Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, the fifth emperor of Rome, is known throughout history for indulgence in sensual pleasures, extravagances and persecution of christians. Based on questionable evidence, he’s considered responsible for the burning of Rome.
Borned Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus, was the son of Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus and Agrippina the young. After his father’s death, his mother is exiled by the Emperor Caligula, the child being left in the care of an aunt.
After the death of Caligula and the rise of Emperor Claudius, Agrippina returns to Rome, where she marries the emperor (he was also her uncle). Claudius adopts her son and change his name to Nero.
Agrippina was the one who arranged the marriage of Nero with the daughter of Claudius, Octavia, so he became heir of the emperor. After the death of Claudius in 54 and using the help of Praetorian Guard, at the age of only 17, Nero becomes emperor.
In the early years at the helm of the empire, Nero gains a reputation for generosity and fairness. This even though he pursued his own interests, and the leadership had left it in the hands of three advisors (the philosopher Seneca, prefect Burrus and his mother Agrippina).
After a long time in the shadow of his mother’s, Seneca encourages him to remove her from the leadership of the empire. For this reason, Agrippina supports Britannicus as the true heir to the throne and condemns Nero’s adventure with Popaea Sabina. But Nero wouldn’t leave it that way. In 59 Britannicus died under questionable circumstances and Agrippina is killed. Seneca himself wrote a report to the Senate where it was explained the need for this crimes. The next step was the exile and murder of Empress Octavia under the pretext of adultery, which allows the emperor to marry Popaea Sabina.
After the death of their first child, Nero was devastated. While she was pregnant with her second child, Popaea dies. The general idea is that Nero killed her, but a new discovery casts doubt on this belief. A recently poem discovered in Egypt describes the immense love Popaea had for her husband, love that wouldn’t been possible if he had killed her.
After his mother’s death, Nero dedicate himself to his artistic and aesthetic passions. In private meetings, the emperor used to sing and encouraged the members of the upper class to take dance lessons. He ordered public games, which were held every five years, in Rome; he himself has trained an athlete.
One night in july 64, a fire started from the Circus Maximus, a fire that would leave only a small part of the city untouched. At that time Nero was at Antium; on hearing the news, he returns to Rome.
Even if the fire is attributed to Nero by the ancient writers, there are no evidence of this. At that time most of Rome was built of combustible material and was overcrowded.
Immediately after the fire had subsided, the emperor blames the christians. What follows is a time of persecutions, torture and executions of all christians. They were thrown to the dogs, crucified and then were set fire.
Even if not known exactly if Nero was the one who started the fire, he took advantage of the space created to begin the construction of a new palace, the Domus Aurea or “Golden Palace”.
Nero’s reign was one during which blood was shed throughout the empire. In Britain, Queen Boudicca revolt against the Emperor after she’s being flogged and her daughters are raped and killed by Roman soldiers. At first she recorded a number of successes, which makes Nero to consider abandoning the island. But was not the case, Boudicca is defeated in the Battle of Watling Street. Problems existed in the east too. There is losing a war with Parthia, for Armenia’s control. Also, a revolt in Judea led to the siege of Jerusalem in 70.
In 66, Nero goes to Greece where he participate in a number of festivals (Olympic games). The Greeks agreed to postpone the games for 1 year, so the emperor could participate. At the initiative of Nero were added for the first time artistic competitions like singing. He was so satisfied with the results, that he spared the greeks from paying taxes to the empire.
By the year 68, all the problems of Nero started to come out. The fact that he had killed his mother and two wives, reconstruction of Rome (by increasing taxes and confiscation of religious treasures), lead to the disappearance of support he had.
In Gaul, the Roman governor gives up Nero and declares its support for Galba. While he is defeated and kills himself, was enough. Shortly thereafter, the Praetorian Guard gives up its support and the Senate appoints the Emperor enemy of the people. The next day, Nero committes suicide and is buried in the family tomb in Pincian Hill in Rome.
His death threw the Roman Empire into chaos, time which many tries to gain control of the empire.