a Phrygian slave, brought to Rome as a porter.
He chanced to attract the attention and gain the favour of Commodus, who elevated him to the rank of chamberlain, and made him his chief minister after the death of Perennis. [PERENNIS.] Being now all-powerful, he openly offered for sale all offices, civil and military, and the regular number of magistrates was multiplied to answer the demand, so that on one occasion twenty-five consuls were nominated in a single year (it is believed to have been A. D. 185, or, according to Tillemont, 189), one of whom was Septimius Severus, afterwards emperor.
The vast sums thus accumulated were however freely spent, partly in supplying the demands of the emperor, partly in his own private gratifications, partly in relieving the wants of friends, and partly in works of public magnificence and utility.
But fortune, which had raised him so rapidly, as suddenly hurled him down.
A scarcity of corn having arisen, the blame was artfully cast upon the favourite by Papirius Dionysius, the praefectus annonae.
A tumult burst forth in the circus, a mob hurried to the suburban villa of Commodus, clamouring for vengeance, and the emperor giving way to the dictates of his natural cowardice, yielded up Cleander, who was torn to pieces, and his whole family and nearest friends destroyed. (D. C. 72.12
; Herodian. 1.12, 10 ; Lamprid. Commod.
6, 7, 11.)