, Exsuperatorius, Amazonius, Invictus, Felix, and Pius, the new Romulus.

CORNELIUS.

And thou art meritorious of all those appellations emperor.

COMMODUS.

Thou art an intellectual man of tradition and Rome needeth few men as thee, amongst its howling pack of wolves.

CORNELIUS.

Forsooth!

COMMODUS.

I depart knowing that I shall govern, with absolute power. Do not worry Cornelius, I shall reward thee with a position, as a procurator in one of the provinces of the Roman Empire, if thou obeyest my wishes.

CORNELIUS.

My benevolent emperor, I would be honoured to assume that dignified position.

COMMODUS.

Now, I must go. I have an urgent engagement to tend to that I cannot delay any longer.

SCENE II.

At the corridor of the chamber of the Senate.

Cornelius speaks urgently with Quirinus.

QUIRINUS.

I saw thee speaking to the emperor. Wherefore would he visiteth the chamber of the Senate, when he seldom cometh? It must be an imperative matter I conclude.

CORNELIUS.

'Tis very important indeed!

QUIRINUS.

Wherefore did he not address the members of the Senate in person?

CORNELIUS.

Because, he hath invited us to the next Plebeian Games. 'Tis there, where he shall announce in person that he is gladiator and consul.

QUIRINUS.

I am fully apprised of that banal announcement.

CORNELIUS.

That is not the worst thing. He shall proclaim himself absolute power of Rome anon.

QUIRINUS.

That would mean the dreadful dissolution of the Senate.

CORNELIUS.

Aye! Either he shall send us off to serve, in the provinces or worse merely murder us.

QUIRINUS.

That egoistical fool! Nothing would pleaseth him than to be rid of the Senate. If we are to save Rome and ourselves, we must kill him at once. To dethrone him is not enough!

CORNELIUS.

He will never abdicate his rule, as a supreme emperor.

QUIRINUS.

His pretension and his audacious behaviour are befitting of his blatant egotism.

CORNELIUS.

Indeed, he is an autolatrist, but we should be more concern, with the manifestation of his austerulous tyranny.

QUIRINUS.

We must rid ourselves of Commodus, or he will as lief get rid of us sooner than later.

CORNELIUS.

I am in complete concurrence with that thought, but what thou art contemplating is a dangerous and bold proposition.

QUIRINUS.

Perchance, but we are at the mercy of his tolerance of the Senate. Until when shall we become intolerable for him?

CORNELIUS.

We must congregate with the other members of the Senate that we can entrust our confidence and decide, what shall we do to prevent the dissolution of the Senate?

QUIRINUS.

There is no other recourse, but the death of the emperor.

CORNELIUS.

'Tis easier said than done.

QUIRINUS.

Aye! Unfortunately, we are at the mercy of a capricious lunatic.

CORNELIUS.

And his quaintise must never be forgotten or underestimated.

QUIRINUS.

Aye! 'Tis foolish to believe otherwise Cornelius.

CORNELIUS.

I must leave thee now, because I must speak to the quaestor forthwith.

SCENE III.

At the bedchamber of the imperial palace.

Commodus confronts Marcia, about her visit to the home of the praetorian prefect Laetus.

MARCIA.

I sense there is something troubling thee emperor. How was thy day? I hope thou enjoyed it!

COMMODUS.

The same can be queried of thee. Where wert thou?

MARCIA.

I spent the day here, at the imperial palace.

COMMODUS.

The entire day, Marcia?

MARCIA.

Wherefore dost thou doubt me emperor?

COMMODUS.

Thou liest! Thou wert at the home of Laetus the praetorian prefext of the Roman Imperial Guard.

MARCIA.

True! But I had to speak to him, about the urgent matter of thy safety, concerning the Senate.

COMMODUS.

What art thou alluding to?

MARCIA.

There are members of the Senate that wish thee dead and thou art aware of that.

COMMODUS.

Aye! But I sense that thou knowest more than I do. Tell me, what I must be apprised of its vital relevance.

MARCIA.

Surely emperor, thou art aware of those members of the Senate that scheme behind thy back constantly.

COMMODUS.

I believe I do, but am I to include thee, amongst these foolish beguilers?

MARCIA.

Never, my noble Commodus. I am thy devoted mistress and companion.

Marcia kneels on the ground, before the emperor.

COMMODUS.

Good! Remember that I found thee in the accolent of an insulae once. Do not try my patience, when thou knowest the instrument of my justice. I have survived the conspiracy of Lucilla at the theatre. Quadratus and Quintianus were executed for that obvious treason. I had exiled Lucilla to Capri, before she was killed. I still remember the second conspiracy of Publius Salvius Julianus and Paternus, along with prominent consulars and senators. I once favoured Cleander, until I had discovered he had killed Saoterus and he was murdered. I have executed many men, such as Perennis, Julius Julianus, Annia Fundania Faustina, Mamertinus. Papirius Dionysius. Heed my warning! Do not plot against me. I am Imperator Caesar Lucius Aelius Aurelius Commodus Augustus.

MARCIA.

Never, my love! With all due respect, 'twas I that informed thee of Cleander's mischief of the murder of Saoterus. I have proven mine allegiance to thee before, in countless occasions. Must I be forced to prove it anew?

COMMODUS.

Nay, but I shall hope for thy sake that it shall not be the case. Now stand before me!

Marcia rises to her feet.

MARCIA.

Shalt thou be joining me for a bath, emperor?

COMMODUS.

Afterwards, when I shall return from riding the chariot.

MARCIA.

I shall have the bath prepared then.

COMMODUS.

One thing before I go, I forbid that thou speakest of this matter of another conspiracy with anyone.

MARCIA.

Naturally I shall!

COMMODUS.

As for the members of the Senate, I shall deal with them in due time. There are yet amongst them, those members that have not forgotten that I had imposed upon them, the title of Fortunate Senate. My palace and the Roman people themselves were all given the name Commodianus, and the day on which these reforms were decreed was called Dies Commodianus. I did this for the sake of Rome and not for myself, as my detractors declared.

MARCIA.

Rome shall not forget thy condign gesture, nor shall the Roman people.

COMMODUS.

Rome is forever the mistress of every emperor, and the Roman people must be the voice of the emperor. However, I cannot decide which of the two shall be my brutal assassin.

MARCIA.

I dread the day that shall befall, emperor.

COMMODUS.

If so, when that fatal day shall arrive, I shall be venerated, by the loyal populace and execrated by the avaricious Senate.

MARCIA.

That terrible day shall not come soon. Thou art beloved by the Roman people.

SCENE IV.

At the Circus Maximus.

Commodus had invited the praetorian prefect of the Roman Imperial Guard to a chariot race. The race has finished and Commodus has won.

COMMODUS.

Thou art a worthy adversary Laetus. I enjoy my time in Lanuvium in the countryside, but I miss the racing of the chariots and the combats with beasts and men. This race began from the Palatine Hill of the Seven Hills of Rome in a horse race to the Circus Maximus, from the Roman Forum and 'twas a memorial race. It remindeth me of my races with Cleander. How ironic that at this exact place, he fled the volvigant masses that sought his death.

LAETUS.

It almost seemeth 'twas yester, when Cleander was killed, emperor.

COMMODUS.

There is one thing thou must always remember Laetus and that is, time shall record everything we do, in accordance to our actions.

LAETUS.

'Tis the truth that thou hast bespoken so eloquently!

COMMODUS.

We share a passion for racing chariots, and we have soldiered together. We were born outside of the city of Rome. I wonder, if we share the same taste in women.

LAETUS.

Perhaps, but even my selection of women would pale in comparison to thy taste sire. 'Twould be extremely difficult to equal thee.

COMMODUS.

Is not Marcia, not a valuable prize for thee?

LAETUS.

I am afraid that I do not quite understand.

COMMODUS.

'Tis a facile question to reply, between two men of our noble stature and acquaintance Laetus. Dost thou not find her attractive? Hast thou not fancied her dalliance?

LAETUS.

Indeed! She is a very attractive woman, but I am not an emperor and only a praetorian prefect.

COMMODUS.

If thou wert an emperor, then what?

LAETUS.

Forgive me sire, but I much fancy being the praetorian prefect of the Roman Imperial Guard, because 'tis enough to handle than being the emperor.

COMMODUS.

Good, and thou shalt remain that, as long as thou art obedient to me! And never forget that there is no man equal to me in power and manhood.

LAETUS.

Aye sire!

COMMODUS.

I was once given tribunician power and became consul for the first time at the age of 15, becoming the youngest consul in Roman history. Thou art aware of that illustrious moment in our history?

LAETUS.

Aye sire! History shall never forget thee.

COMMODUS.

I shall die a glorious death, befitting of a God, but I wonder if the people of Rome shall forget me afterwards.

LAETUS.

The Roman people are generous and regardful of their munificent emperor.

COMMODUS.

Thou art astute Laetus and if thou continuest to be

effective as the praetorian prefect, I shall make thee one day soon, my senior adviser.

LAETUS.

Verily, I shall be honoured to serve in that intimate capacity.

COMMODUS.

I can understand now, why any woman would be enamoured by thy persona.

LAETUS.

Whatever persona I may possess I owe to thee, who gave me the title of the praetorian prefect of the Roman Imperial Guard.

COMMODUS.

Thou art beloved by the Roman Imperial Guards, as thou wert by the centurions on the battlefield Laetus.

SCENE V.

At the Imperial Palace.

Commodus has returned and is greeted by Eclectus.

ECLECTUS.

Emperor, thou hast returned I see.

COMMODUS.

Aye Eclectus. I am fatigue from the chariot racing and I shall take a bath.

ECLECTUS.

Before thou dost that, I must speak to thee, about the immediate matter of the visit of the procurator from Asia Minor.

COMMODUS.

Is he here in Rome?

ECLECTUS.

Nay, emperor! But he is expected to come tomorrow.

COMMODUS.

Have a messenger sent to Pertinax and advise him of the arrivance of the procurator.

ECLECTUS.

I have already sent the messenger.

COMMODUS.

Good! Then, I shall take a bath.

ECLECTUS.

Pardon the interruption, but there is another matter that must be addressed with immediacy emperor.

COMMODUS.

It cannot wait, after my bath?

ECLECTUS.

'Tis of an imperative nature. I would not interpose upon thee, if I did not deem it important.

COMMODUS.

Then tell me and be candid, with thy words.

ECLECTUS.

I have heard from a reliable source a devious conspiracy is being concocted, by the members of the Senate.

COMMODUS.

What thou dost mean by that assertion?

ECLECTUS.

Emperor, thou knowest the displeasure many members of the Senate have towards thee.

COMMODUS.

And?

ECLECTUS.

Thou must take into grave consideration that evident hostility that exists amongst them.

COMMODUS.

'Tis all that thou hast to say?

ECLECTUS.

What I asseverate emperor is more than an unfounded assertion.

COMMODUS.

Then tell me what in particular thou knowest that I might be interested about its validity.

ECLECTUS.

For example that at the Plebeian Games, thou shalt be possibly murdered. Or worse, before that event betideth.

COMMODUS.

Am I to be fearful of that feasibility Eclectus? Dost thou knowest, who in particular is planning mine ultimate death?

ECLECTUS.

Unfortunately of the names I do not know, but I shall indeed discover who those members are.

COMMODUS.

Then why hast thou insisted?

ECLECTUS.

Because I know that thou must be informed, and it is my solemn duty.

COMMUDUS.

Then give me a list of those members of the Senate. I shall give thee two entire days to hand me that list. For now, hast thou received a response from the members of the Senate, about the Plebeian Games?

ECLECTUS.

Aye! They shall be attending the event.

COMMODUS.

Excellent! I shall have them in the palm of mine hand afterwards.

SCENE VI.

At the imperial bath, Commodus relaxes with his mistress Marcia.

COMMODUS.

I am wanting to take a bath, after a long chariot race. Shalt thou be joining me in the tepidarium?

MARCIA.

Of course emperor!

They both enter the soothing waters, and they begin to converse. Marcia is washing the back of Commodus.

COMMODUS.

Dost thou know, who was with me at the Circus Maximus?

MARCIA.

No, I do not know emperor!

COMMODUS.

I was with a familiar acquaintance of ours.

MARCIA.

An acquaintance thou hast said?

COMMODUS.

Aye!

MARCIA.

Who art thou referring to?

COMMODUS.

The praetorian prefect of the Roman Imperial Guard.

MARCIA.

Laetus?

COMMODUS.

Precisely!

MARCIA.

I did not know the praetorian prefect was an avid chariot racer.

COMMODUS.

Neither did I. But he was a worthy opponent.

MARCIA.

Am I too presumed thou won the race?

COMMODUS.

Hast thou ever known me to lose at anything?

MARCIA.

No!

COMMODUS.

Art thou not glad to know that I was the victor, as usually I am Marcia?

MARCIA.

Indeed, emperor. Thou art Commodus the emperor of the Roman Empire.

COMMODUS.

For a moment, I thought thou wert to doubt my word.

MARCIA.

Never!

COMMODUS.

Whilst I was at the Circus Maximus, I thought of Cleander. I remember being told that the praetorian guards were sent to put down the disturbances of that faithful day, but Pertinax, who was now City Prefect of Rome, dispatched the Vigiles Urbani to oppose them. Cleander fled to the Imperial Palace, and then ran to Laurentum in the house of the Quinctilii, for protection, but the mob followed him calling for his head.

MARCIA.

I remember that occurrence, but why dost thou think of that horrible death of Cleander? He was against thee?

COMMODUS.

That is what thou made me believe. Nevertheless, I make mention of this, because I had a terrible phantasmagoria yester.

MARCIA.

A phantasmagoria thou hast uttered?

COMMODUS.

Aye, and I saw myself as Cleander, as I was being murdered. I also remember Quintianus shouting, "This is what the senate hath sent for thee!"

MARCIA.

Do not remember this emperor. 'Twas only a nightmare.

COMMODUS.

I wonder, if this death shall not befall upon me?

MARCIA.

Rome and its citizens love and praise thee immensely.

COMMODUS.

But I am no longer certain of their worship of me.

MARCIA.

Who rebuilt the city anew of Rome after the great fire?

COMMODUS.

'Twas I the emperor!

MARCIA.

Then demonstrate to Rome and the Roman people that their emperor is invincible and dauntless. Thou must not be fearful, before thy foes!

COMMODUS.

And I shall not!

Eclectus interrupts the conversation to inform the emperor of the arrival of the Prefect of Rome Pertinax.

SCENE VII.

At the vestibulum of the Imperial Palace.

Pertinax has arrived to speak to the emperor, about the Plebeian Games and the visit of the procurator from Asia Minor.

COMMODUS.

It hath been some time, since I invited thee to the Imperial Palace.

PERTINAX.

Forsooth!

COMMODUS.

Thou must forgive me prefect, but I often spend my time in Lanuvium, where I enjoy the leisure time in the countryside and breathe the fresh air.

PERTINAX.

I understand emperor. I too enjoy the picturesque countryside. However, mine administrative

duties in Rome keep me much occupied lately.

COMMODUS.

Duties that as men of politics and leaders are forced to uphold. 'Tis easier to rule a city than to rule an empire, but Rome is more than a mere administrative city.

PERTINAX.

Rome is the quintessence of the Roman Empire.

COMMODUS.

Rome is full of countless quidnuncs and quislings that have inhabited the city, with an infectious wit.

PERTINAX.

I too have come to the exact conclusion lately emperor.

COMMODUS.

I find myself more understood and at ease, with the citizens of Rome in the plebicolar sense than with the fastidious nuisance of the patricians. In particular the Senate. I constantly doubt their allegiance.

PERTINAX.

That is because, the commoners are powerless and the Senate is not.

COMMODUS.

Do not remind me of that transparent difference, between the two. The thought depresseth me.

PERTINAX.

Thou shalt not be concerned, with the Senate. Unlike them, thou hast me to serve thy commands and interest of the empire and Rome.

COMMODUS.

Thou art correct, but I did not summon thee here to speak about the Senate. Thou art here, because I had to speak to thee, about the Plebeian Games and the visit of the procurator from Asia Minor.

PERTINAX.

When I received thy message and read the contents, I had assumed 'twas something of importance.

COMMODUS.

Thou knowest that with me, it usually is of great importance. I do not waste my time on inconsequential matters.

PERTINAX.

Of course! In what capacity can I serve thee then emperor?

COMMODUS.

I have invited Felix the procurator of the province of Paphlagonia in Asia Minor, amongst other prominent members of the empire to the new edition of the Plebeian Games.

PERTINAX.

I have heard much about him, although I have not yet had the pleasure to have met him in person.

COMMODUS.

Thou shalt have that opportunity. I have met him before, and he is a delight. He was a former soldier that accompanied my father to the Danubian front and was beloved by him.

PERTINAX.

Any man that pleaseth the emperor must be a worthy man of an eximious reputation.

COMMODUS.

There is one other thing I forgot to mention. I have thought of perhaps assigning thee to the position of procurator of Athens.

PERTINAX.

The procurator of Athens?

COMMODUS.

Aye! Doth, not the idea of Athens exciteth thee Pertinax?

PERTINAX.

I have been there and admire the Greeks, but I much fancy the comfort of Rome and my duties as the prefect of the city.

COMMODUS.

Thou speakest Greek and I ask that thou considerest my gentle offer, since I do not have the habit of asking twice.

PERTINAX.

I shall emperor.

ACT 3.

At the Imperial Palace.

SCENE I.

Pertinax has left the palace and Commodus and Laetus discuss the visit of the praetorian prefect.

ECLECTUS.

I hope that the visit of the Prefect of Rome was satisfactory to thee emperor.

COMMODUS.

'Twas indeed!

ECLECTUS.

The prefect seemed to be troubled on his way out of the palace.

COMMODUS.

Really? I was not under the impression that he was.

ECLECTUS.

Perhaps 'tis naught emperor and I was only assuming what was not.

COMMODUS.

Even if that was the case, the prefect should be only concerned, with the dutiful administration of the city.

ECLECTUS.

Rome is a bustling city and it requireth the guidance of bright men, such as thee and Pertinax.

COMMODUS.

Aye! But art thou comparing me thine magnificent emperor to another mortal man Eclectus?

ECLECTUS.

Nay mine emperor. Forgive me for mine imprudence, but I merely was attempting to exemplify the qualities of an effective leader.

COMMODUS.

Then, do not fail to make the erroneous distinction again, because I might not be too receptive to that notion the next time. Remember that no one, not even the Prefect of Rome or thee is exempt, from my punishment. Is that clear?

ECLECTUS.

Aye, 'tis clear to me emperor.

COMMODUS.

Good! Now I must leave the palace.

ECLECTUS.

Where art thou going at this hour?

COMMODUS.

I have an urgent engagement to tend to, with a member of the Senate.

ECLECTUS.

With Cornelius?

COMMODUS.

Do not ask Eclectus and concern thyself, with the preparations of the trip of the procurator.

ECLECTUS.

Aye! I shall, and the preparations of the banquet shall be finalised.

COMMODUS.

Excelent! Thou art a good servant Eclectus. I shall always reward thy loyalty, with my benevolence.

ECLECTUS.

And thou art the emperor of the Roman Empire.

COMMODUS.

Never forget that Eclectus. Do not include thyself in the list of my detractors, instead in the list of my benefactors.

SCENE II.

At the chamber of Marcia, Eclectus speaks to Marcia, about the visit of Pertinax and the conspiracy to kill Commodus.

MARCIA.

Hath the emperor left the palace?

ECLECTUS.

Aye! He has departed.

MARCIA.

Whither did he go?

ECLECTUS.

He said that he was going to talk to a member of the Senate.

MARCIA.

Did he specify, which member of the Senate by name?

ECLECTUS.

Unfortunately, he did not. It seemeth that he was concealing the name for a reason.

MARCIA.

If that is the case, then we must discover, who is that particular Senator forthwith.

ECLECTUS.

I perceived a serious tone in the voice of the emperor.

MARCIA.

What art thou insinuating Eclectus?

ECLECTUS.

I am not insinuating anything, but that fact.

MARCIA.

Dost thou sense that the emperor hath begun to suspect our conspiracy?

ECLECTUS.

Perchance! However, the mind of the emperor is always scheming.

MARCIA.

True! We must never underestimate his cunning ability to deal with his enemies mercilessly.

ECLECTUS.

We must be more cautious, with our words and actions.

MARCIA.

Any slight mistake or indiscretion on our part would mean certain doom to our plan and as well, our lives.

ECLECTUS.

I am fully aware of that occurrence.

MARCIA.

I am beginning to have second doubts.

ECLECTUS.

About what, if I may query?

MARCIA.

There is something that is extremely eerie, about the emperor that I have not noticed before.

ECLECTUS.

I too sense that eeriness in him.

MARCIA.

Thou must leave the palace, whilst the emperor is gone and speak to Pertinax, about the plan.

ECLECTUS.

Do not worry I shall go afterwards and converse with him about the matter.

SCENE III.

At the Vicus Tuscus Street outside of the district of the Roman Forum.

Eclectus had sent a messenger to the home of Pertinax, about the urgency to speak to him. Pertinax arrives afterwards.

ECLECTUS.

I am thankful that thou came at once prefect.

PERTINAX.

I received thy celeritous message; although I admit that I am uncertain of what is the relevance of the message.

ECLECTUS.

'Tis about the plan to murder the emperor.

PERTINAX.

I thought this was the reason thou wanted to speak to me. Now, be succinct, because I do not have time.

ECLECTUS.

Indeed prefect. The date of the murder of the emperor hath been set.

PERTINAX.

When and where?

ECLECTUS.

In the month of December. It shall occur one month, before the new Plebeian Games are to commence.

PERTINAX.

And the day?

ECLECTUS.

That hath not been yet determined.

PERTINAX.

Then why dost thou inform me?

ECLECTUS.

The emperor hath begun to perceive a conspiracy against him.

PERTINAX.

How dost thou know?

ECLECTUS.

Because I know the emperor's thoughts. He confineth in me. But lately, he hath started to conceal his secrets to some extent.

PERTINAX.

I too have begun to sense this particular change in his recent comportment.

ECLECTUS.

In what manner prefect?

PERTINAX.

He offered me a position outside of Rome in Athens.

ECLECTUS.

What position?

PERTINAX.

Procurator.

ECLECTUS.

'Tis a surprise, because he hath not mentioned this to me.

PERTINAX.

I cannot afford to be linked to a failed conspiracy.

ECLECTUS.

We must proceed the course! Dost thou not want to be the new emperor. Think Prefect, the mighty Emperor of Rome and its plentifold benefits.

PERTINAX.

Naturally, but I am conscious of the wrath of Commodus.

SCENE IV.

Outside of the arena of the Gladiators.

Commodus is accompanied by Aelius, a member of the Roman Imperial Guard.

COMMODUS.

'Tis good that thou hast come with me Aelius.

AELIUS.

To serve thee is my prime duty emperor.

COMMODUS.

Duty is a noble cause of honour, but I query, thou art not pleased to serve me?

AELIUS.

Forgive me sire! I did not intend to sound ungrateful.

COMMODUS.

Thou hast not answered my simple question.

AELIUS.

I would answer, with a definite affirmation of my pleasure to serve thee.

COMMODUS.

Thou art wondering, wherefore thou art here with me upon this day.

AELIUS.

I would be remiss, if I did not ponder that specific reason sire.

COMMODUS.

Thou art here, because I have an important task that I shall entrust thee.

AELIUS.

If I may enquire, what is that important task?

COMMODUS.

Thou art a loyal man Aelius.

AELIUS.

And thou art an august emperor.

COMMODUS.

Enough, with the laudable words of appreciation! What I need for thee to do is to be mine eyes and ears, within the Imperial Guard.

AELIUS.

If I can ask, wherefore sire?

COMMODUS.

That is a logical question, but 'tis better that the only thing that shall concern thee is mine approbation.

AELIIUS.

Thou shalt not need to worry sire. Whatever the emperor requireth of me to do, I shall effectuate that command, without any reluctance.

COMMODUS.

Thou hast courage Aelius and that is one of the characteristics of a leader. Perhaps within a year or sooner, if thou maintain thy loyalty to me, then thou canst rise within the ranks.

AELIUS.

O sire that would be a great honour.

COMMODUS.

Know one thing Aelius. I have seen many men come in go in the ranks of mine Imperial Guard, yet few have impressed me enough to merit my praise. Thou canst pertain to a selected group.

AELIUS.

If that be the case sire, then let me not disappoint thee.

COMMODUS.

I must go now, but we shall speak again about the matter.

AELIUS.

Where and when sire?

COMMODUS.

Thou shalt know, when and where.

AELIUS.

Aye!

SCENE V.

At the home of Laetus.

Pertinax has arrived to speak to the praetorian prefect of the Roman Imperial Guard.

PERTINAX.

'Tis good that thou hast come.

LAETUS.

I came at once prefect.

PERTINAX.

We must discuss the issue of the conspiracy.

LAETUS.

What meanest thou, the assassination of the emperor?

PERTINAX.

Correct!

LAETUS.

Thou hast not reconsidered thine opinion and desire to eliminate the emperor?

PERTINAX.

I have been told, by the emperor that there shall be major changes soon.

LAETUS.

That I have heard and I perceive that those supposed changes shall certainly include us, prefect.

PERTINAX.

What are we to do if so?

LAETUS.

We must continue, with the plan to assassinate the emperor. We cannot turn back!

PERTINAX.

The political strife and the increasingly arbitrary and capricious behaviour of the emperor himself, along with his insouciant nature have made it impossible to serve him.

LAETUS.

His imperialistic hauteur and arrant defiance shall be his downfall. We must take the opportunistic advantage afforded to us. At the present time, he is occupied with the Plebeian Games and therefore, we could strike then.

PERTINAX.

Thou realisest the bold enterprise that we are to partake in?

LAETUS.

Aye prefect! The hour of the emperor's death is nigh.

PERTINAX.

I cannot forget the fate of Quintianus. I still believe we must have the backing of the senate.

LAETUS.

And we do!

PERTINAX.

Art thou absolutely certain of that Laetus?

LAETUS.

Forsooth! I have spoken to Quirinus, a high member of the Senate.

PERTINAX.

And what dost thou know?

LAETUS.

He hath asseverated the Senate's consent for our plan.

PERTINAX.

Thou hast durst to reveal our plans to him? How can we trust him?

LAETUS.

Do not worry prefect. I have bribed him already.

PERTINAX.

Bribed him, in what manner?

LAETUS.

I have offered him a higher position in the Senate, with the capacity of more senior magistracies.

PERTINAX.

Thou knowest that he shalt not be content with that only.

LAETUS.

I am aware of that prefect. That is the reason why, we shall have Quirinus murdered. Eclectus shall find someone to murder him.

PERTINAX.

This is the sensible thing to do, since we cannot allow any indiscretions. Once I am in absolute power of the Empire. I shall strip the Senate of their power and influence over Rome, reducing them to administrative duties. I was once a member of the Roman Senate and know them well. I shall institute several reform measures also, so that the people of Rome know of my willing intent to restore honour to the empire.

LAETUS.

What are we to do with Marcia and Eclectus afterwards?

PERTINAX.

That is simple! We must execute them both before they execute us.

SCENE VI.

At the Imperial Palace.

Commodus has returned to the palace. Marcia enters the chamber of the emperor.

MARCIA.

Emperor, I was not told of thy return.

COMMODUS.

I did not see thee. I prefer to relax in privacy.

MARCIA.

Thou hast not grown weary of me already.

COMMODUS.

Have I said I have before?

MARCIA.

No, emperor!

COMMODUS.

Hark! When I do, thou shalt surely know, without a doubt.

MARCIA.

Dost thou jest with me emperor?

COMMODUS.

Do I look, as if I am jesting?

MARCIA.

Please tell me that thou art, because I cannot bear to lose thy love.

COMMODUS.

Thou art my mistress, but thou knowest that I have sexual desires that not only one woman can please.

MARCIA.

Naturally! However, thou dost not want me here any longer? If so, I shall leave thee alone in thy chamber?

COMMODUS.

Since thou art here, do not go. I must tell thee that the procurator Felix of Paphlagonia is arriving tomorrow. Therefore, I shall expect thee to join us.

MARCIA.

Of course emperor! I shall be content to be present by thy side, as I usually am.

COMMODUS.

Excellent! Now that I have disclosed the procurator's visit tomorrow, then let us finish this conversation and address the issue of the Plebeian Games.

MARCIA.

What about the Plebeian Games?

COMMODUS.

I have decided to order manifold statues of me to be made dressed as Hercules, with a lion's hide and a club adjacent to the Colosseum. I shall have statues of myself put around other significant places of the city.

MARCIA.

Thou art forever mine Hercules emperor!

COMMODUS.

I should hope that I am endearing to the Roman people, as Hercules was for the Greeks.

MARCIA.

Thou art! Not even the mighty Hercules had the intellectual prowess that thou possessest abundantly.

COMMODUS.

Thou speakest like an orator. I detest them, because they are fastidious. However, thou art remarkably charming, as an orator.

MARCIA.

My words are only a genuine reflection of the veracity.

COMMODUS.

The veracity that thou bespeakest is that I am the emperor of the Roman Empire.

ACT 4.

SCENE I.

At the impluvium of the Imperial Palace.

The next day Commodus greets the procurator of Paphlagonia.

COMMODUS.

Procurator. 'Tis a pleasure to have thee here, in my magnificent home.

FELIX.

Emperor, I am grateful to be here and within thy presence.

COMMODUS.

Come hither procurator! Let us enter, into the cameranious setting of the Imperial Palace.

FELIX.

I would love to see the interior façade of the splendid palace.

COMMODUS.

I am planning on a possible lengthy trip to Antioch, in the eastern province or the city of Athens.

FELIX.

I fancy the wondrous sounds of Athens. 'Tis a glorious city of historical relevance.

COMMODUS.

I prefer the calm countryside than the obstreperous bustle of Rome. However, I have a fond attachment to Athens.

FELIX.

'Tis a fascinating city compared to the unique provinces of Asia Minor.

COMMODUS.

I have heard that there are countless treasures, yet to be discovered in that remote region of the empire.

FELIX.

True! But I enjoy the aqueducts, arches, forums, circuses, bridges, baths, and lively amphitheatres of Rome. I am envious of thee. If I was emperor, I would make Rome the absolute centre of the world.

COMMODUS.

Thou hast vision procurator. One day perhaps, thou shalt inherit mine excellent characteristics.

FELIX.

Thy distinguishable traits are incomparable to other men emperor.

COMMODUS.

Verily, I have fully demonstrated my justifiable merits and glorious acts, for the behoof of Rome and the Roman people.

FELIX.

I must commend thee. I once had lived in Rome and never was it as magnificent, as 'tis now.

COMMODUS.

My poor father did not have my great vision. He was always occupied, with the constant preservation of the empire.

FELIX.

Thy father was a proud Roman. I knew him ere and he was a wise man.

COMMODUS.

In sooth! I remember him well. I had accompanied him, during the Marcomannic Wars and on a tour of the Eastern province, when the empire was threatened.

FELIX.

Thy father and grandfather were impeccable emperors.

COMMODUS.

Not since Titus succeeded Vespasian hath there been an honour granted to an emperor's lineage, as was bequeathed to mine.

FELIX.

Aye emperor!

COMMODUS.

I invited thee to speak about the Plebeian Games.

FELIX.

I am honoured, by thine invitation emperor.

COMMODUS.

It shall be a spectacle like no other. The Colosseum shall be full of noble patricians, Senators and dignitaries. The arena shall be electrifying. We shall be entertained, by the fierce and daring Moors, Dacians, Britons, Gauls, Greeks and Goths, amongst other gladiators.

SCENE II.

At the vestibulum of the Senate.

Laetus arrives and speaks to Quirinus in privacy.

QUIRINUS.

Laetus, the prefect of the praetorian guard.

LAETUS.

Quirinus, the elite member of the Senate.

QUIRINUS.

What do I owe the honour of thy visit to the Senate?

LAETUS.

I believe that thou knowest of why I have come.

QUIRINUS.

When shall the assassination of the emperor take place?

LAETUS.

The day hath not been yet confirmed. However, it shall betide very soon.

QUIRINUS.

Within a week or a matters of days?

LAETUS.

I would dare to say, within a matter of days.

QUIRINUS.

That soon?

LAETUS.

Aye! We cannot tarry any longer.

QUIRINUS.

I agree!

LAETUS.

Therefore, I ask. Am I to assume that the Senate shall not oppose the assassination?

QUIRINUS.

The Senate shall only involve itself, in the process and not in the assassination directly.

LAETUS.

As usual, the Senate doth not wish to smear thine hands in blood; although ye want us to do thy biding.

QUIRINUS.

We are civil men of reputation and prestige.

LAETUS.

Civil men none of us are deep down inside. We are all by nature, men of blatant greed and corruption.

QUIRINUS.

True, but is it not better to be powerful than powerless in your opinion?

LAETUS.

Without power, we are powerless and subservient to those rulers that govern with total dominion.

QUIRINUS.

That I do not refute and worse, when that ruler hath become a dictatorial tyrant, such as Commodus.

LAETUS.

The emperor shall never relinquish his power.

QUIRINUS.

That I can acknowledge and the realisation of that reality is present in my mind quotidianly.

LAETUS.

Therefore, we must procure his removal from power immediately.

SCENE III.

At the compluvium, within the Imperial Palace.

Eclectus has returned to the palace, after speaking to Pertinax.

MARCIA.

Eclectus, thou hast returned. Hast thou spoken to the prefect yet?

ECLETUS.

Aye!

MARCIA.

We must know, whether or not he is fully committed to the cause.

ECLECTUS.

When I spoke to him, he was somewhat hesitant to proceed with his participation. He feared the wrath of the emperor.

MARCIA.

Coward! Are we to put our complete trust in this man?

ECLECTUS.

We must, if we are to execute our plan. We must convince him even more.

MARCIA.

But how? What else can we offer him than the power of being the new emperor?

ECLECTUS.

Perhaps, thy seductive influence could persuade him in the end.

MARCIA.

Nay, I cannot risk being seen by the wandering eyes of the emperor and his observers. We must think of another way to persuade the prefect.

ECLECTUS.

We could bribe him, but at this point, this would be more risky for us. I shall attempt everything!

MARCIA.

Then, what shall we do instead?

ECLECTUS.

We must convince him that he alone shall be the new emperor, after the death of Commodus.

MARCIA.

Do what thou must do Eclectus, but do not fail!

ECLECTUS.

I shall not!

MARCIA.

I am anxious as well. And I don't know, if we shall succeed.

ECLECTUS.

Do not fret! We shall succeed in our endeavour. Soon, the emperor shall be dead.

MARCIA.

If we do not succeed, we shall all be dead within the hour.

ECLECTUS.

That I do not doubt at all!

MARCIA.

We cannot afford any senseless mistakes in the preparation of the assassination of the emperor.

ECLECTUS.

Every measure of precaution shall be taken. I guarantee thee that the emperor shall be murdered, and we shall be there to witness his demise.

SCENE IV.

At the Capitoline Hills, near the Temple of Virtue.

Eclectus and Quirinus meet to discuss the issue of the planned assassination of Commodus.

ECLECTUS.

I shall be brief and not take much of thy time Senator.

QUIRINUS.

Hast thou new tidings, about the date of the assassination of the emperor?

ECLECTUS.

It shall occur within the following days.

QUIRINUS.

Then, thou art certain of this information?

ECLECTUS.

I can assure thee that the emperor shall be soon dead. And Rome once more shall be liberated of his horrific tyranny and imperious madness.

QUIRINUS.

If I can query Eclectus, what exactly dost thou profit, with his assassination?

ECLECTUS.

Everything!

QUIRINUS.

Explain! I don't understand, since thou art his favourite chamberlain.

ECLECTUS.

True! But 'tis very simple Senator. By removing the emperor from power, I can become the praetorian prefect of the Roman Imperial Guard.

QUIRINUS.

Clever of thee, but thou realisest that Laetus would have to be killed. And I know him enough to say that he shall not go willingly.

ECLECTUS.

Naturally, I do not expect him to. 'Tis regrettable that he must be murdered. Nonetheless, I am prepared for the audacious challenge.

QUIRINUS.

I should hope for the sake of Rome that we shall be liberated of this maniacal emperor.

ECLECTUS.

Rome shall be in debt to us for this necessary action. I trust that the Senate shall not be absent, when the hour of the assassination arriveth.

QUIRINUS.

I can guarantee thee that the Senate shall not shed a tear for Commodus. On the contrary, the Senate shall be relieved. The Senate shall declare him a de facto damnatio memoriae or a public enemy.

ECLECTUS.

Good! Everything is ready, and we must procure the secrecy of the plan. We cannot afford any silly mistakes at this point in time.

QUIRINUS.

There is too much to lose and risk.

ECLECTUS.

I am truly aware of that feasible circumstance.

QUIRINUS.

Then, let us not be careless in our calculative actions.

ECLECTUS.

I totally agree with thee Senator. It would not be to our decisive advantage.

QUIRINUS.

I must go now. The Senate awaits me.

SCENE V.

At the Circus Maximus.

Commodus has invited Aelius to challenge him to a chariot race. They speak afterwards, when the race has finished.

COMMODUS.

'Twas a great race Aelius and thou wert an admirable opponent.

AELIUS.

Thou wert a deserving victor sire.

COMMODUS.

Hast thou any tidings, about a suspected conspiracy against me?

AELIUS.

Nay emperor! I have not yet noticed or heard, any relevant information on the subject.

COMMODUS.

Then thou must be more observant.

AELIUS.

Aye! I shall be more watchful in my daily observation.

COMMODUS.

Thou art aware that I have innumerable foes, amidst the Senate and the patricians.

AELIUS.

I am aware of that fact.

COMMODUS.

From amongst the indolence of the people, there are ambitious servants of Rome and the empire. I am looking, for these trustworthy persons to move within the ranks.

AELIUS.

I am here to serve thee sire!

COMMODUS.

I am thinking of returning to the estate in Lanuvium, but I cannot leave, until I am absolutely certain that my foes are not planning a deliberate conspiracy against me. I need thee to continue to watch over the Roman Imperial Guard. I know I can trust the centurions and legionaries of the Roman Army. However, 'tis the Imperial Guard that I cannot trust at the moment.

AELIUS.

I was not cognisant, about this distrust in the Roman Imperial Guard.

COMMODUS.

Thou must know one thing Aelius. There is ultimately an uncomfortable alliance that a Roman Imperial Guard must make, when serving.

AELIUS.

And what is that alliance?

COMMODUS.

To serve the emperor or to serve his companions. There is an insatiable greed of an indomitable force that results too enticing to dismiss. 'Tis called power!

AELIUS.

I am only thine humble servant.

COMMODUS.

Behold the city of Rome ahead. I have often wondered, if 'tis better to embrace it or flee from it.

AELIUS.

Rome is thy city, and the Roman people cherish thee sire.

COMMODUS.

The Roman people cherish me, because I tax the senatorial order and I build new edifices. All that I wanted was to revel in peace and happiness in mine age of glory, and praise the felicitas Commodi, the glorious libertas, my pietas, providentia, my victoria and virtus aeterna. I want there to be no doubt that this "Golden Age" hath been achieved, through my munificence, as Nobilissimus Princeps.

AELIUS.

Thou art always munificent.

SCENE VI.

At the impluvium of the Imperial Palace.

Commodus and Eclectus gather to discuss his suspicion of a conspiracy against him.

COMMODUS.

I sense Eclectus that there is a real threat, in the form of a conspiracy against me that is developing at a rapid pace.

ECLECTUS.

In what capacity emperor?

COMMODUS.

In the most vile manner conceived by cowards.

ECLECTUS.

Hast thou any indication of that?

COMMODUS.

More than a casual indication I believe.

ECLECTUS.

I am under the general impression that thou knowest more than thou art revealing.

COMMODUS.

If that is the case, then let my dastardly foes be wary of my supreme wrath.

ECLECTUS.

Dost thou have any names of the conspirators?

COMMODUS.

Until now, I have had none that are fully disclosed. However, when I have all the names of those pusillanimous miscreants, I shall execute them forthwith. I am confident of that eventuality.

ECLECTUS.

I shall hope that if there is a terrible conspiracy against thee emperor, those persons shall be apprehended in the end.

COMMODUS.

Eclectus, what wouldst thou do, if thou knewest, about the wicked intention of the conspirators?

ECLECTUS.

What art thou implying?

COMMODUS.

'Tis simple! If thou wert emperor wouldst thou execute anyone, on the basis of a mere conjecture?

ECLECTUS.

Only if there was indisputable evidence of the involvement of that person or persons.

COMMODUS.

Persons thou hast uttered? Then thou hast the suspicion that there are several individuals involved, in this supposed plot to murder me?

ECLECTUS.

'Tis only a mere supposition emperor. Are we not making a baseless assumption, without any incontrovertible facts?

COMMODUS.

Perchance, but I shall not rest, til I have discovered the actual significance of the veracity of that implication.

ECLECTUS.

I suspect that the Imperial Guards would be aware of the conspirators.

COMMODUS.

Art thou certain of that Eclectus?

ECLECTUS.

Dost thou believe that the daring conspirators are, amongst the Imperial Guards of the palace?

COMMODUS.

At this point in time, wherefore should I distrust them, unless thou knowest otherwise?

ECLECTUS.

Nay! Do not make the insinuation that I am involved, in this supposed plot to murder thee.

COMMODUS.

Murder me? I did not say murder. What dost thou mean?

ECLECTUS.

Forgive me emperor! By no means did I insinuate thy murder. I was merely stating a possibility of that occurrence.

ACT 5.

SCENE I.

At the vestibulum of the Imperial Palace.

Eclectus is worried that the emperor has begun to suspect the conspiracy, against his rule. He speaks to Marcia, about his immediate concern.

ECLECTUS.

Marcia, I must speak to thee at once.

MARCIA.

What hath unsettled thee Eclectus?

ECLECTUS.

The emperor!

MARCIA.

Please explicate!

ECLECTUS.

I have finished a troubling conversation with him.

MARCIA.

What is it? Hast he discovered our plot?

ECLECTUS.

Nay, but he is starting to suspect the conspiracy and worse, he is distrusting everyone, including the Roman Imperial Guard and me.

MARCIA.

Art thou certain of that actuality?

ECLECTUS.

Aye! I know the emperor as much, as thou knowest him.

MARCIA.

True! What hath occurred that hath unnerved him?

ECLECTUS.

That I do not know! Yet, something or someone hath caused him to be suspicious of a conspiracy against him.

MARCIA.

What or who?

ECLECTUS.

That is the question that must be answered afterwards.

MARCIA.

We do not have much time to wait, since the emperor is not immune to assassination plots against his life.

ECLECTUS.

I agree, and we must be even more cautious, with our actions.

MARCIA.

We have to convince, with our actions that we are not plotting against him.

ECLECTUS.

Thou are correct! I shall inform thee of any new revelations.

MARCIA.

And I shall do the same.

ECLECTUS.

The emperor hast left the palace.

MARCIA.

Thou must speak to Laetus and Pertinax again.

ECLECTUS.

I shall!

MARCIA.

Good! Then let us not raise, any unnecessary suspicion that shall alert our direct participation.

SCENE II.

At the peristyle of the courtyard.

Commodus has returned to the palace. He hath brought with him, a singular gladiator from the arena to accompany him. He summons all his servants of the palace, including Eclectus. Marcia is summoned as well.

COMMODUS.

I am glad that all of my servants are present.

ECLECTUS.

What hast caused this occasion emperor?

COMMODUS.

I have brought a gladiator with me to the palace.

MARCIA.

I don't understand either.

COMMODUS.

Hark to my words! It has been some time now that I have not had a respectful challenge in the palace. Therefore, I have brought a fierce gladiator to combat.

ECLECTUS.

Combat, within the Imperial Palace?

COMMODUS.

Indeed!

MARCIA.

Must we be present?

COMMODUS.

Dost thou find this sport of mine egregious?

MARCIA.

I much prefer to see thee in the arena, then here. I do not want blood to be spilt, within the beautiful courtyard.

COMMODUS.

Why should I concern myself, with this, since the blood that shall be spilt shall not be mine?

MARCIA.

I understand emperor, but why must we be a part of this bloody spectacle?

COMMODUS.

Dost thou believe I shall lose? Since, when hast thou been fearful of blood Marcia?

ECLECTUS.

Forgive her candid demeanour emperor. But is it not better to wait, until we know for a certainty that thy conspirators are not amongst us?

COMMODUS.

Perhaps thou are right! However, I must prove to all my determined adversaries that I am not afraid of them.

ECLECTUS.

'Tis not a question of thy manhood or bravery emperor. 'Tis more of an issue of thy safety.

COMMODUS.

Perhaps it would be better Eclectus, if there are enemies amongst me that they witness my courage.

MARCIA.

Thou art courageous already!

COMMODUS.

I know I am!

ECLECTUS.

I beseech thee emperor, do not expose thyself to death!

Commodus ignores their pleas and battles with the gladiator, until he has killed the unfortunate gladiator.

COMMODUS.

Now are ye content to see me the victor safe and sound?

ECLECTUS.

Glory be to the emperor!

COMMODUS.

Glory be to rome!

MARCIA

Glory be to the Exsuperatorius Commodus!

COMMODUS.

Let this serve, as a monitory presage to all that dare to defy me.

SCENE III.

At the decorative throne room.

Commodus has invited the statesman and writer Cassius Dio once more to his palace.

COMMODUS.

I am thankful that thou hast accepted my gracious invitation to the palace anew.

CASSIUS DIO.

I am honoured emperor.

COMMODUS.

Hast thou cogitated in thy mind the marvellous proposition I had instructed thee before.

CASSIUS DIO.

I have!

COMMODUS.

Then, hast thou decided to accept the generous proposition?

CASSIUS DIO.

I have!

COMMODUS.

Do not keep me waiting any longer. Hast thou accepted?

CASSIUS DIO.

I have!

COMMODUS.

Excellent! I am interested in knowing what shall be written about me.

CASSIUS DIO.

I imagine that history shall be favourable to thee; although I cannot guarantee thee this.

COMMODUS.

History is much like the terrible Senate.

CASSIUS DIO.

I have heard that, for each appearance in the arena, thou hast charged the city of Rome a million sesterces, straining the Roman economy on some accounts.

COMMODUS.

I must emphasise the fact that this was done to appease the Roman people and the economy.

CASSIUS DIO.

I have also heard that thou instructest commands, governorships and, increasingly, even the suffect consulships to the highest bidder.

COMMODUS.

That is because the man that proveth himself to me, deserveth his just place in my vast empire.

CASSIUS DIO.

'Tis true that thou hast a passion for gladiatorial combat that thou hast dressed, as a secutor.

COMMODUS.

True! Am I, not a great gladiator?

CASSIUS DIO.

I have heard that the empire is ruled through a cabal consisting of thy mistress Marcia, thy chamberlain Eclectus, and the praetorian prefect Quintus Aemilius Laetus. 'Is that accurate emperor?

COMMODUS.

That is an inane question to ask, but since thou hast a furor scribendi and shall be writing mine historical relevance, then I shall excuse thy question. Let me tell thee Cassius Dio, I rule alone. I shall soon abolish the power of the senate.

CASSIUS DIO.

Is it true that thou attempted the extermination of the house of the Quinctilii?

COMMODUS.

The house of the Quinctilii. Let me tell thee that Cleander had continued to sell public offices as his private business. In the same year that he was murdered, Pertinax unmasked a conspiracy by two enemies of Cleander-Antistius Burrus my brothers-in-law and Arrius Antoninus. Cleander had fled to my home in Laurentum, at the house of the Quinctilii, for protection, but the mob had followed him calling for his head. The vigils urbani were sent, but to no avail. To appease the crowd, I had the mutilated bodies of Cleander and his loved ones dragged through the streets of Rome, thrown into the sewers and left to rot.

CASSIUS DIO.

Forgive me emperor, if I insist on knowing about these curious things.

COMMODUS.

Let us speak about the matter of my greatness.

CASSIUS DIO.

Proceed!

COMMODUS.

Cassius Dio, I was born in Lanuvium, near Rome. I was converted to coruler and heir to my father, the emperor Marcus Aurelius. I had joined him, in his campaign against invading German tribes along the Danube, but after his death, I soon became the sole ruler of the vast roman Empire. I tell thee these things, because all of the roman people must never forget this. I shall reveal more, when thou comest to visit me the next time.

SCENE IV.

At the home of Laetus.

Eclectus has arrived to speak to Laetus, about the assassination of the emperor.

LAETUS.

What do I owe this visit Eclectus?

ECLECTUS.

I have come to make certain that our plan is still in effect.

LAETUS.

The assassination of the emperor?

ECLECTUS.

Aye!

LAETUS.

I perceive in thine eyes, a sudden urgency.

ECLECTUS.

Thou art indeed correct, with that assumption.

LAETUS.

What hast befallen that I may ask?

ECLECTUS.

The emperor hath started to be suspicious, about the idea of a conspiracy against him.

LAETUS.

How? In what manner?

ECLECTUS.

I believe that someone hath alerted him; or he hath begun to suspect something unfolding. That is the mystery.

LAETUS.

We cannot afford to be predictable. We must murder him, before 'tis too late. I cannot forget what happened to Perrenis and Cleander.

ECLECTUS.

We shall not meet the same fate as them.

LAETUS.

Hast thou forgotten that we are speaking about a megalomaniac man of a froward mien and merciless tyranny?

ECLECTUS.

I am completely aware of that.

LAETUS.

Commodus's depravity doth not stop, when he leaveth the arena. He hath a strange obsession, with torturing the physically disabled-even forcing men with dwarfism to fight each other with cleavers for an audience's amusement-and his ways to work torture into every part of life is reprehensible.

ECLECTUS.

We shall not become his victims, praetorian prefect.

LAETUS.

How canst thou be assured of that?

ECLECTUS.

Because this shall not occur.

LAETUS.

Thou hast not convinced me.

ECLECTUS.

I shall tell thee only this. Soon, the emperor shall be stone dead!

SCENE V.

At the Via Labicana entering Rome, through the Aurelian walls, via the ancient monumental gate of Porta Prenestina.

Commodus returns to Rome, after a couple days in Lanuvium. He is greeted by his supporters, then he visits the Prefect of Rome.

PERTINAX.

Emperor, what do I owe this visit?

COMMODUS.

Art thou not happy to see me Pertinax?

PERTINAX.

Of course!

COMMODUS.

Then, why do I noticed the unnerving look in thine eyes?

PERTINAX.

Because, I did not expect thy visit.

COMMODUS.

Doth thine emperor need a reason to justify his visit?

PERTINAX.

Nay, emperor!

COMMODUS.

If thou must know, I come to speak about the Plebeian Games.

PERTINAX.

I see!

COMMODUS.

I have decided to change the date. Instead of January of the following year, I shall change it to the end of this month of December.

PERTINAX.

Why the change of the date?

COMMODUS.

There is no specific inducement, except that I wish to celebrate the games sooner than later.

PERTINAX.

What dost thou want me to do emperor?

COMMODUS.

Perform thine administrative duties.

PERTINAX.

Such as?

COMMODUS.

I need thee to prepare the city of Rome for the Plebeian Games.

PERTINAX.

I shall immediately effectuate that pending task!

COMMODUS.

Good, then I entrust thee the preparation of Rome. There shall be many guests at the important event.

PERTINAX.

Thou canst entrust me emperor.

COMMODUS.

I shall be leaving now. Do not disappoint me Pertinax.

PERTINAX.

I shall not!

COMMODUS.

One other thing, I have not mentioned.

PERTINAX.

Yes!

COMMODUS.

Hast thou noticed, any peculiar change in the praetorian prefect?

PERTINAX.

Thou meanest Laetus?

COMMODUS.

Naturally!

PERTINAX.

Nothing that I have perceived out of the ordinary emperor.

SCENE VI.

At the Imperial Palace.

Commodus is sleeping after the wearisome trip, whilst Marcia and Eclectus share a private conversation, outside of the chamber of the emperor.

ECLECTUS.

Is the emperor sound asleep?

MARCIA.

He is, but we must whisper and be careful, since the echoes of our voices can be heard.

ECLECTUS.

I wonder, if 'tis the hour of his death.

MARCIA.

What art thou insinuating?

ECLECTUS.

Is it not better to murder the emperor now than later?

MARCIA.

Nay, 'tis not time yet!

ECLECTUS.

Wherefore?

MARCIA.

Because, the child that the emperor is fond of is sleeping inside. We cannot afford to be seen. And I do not want to kill the orphan child. I too am fond of the lad. He is like a son to the emperor and me.

ECLECTUS.

I understand, but we must be callous. 'Tis the emperor or us.

MARCIA.

I said now is not the hour. When 'tis the hour, I shall poison him.

ECLECTUS.

We have to distract the lad or send him abroad, for a period of time.

MARCIA.

Do not worry, I shall take care of the child.

ECLECTUS.

What dost thou mean, by that statement?

MARCIA.

I mean, I shall occupy the child, with a simple errand.

ECLECTUS.

Each day that passeth, we must be ready for every circumstance and development.

MARCIA.

I am afraid of Commodus.

ECLECTUS.

I am as well. However, there is no turning back.

MARCIA.

I dread his brutality. It has begun to haunt me vividly.

ECLECTUS.

We must be steadfast in our resolution Marcia.

MARCIA.

I shall try to be!

ECLECTUS.

Thou art a strong woman!

MARCIA.

Aye!

SCENE VII.

At the street Vicus Jugarious.

Eclectus and Quirinus discuss the serious matter of the planned assassination of the emperor.

QUIRINUS.

I don't have much time. There are members of the Senate that have devised a plan for the assassination of the emperor.

ECLECTUS.

What art thou saying senator?

QUIRINUS.

Commodus shall be killed in two days.

ECLECTUS.

Art thou mad? We have planned his murder, for another three days at least.

QUIRINUS.

I am afraid that the Senate cannot tarry any longer.

ECLECTUS.

Where shall the murder take place?

QUIRINUS.

Here between the Vicus Tuscus and Vicus Jugarious.

ECLECTUS.

Thou knowest that thine attempt shall fail.

QUIRINUS.

Nay, for we have learnt at the Senate from a reliable source that the emperor shall be riding his chariot, between the streets of Argiletum and Via Nova. He shall then pass through this very same place we stand. Here, we shall have an assassin waiting for him to murder him.

ECLECTUS.

I was not apprised of that information, but if thou sayest, then I must believe thee.

QUIRINUS.

'Tis thy task to make certain that the emperor appeareth, as he is scheduled. If not, all of us including thyself shall be quickly executed.

ECLECTUS.

I am against this action. 'Tis not better to murder the emperor in another manner that is less conspicuous and risky?

QUIRINUS.

The Senate hath become impatient with the emperor, and senseth that he shall abolish the power of the Senate, including murdering us his immediate foes.

ECLECTUS.

I understand that, but the Senate is risking everything that we have planned. Is there no way to dissuade the Senate? Thou must know that if thou failest, the consequences shall be mortiferous to us all that are involved, in the assassination plot.

QUIRINUS.

I fully realise that, yet we are not guaranteed success, even with thy plan.

ECLECTUS.

I beg of thee to reconsider. Let us do it our way!

QUIRINUS.

It hath been decided!

ECLECTUS.

The emperor shall not be that easy to murder. He knoweth that by exposing him to the public and within the public, he shall be more susceptible to his lurking enemies.

QUIRINUS.

Precisely! But thou hast forgotten one thing. Thou shalt be there to backstab him, when he is at the most vulnerable area of the city.

ECLECTUS.

I cannot allow myself to be a part of this plan that is doomed to failure.

QUIRINUS.

Thou hast no other choice. If thou dost not comply or adhere to the plan, then the emperor shall be informed of thy participation, in the attempt to assassinate him.

ECLECTUS.

Thou shalt dare to expose me brazenly?

QUIRINUS.

I bear no hostility towards thee Eclectus whatsoever. I only am doing the imperative bidding of the Senate that hath imposed this duty upon me.

ECLETUS.

Even at the cost of the absolute ruination of the Senate.

ACT 6.

SCENE I.

At the fountain of the garden, nigh the courtyard of the Imperial Palace.

Eclectus has returned to inform Marcia of the plan of the Senate.

MARCIA.

I see total fear in thine eyes Eclectus. What hath discomposed thee?

ECLECTUS.

If I told thee, thou wouldst scream.

MARCIA.

What is it? Tell me now!

ECLETUS.

I have spoken to Quirinus, a member of the Senate, about the plot to assassinate the emperor.

MARCIA.

What did he reveal?

ECLECTUS.

He hath told me that, within two days, the emperor shall be murdered.

MARCIA.

Murdered! What dost that mean and by whom?

ECLECTUS.

Hush! Do not utter that word out loud, so that the servants can overhear our conversation.

MARCIA.

Please, I must know more details in depth!

ECLECTUS.

According to Quirinus, the emperor shall be riding, between the Vicus Tuscus and Vicus Jugarious, where he shall be murdered, by an unknown assassin that shall be waiting for him afterwards.

MARCIA.

What if the plot faileth? What shall we do to save ourselves?

ECLECTUS.

I thought of the exact thing and made mine objection known to him, yet he has refused to reason with me.

MARCIA.

What are we to do then?

ECLECTUS.

I have pondered that disturbing question, but now I have concluded differently.

MARCIA.

And what hast thou determined?

ECLECTUS.

Perhaps, this idea of Quirinus is not a terrible thing after all.

MARCIA.

What dost thou suggest?

ECLECTUS.

Hast thou forgotten that he renamed everything? The Senate to Commodian Fortunate Senate. The legions to Commodianae. The Roman people to Commodianus.

MARCIA.

I have not forgotten that, but what doth it have to do, with this plot thou hast mentioned?

ECLECTUS.

Perhaps nothing, or perhaps everything.

MARCIA.

Explain!

ECLECTUS.

If the emperor is distracted, then we can assume that his mind shall be as well.

MARCIA.

This doth not guarantee us his death.

ECLECTUS.

Indeed! Nevertheless, it doth guarantee us that if it faileth, the Senate shall take the blame in the end and not us.

MARCIA.

Perchance!

ECLECTUS.

Do not worry! I shall eliminate Quirinus, before he revealeth anything to the emperor about our involvement.

SCENE II.

At the Vicus Jugarius.

The day of the attempted assassination of Commodus. Commodus departs the Palatine Hill and passes in his chariot Argiletum and the Via Nova, until reaching the Vicus Jugarius. He is accompanied by Eclectus. 'Tis the time and place, where Commodus is supposed to be assassinated, by an unidentified killer. Fortunately for Commodus, the assassin has been murdered, by an individual sent by Eclectus.

Commodus is angry and startled by the shocking occurrence.

COMMODUS.

How dare doth that fool attempt to murder me!

ECLECTUS.

Art thou safe emperor?

COMMODUS.

Indeed! But I must have the name of the culprit and who sent him immediately.

ECLECTUS.

We shall discover that afterwards. What is important is that thou wert not harmed emperor. Let us return to the Imperial Palace at once. Do not risk thyself to another attempt!

They return to the Imperial Palace.

COMMODUS.

Fool! How dare anyone defy me so audaciously?

ECLECTUS.

Thou must calm thyself.

COMMODUS.

Calm myself! Thou askest me to be calm, when someone hath attempted to murder me?

ECLECTUS.

I understand emperor.

COMMODUS.

Call the praetorian prefect!

ECLECTUS.

I shall at once!

COMMODUS.

Wait, perhaps he was involved in the seditious act as well.

ECLECTUS.

Perhaps 'twas a rival from the provinces or a member of the Senate.

COMMODUS.

The archetypal fiend of the influential Senate that took advantage of the incidental event. Only the Senate knew of this event.

ECLECTUS.

What art thou going to do emperor?

COMMODUS.

Soon, thou shalt know mine action!

ECLECTUS.

What art thou planning, if I may query?

COMMODUS.

Thou shalt witness my wrath!

ECLECTUS.

Shall I alert the Imperial Guards?

COMMODUS.

Nay, I shall take care of this I swear, and I shall not be merciful, with my foes, instead dauntless.

ECLECTUS.

What dost thou want me to do next?

COMMODUS.

Nothing for the moment! I told thee, I shall take care of the ongoing situation.

ECLECTUS.

I shall leave thee then emperor.

SCENE III.

At the compluvium of the Imperial Palace.

Commodus has retreated to his bedchamber still visibly affected, whilst Eclectus speaks to Marcia, about the incidence.

MARCIA.

What hath betided to the emperor?

ECLECTUS.

He hath avoided a dramatic death.

MARCIA.

What art thou saying?

ECLECTUS.

There hath been a vicious assassination attempt on his life.

MARCIA.

When and by whom?

ECLECTUS.

It happened at the Vicus Jugarius, when his chariot was passing.

MARCIA.

How did thou knowest?

ECLECTUS.

I was riding with him at the time. Fortunately, I had known in advance of the murder plot and sent someone to dispose of the intrepid assassin.

MARCIA.

Who informed thee? Tell me, I must know urgently.

ECLECTUS.

Quirinus! Remember, that I had told thee of what he was planning.

MARCIA.

Imbecile! I did not think that the Senate would dare to proceed, with this foolish assassination attempt.

ECLECTUS.

At first, I did not also. But nothing from the Senate surpriseth me any more.

MARCIA.

What shall happen? What are we to do, if Quirinus is captured? He shall certainly divulge to the emperor our plan consequently. Once the emperor is apprised of this, he shall kill us all with intense vehemence.

ECLECTUS.

I had taken that into serious consideration, after I was told by Quirinus.

MARCIA.

And Quirinus?

ECLECTUS.

I would not worry much about him. He is not an evident threat to us.

MARCIA.

What dost thou mean by that asseveration?

ECLECTUS.

Quirinus is dead!

MARCIA.

Dead! How? Was he killed, by the Imperial Guards of the emperor?

ECLECTUS.

The Imperial Guard was not involved in his murder.

MARCIA.

Then who killed him?

ECLECTUS.

I sent an assassin to quiet him for good.

SCENE IV.

At the Throne Room.

Commodus has summoned Laetus and Pertinax to the palace. He sits in his palatial throne enraged.

COMMODUS.

How was this assassin able to penetrate the ranks of the Imperial Guard?

LAETUS.

Forgive me emperor! Thou must understand that we do not control the whereabouts of every assassin.

COMMODUS.

Excuse! And thee Pertinax, what hast thou to say, with respect to the assassination plot?

PERTINAX.

I concur with the praetorian prefect. How could we prevent an assassination, if we are not accessed absolute power, against the members of the Senate?

COMMODUS.

True, but this shall abate soon. Regardless of that admission, ye both have failed me pathetically.

LAETUS.

We shall not fail thee again, mine emperor!

COMMODUS.

If there is a next time, thou shalt be mindful of thy duties or I shall have to remind thee, one last time without warning!

PERTINAX.

There is no need for that.

COMMODUS.

Then, do not displeaseth me any longer!

PERTINAX.

I shall not!

COMMODUS.

Then fail me not for thy sake!

PERTINAX.

Aye!

COMMODUS.

Thou art excused!

Pertinax leaves the Imperial Palace and Laetus remains behind.

COMMODUS.

Laetus come forth!

LAETUS.

Aye emperor!

COMMODUS.

Thou art an intelligent man art thou not?

LAETUS.

If thou considerest me intelligent.

COMMODUS.

If thou wert emperor Laetus would thou forgive such imprudence of a praetorian prefect?

LAETUS.

I would not!

COMMODUS.

Then let it serve, as a manifest presage for thee. If I discover that thou or anyone that is known to me was involved in this assassination attempt, do not doubt that I shall eliminate thee or anyone else therewith.

LAETUS.

I give thee my solemn word emperor that I was not involved in the complot.

COMMODUS.

Thou art excused!

SCENE V.

At the corner of the Via Nova.

Eclectus meets with Laetus in secrecy.

LAETUS.

Thou wert not seen, by any of the Imperial Guards?

ECLECTUS.

I believe I was not.

LAETUS.

And wert thou involved in the murder plot?

ECLECTUS.

I was not!

LAETUS.

Then, who was behind the assassination attempt?

ECLECTUS.

Quirinus, a member of the Senate.

LAETUS.

Is he dead?

ECLECTUS.

Aye! I had sent someone to murder him, before he could reveal our names and our plan to murder the emperor.

LAETUS.

Wert thou detected, by the Roman Imperial Guard?

ECLECTUS.

Nay! I was discreet in mine actions I told thee.

LAETUS.

What are we do next? The emperor is enraged and shall not stop, until he hath discovered the ultimate truth.

ECLECTUS.

I am fully aware of that circumstance, but we must be prudent and not appear indifferent.

LAETUS.

I agree, but what must we do?

ECLECTUS.

We must then continue, with our plan. At this moment, there is no other alternative.

LAETUS.

The emperor shall be more suspicious of us.

ECLECTUS.

Perhaps, but sooner or later, he shall discover our plot, if we allow him to live.

LAETUS.

We must accelerate his assassination.

ECLECTUS.

We shall murder him, when the occasion arriveth.

LAETUS.

It must betide, either today or tomorow.

ECLECTUS.

I shall inform thee, when the deed is done.

LAETUS.

I shall be awaiting the tidings.

ECLECTUS.

Let us hope that we are fortunate in our endeavour.

SCENE VI.

Within a chamber of the Coliseum.

Aelius informs Commodus that he has pertinent information, about the assassination plot of Laetus, Eclectus and Marcia.

COMMODUS.

What tidings hast thou brought me today?

AELIUS.

I have an urgent revelation sire that thou must know with immediacy.

COMMODUS.

Well, tell me then, what is this urgency?

AELIUS.

'Tis about a sinister plot to assassinate thee!

COMMODUS.

Art thou describing the recent assassination attempt at the Vicus Jugarius?

AELIUS.

I am afraid this machination is more grievous. But I am not certain if in the end 'tis attached to that attack.

COMMODUS.

Who is behind this revolting conspiracy to murder me?

AELIUS.

The established culprits are the following.

COMMODUS.

Wait, before thou answerest. Are they aligned with the corrupted Senate?

AELIUS.

I believe so sire.

COMMODUS.

Then reveal their filthy names that they shall be known to me. I shall make an example of them, so that the Roman people see what I do to my seditious enemies.

AELIUS.

The names given to me were Cornelius, Pertinax, Eclectus, Laetus and Marcia. They are the principal leaders of this conspiracy.

COMMODUS.

They shall be my lambs to slaughter! How much I had entrusted them my power and they repaid my generosity, with their inglorious act of treason. I once thought about the impecunious people of the insulae as leeches, but worse is the indomitable force of the insatiable greed of the Senate and officials that had worshipped me in public and then backstabbed me in privacy.

AELIUS.

Thou art still beloved by the people of Rome.

COMMODUS.

But not by the Imperial Guards and my corrupted officials.

AELIUS.

What are thine orders sire? Shall I instruct the Imperial Guard to apprehend the individuals mentioned?

COMMODUS.

Nay, for now thou shalt do nothing.

AELIUS.

If they get away and ultimately flee the city?

COMMODUS.

I would not worry about that, because they shall not soon escape the indomitable force that shall be my vindictive punishment.

AELIUS.

I have served thee obediently sire. Is there anything else that thou wishest me to accomplish before I leave?

COMMODUS.

There is one thing I did not mention. I shall make a list of all of those conniving scoundrels that conspired against me and upon the following morning, they shall all be executed, for being spineless traitors to Rome and to the empire.

AELIUS.

Aye! Long live Rome and long live the emperor.

SCENE VII.

At the bedchamber of the Imperial Palace.

Commodus has returned, thus knowing the names of the traitors that have conspired against him. Marcia and the orphan child are with him, whilst Eclectus is anxiously waiting outside, for the murder of the emperor to transpire. Commodus has taken his customary nap, after dismissing Eclectus.

Before he sleeps, he takes a wax tablet made from a thin strip of basswood, which grows under the bark of the linden tree-and writes down the names of those who were to be put to death that night.

Marcia's name was at the top of the list, followed by Laetus and Eclectus and a large number of the foremost senators that included Cornelius, the senator that served his dearest father Marcus Aurelius.

COMMODUS.

Dost thou, not admire Philocommodus and his allegiance to me?

MARCIA.

Thou knowest that mine affection for the lad is, as genuine as thine.

COMMODUS.

The child knoweth of my sovenance to those that adore me. Let us drink some Merum and sip the taste of such marvellous wine.

MARCIA.

Of course emperor!

COMMODUS.

How I thought I was wise to replace the Empress Cispina with thee. She did not approve mine insidious behaviour.

MARCIA.

Wherefore dost thou mention her name to me? Art thou weary of my presence?

COMMODUS.

Should I have a reason to?

MARCIA.

Never! Thou art mine emperor and I shall die for thee.

COMMODUS.

Die! How bold are thy words Marcia, even when mine heartless assassins are nigh.

MARCIA.

Dost thou considerest me, thine assassin?

COMMODUS.

Should I?

MARCIA.

Nay! Let us drink, for the sake of Rome and for the Roman Empire.

COMMODUS.

Then do not enquire any longer. Now I must take a bath. We shall continue the conversation afterwards.

Marcia steps outside, where Eclectus is waiting for her.

ECLECTUS.

Where is the emperor at? Is he asleep?

MARCIA.

Nay, he is currently taking a bath.

ECLECTUS.

Then, 'tis the hour to murder him!

MARCIA.

I have prepared the poison for him to drink, and he has drunk it. I have see his bacchanal countenance once to often. This is my reward for my love and devotion to him, after I have put up with his arrogance and his madness for so many years. But, he the drunken sot, he shall not outwit a woman deadly sober!

ECLECTUS.

Now is the opportunity to strike! We cannot afford to delay any longer.

MARCIA.

I have sent the child on an errand. He shall be occupied for the nonce.

ECLECTUS.

Then do what must be done.

MARCIA.

The child has handed me the list of the persons that shall be executed. And we are on that horrible list, unfortunately. See what a party we are to enjoy tonight!

ECLECTUS.

Then we must not allow him to leave the palace alive. I have sent the servants away and the Imperial Guards present have been bribed. They shall not complicate the matter.

MARCIA.

When Commodus returns from his bath, I shall pour the poison into his cup, mix it with a pungent wine, and give it to him to drink completely.

ECLECTUS.

I shall be waiting outside the chamber, for that to happen.

Commodus finishes his bath and sips a taste of the wine. He immediately becomes drowsy and stupefied. He falls asleep, believing that 'twas the natural result of his exertions. Afterwards, he begins to lay quiet, but when the poison spreads through his stomach, he begins to become nauseated and vomits violently.

COMMODUS.

Vile cowards are ye that have durst to murder me. Show thy faces at once before me that I may know the treacherous guises of mine assassins. I shall not die so easily I swear! I am Lucius Aelius Aurelius Commodus, the son of Marcus Aurelius!

Subsequently, the conspirators enter abruptly, afraid that Commodus would get rid of the poison, instruct a young wrestler by the name of Narcissus who is present to strangle the emperor at once. He is bribed and Narcissus then rushes in where the emperor lay overcome by the poisoned wine and seizes him by the throat, when he finally murders him, as the deceased body of the emperor lays helplessly before them.

ECLECTUS.

Is he dead Narcissus? We must know that! Do not keep us waiting with the suspense!

NARCISSUS.

His body is immovable. Therefore, he is dead! The deed is done!

MARCIA.

My beloved Commodus. Thou layest dead, as a man that was truly loathed by the Senate and by the Imperial Guard. Thou shalt be forgotten by thy detractors, but not by the Roman people.

ECLECTUS.

The fiend is dead, and Rome is at our behest. Mourn not for Commodus, but mourn for the thousands that died under his tyranny. A new day in history hath been written. Long live the city of Rome and the Roman Empire. Imperium Romanum civitate vivant.

The End!

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