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Friday, April 10, 2020


by Howie Faerstein

Commodus as Hercules, also known as The Bust of Commodus as Hercules, is a marble portrait sculpture created sometime in early 192 AD. It is housed in the Capitoline Museums in Rome, Italy. Originally discovered in 1874 in the underground chambers of Horti Lamiani, it has become one of the most famous examples of Roman portraiture to date. Commodus (31 August 161 AD – 31 December 192 AD) was Roman Emperor from 180 to 192 and the son of the previous emperor, Marcus Aurelius.During his sole reign, he came to associate himself with the Greek hero, Herakles (whose myths were adopted in Rome under the name Hercules), eventually having a bust depicting him as the hero created near the end of his reign.There is speculation of the Emperor's intent by creating depictions of himself as a godlike figure. While some sources say it was Commodus's desire not to be the protege of Hercules, but to be a god, the incarnation, the epiphany of Hercules and others claim instead that he simply desired to be the center of attention and show his intense appreciation for games and spectacles. —Wikipedia

Claiming to be Hercules reincarnated,
Commodus killed one hundred lions
and three elephants single-handedly
and our leader thinks he’s special,
says his I. Q. is one of the highest.
To honor the gods, Commodus had amputees chained together
in the arena and, pretending they were giants, clubbed them to death,
and our president says part of the beauty of me is that I’m very rich.
Late 2nd century emperor, Commodus
renamed Rome Commodius Commodiana,
and our buffoon-in-chief says, I could shoot somebody in the middle
of 5th Avenue and I wouldn’t lose voters.
With his bow, Commodus shot the heads off ostriches in full gallop,
slew a giraffe once, strange and helpless beast.
With each appearance as a gladiator,
he charged the city a million sesterces, depleting the treasury.
Citizens were often killed for making him angry.
He proclaimed a new order
just like T***p
and was assassinated finally
by his mistress, his chamberlain, and his prefect.

Howie Faerstein is the author of two poetry collections: Dreaming of the Rain in Brooklyn and Googootz and Other Poems both published by Press 53. His poetry and reviews can be found in Great River Review, Off the Coast, Rattle, upstreet, Mudfish and on-line in Verse Daily, About Place, Nixes Mate, On the Seawall, Poetrybay, Peacock Journal, and Connotation. He presently volunteers at the Center for New Americans and is co-poetry editor of CutThroat, A Journal of the Arts