Old Marcus has a reputation for being the philosopher Emperor. He ruled over Rome from 161 AD to 180 AD. He was the last of the so-called “Five Good Emperors” and the last Emperor of the Pax Romana, the period of peace and stability throughout the Empire. His writings, the MEDITATIONS, are still valued today. He was portrayed sympathetically in the movie GLADIATOR by Richard Harris. But was he really such a swell guy? There is evidence that he took an active role in the persecution of Christians. And some possibly apocryphal sources state that, when he found out his wife, Faustina the Younger, had cheated on him with a gladiator, he didn’t take it well. Considering the allegations that Aurelius’s son and heir, Commodus, might have been the result of this adulterous affair and not the true son of the Emperor, it’s understandable.
Upon the advice of a soothsayer, the Emperor had the gladiator executed. Faustina was then made to bathe in the man’s blood, ala Elizabeth Bathory, and then to have sex with her husband. (One wonders if she washed all the blood off first.)
In ancient Rome, the blood of gladiators was believed to have medicinal properties. Drinking the blood of a gladiator would purportedly cure epilepsy. Might this hint at an attempt on the part of the Emperor to cure his wife’s “roving eye” in a barbaric spin on the “hair of the dog” treatment?