Nero

Nero

Overview
Nero was Roman Emperor
Roman Emperor
The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman State during the imperial period . The Romans had no single term for the office although at any given time, a given title was associated with the emperor...

 from 54 to 68, and the last in the Julio-Claudian dynasty
Julio-Claudian Dynasty
The Julio-Claudian dynasty normally refers to the first five Roman Emperors: Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula , Claudius, and Nero, or the family to which they belonged; they ruled the Roman Empire from its formation, in the second half of the 1st century BC, until AD 68, when the last of the line,...

. Nero was adopted by his great-uncle Claudius
Claudius
Claudius , was Roman Emperor from 41 to 54. A member of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, he was the son of Drusus and Antonia Minor. He was born at Lugdunum in Gaul and was the first Roman Emperor to be born outside Italy...

 to become his heir and successor, and succeeded to the throne in 54 following Claudius' death.

During his reign, Nero focused much of his attention on diplomacy, trade, and enhancing the cultural life of the Empire. He ordered theaters built and promoted athletic games. During his reign, the redoubtable general Corbulo conducted a successful war and negotiated peace with the Parthian Empire
Parthian Empire
The Parthian Empire , also known as the Arsacid Empire , was a major Iranian political and cultural power in ancient Persia...

.
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Timeline

51   Nero, later to become Roman Emperor, is given the title ''princeps iuventutis'' (head of the youth).

53   Roman Emperor Nero marries Claudia Octavia

54   Nero ascends to the Roman throne

55   Tiberius Claudius Caesar Britannicus, heir to the Roman Emperorship, dies under mysterious circumstances in Rome. This clears the way for Nero to become Emperor.

66   Emperor Nero creates the Legion I Italica.

68   Roman Emperor Nero commits suicide, after quoting Homer's ''Iliad''.

69   Vespasian, formerly a general under Nero, enters Rome to claim the title of emperor.

 
Quotations

Hidden talent counts for nothing.

Quoted in "The Flames of Rome" - Page 221 by Paul L. Maier - 1991
Encyclopedia
Nero was Roman Emperor
Roman Emperor
The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman State during the imperial period . The Romans had no single term for the office although at any given time, a given title was associated with the emperor...

 from 54 to 68, and the last in the Julio-Claudian dynasty
Julio-Claudian Dynasty
The Julio-Claudian dynasty normally refers to the first five Roman Emperors: Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula , Claudius, and Nero, or the family to which they belonged; they ruled the Roman Empire from its formation, in the second half of the 1st century BC, until AD 68, when the last of the line,...

. Nero was adopted by his great-uncle Claudius
Claudius
Claudius , was Roman Emperor from 41 to 54. A member of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, he was the son of Drusus and Antonia Minor. He was born at Lugdunum in Gaul and was the first Roman Emperor to be born outside Italy...

 to become his heir and successor, and succeeded to the throne in 54 following Claudius' death.

During his reign, Nero focused much of his attention on diplomacy, trade, and enhancing the cultural life of the Empire. He ordered theaters built and promoted athletic games. During his reign, the redoubtable general Corbulo conducted a successful war and negotiated peace with the Parthian Empire
Parthian Empire
The Parthian Empire , also known as the Arsacid Empire , was a major Iranian political and cultural power in ancient Persia...

. His general Suetonius Paulinus crushed a revolt in Britain. Also, he annexed the Bosporan Kingdom
Bosporan Kingdom
The Bosporan Kingdom or the Kingdom of the Cimmerian Bosporus was an ancient state, located in eastern Crimea and the Taman Peninsula on the shores of the Cimmerian Bosporus...

 to the Empire, and the First Roman–Jewish War began.

In 64, most of Rome was destroyed in the Great Fire of Rome
Great Fire of Rome
The Great Fire of Rome was an urban fire that occurred beginning July 19, AD 64.-Background:According to Tacitus, the fire spread quickly and burned for six days. Only four of the fourteen districts of Rome escaped the fire; three districts were completely destroyed and the other seven suffered...

, which many Romans believed Nero himself had started in order to clear land for his planned palatial complex, the Domus Aurea
Domus Aurea
The Domus Aurea was a large landscaped portico villa, designed to take advantage of artificially created landscapes built in the heart of Ancient Rome by the Emperor Nero after the Great Fire of Rome had cleared away the aristocratic dwellings on the slopes of the Palatine...

. In 68, the rebellion of Vindex
Vindex
Gaius Iulius Vindex, of a noble Gaulish family of Aquitania given senatorial status under Claudius, was a Roman governor in the province of Gallia Lugdunensis. In either late 67 or early 68, he rebelled against the tax policy of the Emperor Nero...

 in Gaul
Gaul
Gaul was a region of Western Europe during the Iron Age and Roman era, encompassing present day France, Luxembourg and Belgium, most of Switzerland, the western part of Northern Italy, as well as the parts of the Netherlands and Germany on the left bank of the Rhine. The Gauls were the speakers of...

 and later the acclamation of Galba
Galba
Galba , was Roman Emperor for seven months from 68 to 69. Galba was the governor of Hispania Tarraconensis, and made a bid for the throne during the rebellion of Julius Vindex...

 in Hispania
Hispania
Another theory holds that the name derives from Ezpanna, the Basque word for "border" or "edge", thus meaning the farthest area or place. Isidore of Sevilla considered Hispania derived from Hispalis....

 drove Nero from the throne. Facing assassination, he committed suicide on 9 June 68.

Nero's rule is often associated with tyranny and extravagance. He is known for many executions, including those of his mother and the probable murder by poison of his stepbrother, Britannicus.

He is also infamously known as the Emperor who "fiddled while Rome burned", although this is now considered an inaccurate rumor, and as an early persecutor of Christians. He was known for having captured Christians burned in his garden at night for a source of light. This view is based on the writings of Tacitus
Tacitus
Publius Cornelius Tacitus was a senator and a historian of the Roman Empire. The surviving portions of his two major works—the Annals and the Histories—examine the reigns of the Roman Emperors Tiberius, Claudius, Nero and those who reigned in the Year of the Four Emperors...

, Suetonius
Suetonius
Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, commonly known as Suetonius , was a Roman historian belonging to the equestrian order in the early Imperial era....

, and Cassius Dio, the main surviving sources for Nero's reign.

Few surviving sources paint Nero in a favorable light. Some sources, though, including some mentioned above, portray him as an emperor who was popular with the common Roman people, especially in the East.

The study of Nero is problematic as some modern historians question the reliability of ancient sources when reporting on Nero's tyrannical acts.

Family


Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus, the future Nero, was born on 15 December 37 in Antium, near Rome. He was the only son of Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus and Agrippina the Younger
Agrippina the Younger
Julia Agrippina, most commonly referred to as Agrippina Minor or Agrippina the Younger, and after 50 known as Julia Augusta Agrippina was a Roman Empress and one of the more prominent women in the Julio-Claudian dynasty...

, sister of Emperor Caligula
Caligula
Caligula , also known as Gaius, was Roman Emperor from 37 AD to 41 AD. Caligula was a member of the house of rulers conventionally known as the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Caligula's father Germanicus, the nephew and adopted son of Emperor Tiberius, was a very successful general and one of Rome's most...

.

Nero's father Gnaeus was the son of Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus
Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus
Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus was the son and only child of consul Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus and Aemilia Lepida. His mother was a paternal relative of the triumvir Marcus Aemilius Lepidus...

 (consul 16 BC) and Antonia Major
Antonia Major
Antonia Major , also known as Antonia the Elder, was a daughter of Mark Antony and Octavia Minor and a relative of the first Roman Emperors of the Julio-Claudian dynasty...

. Gnaeus was thus the grandson of Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus (consul 32 BC) and probably Aemilia Lepida
Aemilia Lepida
Aemilia Lepida is a Roman woman belonging to the gens Aemilia. All but the first Aemilia Lepida lived in the imperial era. The name was given to daughters of men belonging to the Lepidus branch of the gens Aemilia. The first Aemilia Lepida to be mentioned by Roman historians was the former fiancee...

 on his father's side, and the grandson of Mark Antony
Mark Antony
Marcus Antonius , known in English as Mark Antony, was a Roman politician and general. As a military commander and administrator, he was an important supporter and loyal friend of his mother's cousin Julius Caesar...

 and Octavia Minor
Octavia Minor
Octavia the Younger , also known as Octavia Minor or simply Octavia, was the sister of the first Roman Emperor, Augustus , half-sister of Octavia the Elder, and fourth wife of Mark Antony...

 on his mother's side. Thus, Nero had as his paternal grandmother Antonia Maior, and also claimed more remote descent from Antonia Minor
Antonia Minor
Antonia Minor , also known as Antonia the Younger or simply Antonia was the younger of two daughters of Roman politician Mark Antony and Octavia Minor. Tacitus Ann. 4.44.2 and 12.54.2 may have confused the two Antonia sisters...

 as a great-grandson—later grandson after Claudius adopted him. Through Octavia, Nero was the grandnephew of Caesar Augustus. Nero's father had been employed as a praetor
Praetor
Praetor was a title granted by the government of Ancient Rome to men acting in one of two official capacities: the commander of an army, usually in the field, or the named commander before mustering the army; and an elected magistratus assigned varied duties...

 and was a member of Caligula's staff when the latter traveled to the East (some apparently think Suetonius refers to Augustus' adopted son Gaius Caesar here, but this is not likely). Nero's father was described by Suetonius as a murderer and a cheat who was charged by Emperor Tiberius
Tiberius
Tiberius , was Roman Emperor from 14 AD to 37 AD. Tiberius was by birth a Claudian, son of Tiberius Claudius Nero and Livia Drusilla. His mother divorced Nero and married Augustus in 39 BC, making him a step-son of Octavian...

 with treason, adultery, and incest. Tiberius died, allowing him to escape these charges. Nero's father died of edema
Edema
Edema or oedema ; both words from the Greek , oídēma "swelling"), formerly known as dropsy or hydropsy, is an abnormal accumulation of fluid beneath the skin or in one or more cavities of the body that produces swelling...

 ("dropsy") in 39 when Nero was two.

Nero's mother was Agrippina the Younger, a great-granddaughter of Caesar Augustus and his wife Scribonia
Scribonia
Scribonia was the second wife of the Roman Emperor Augustus and the mother of his only natural child, Julia the Elder. She was the mother-in-law of the Emperor Tiberius, great-grandmother of the Emperor Caligula and Empress Agrippina the Younger, grandmother-in-law of the Emperor Claudius, and...

 through their daughter Julia the Elder
Julia the Elder
Julia the Elder , known to her contemporaries as Julia Caesaris filia or Julia Augusti filia was the daughter and only biological child of Augustus, the first emperor of the Roman Empire. Augustus subsequently adopted several male members of his close family as sons...

 and her husband Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa
Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa
Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa was a Roman statesman and general. He was a close friend, son-in-law, lieutenant and defense minister to Octavian, the future Emperor Caesar Augustus...

. Agrippina's father, Germanicus
Germanicus
Germanicus Julius Caesar , commonly known as Germanicus, was a member of the Julio-Claudian dynasty and a prominent general of the early Roman Empire. He was born in Rome, Italia, and was named either Nero Claudius Drusus after his father or Tiberius Claudius Nero after his uncle...

, was a grandson of Augustus's wife, Livia
Livia
Livia Drusilla, , after her formal adoption into the Julian family in AD 14 also known as Julia Augusta, was a Roman empress as the third wife of the Emperor Augustus and his adviser...

, on one side and to Mark Antony
Mark Antony
Marcus Antonius , known in English as Mark Antony, was a Roman politician and general. As a military commander and administrator, he was an important supporter and loyal friend of his mother's cousin Julius Caesar...

 and Octavia on the other. Germanicus' mother Antonia Minor
Antonia Minor
Antonia Minor , also known as Antonia the Younger or simply Antonia was the younger of two daughters of Roman politician Mark Antony and Octavia Minor. Tacitus Ann. 4.44.2 and 12.54.2 may have confused the two Antonia sisters...

, was a daughter of Octavia Minor and Mark Antony. Octavia was Augustus' elder sister. Germanicus was also the adopted son of Tiberius
Tiberius
Tiberius , was Roman Emperor from 14 AD to 37 AD. Tiberius was by birth a Claudian, son of Tiberius Claudius Nero and Livia Drusilla. His mother divorced Nero and married Augustus in 39 BC, making him a step-son of Octavian...

. Agrippina poisoned her second husband Passienus Crispus, so many ancient historians also accuse her of murdering her third husband, the emperor Claudius.

Rise to power


Nero was not expected to become Emperor because his maternal uncle, Caligula
Caligula
Caligula , also known as Gaius, was Roman Emperor from 37 AD to 41 AD. Caligula was a member of the house of rulers conventionally known as the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Caligula's father Germanicus, the nephew and adopted son of Emperor Tiberius, was a very successful general and one of Rome's most...

, had begun his reign at the age of 25 with enough time to produce his own heir. Nero's mother, Agrippina, lost favor with Caligula and was exiled in 39 after her husband's death. Caligula seized Nero's inheritance and sent him to be raised by his less wealthy aunt, Domitia Lepida
Domitia Lepida
Domitia Lepida, also known as Domitia Lepida the Younger, Domitia Lepida Minor, or simply Lepida ; was the younger daughter of Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus and Antonia Major. Her elder siblings were Domitia and Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus, father of the emperor Nero...

, who was the mother of Valeria Messalina, Claudius's third wife.

Caligula, his wife Caesonia
Caesonia
Milonia Caesonia was the fourth and last wife of the Roman Emperor Caligula.-Life:Milonia Caesonia was born between 2 and 4 June in an unknown year....

 and their infant daughter Julia Drusilla
Julia Drusilla
Julia Drusilla was the only child and daughter of Roman Emperor Gaius and of his fourth and last wife Milonia Caesonia....

 were murdered on 24 January 41. These events led Claudius
Claudius
Claudius , was Roman Emperor from 41 to 54. A member of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, he was the son of Drusus and Antonia Minor. He was born at Lugdunum in Gaul and was the first Roman Emperor to be born outside Italy...

, Caligula's uncle, to become emperor. Claudius allowed Agrippina to return from exile.
Claudius had married twice before marrying Valeria Messalina. His previous marriages produced three children including a son, Drusus, who died at a young age. He had two children with Messalina – Claudia Octavia
Claudia Octavia
Claudia Octavia was an Empress of Rome. She was a great-niece of the Emperor Tiberius, paternal first cousin of the Emperor Caligula, daughter of the Emperor Claudius, and stepsister and first wife of the Emperor Nero...

 (b. 40) and Britannicus
Britannicus
Tiberius Claudius Caesar Britannicus was the son of the Roman emperor Claudius and his third wife Valeria Messalina. He became the heir-designate of the empire at his birth, less than a month into his father's reign. He was still a young boy at the time of his mother's downfall and Claudius'...

 (b. 41). Messalina was executed by Claudius in the year 48.
In 49, Claudius married a fourth time, to Nero's mother Agrippina. To aid Claudius politically, young Nero was adopted in 50 and took the name Nero Claudius Caesar Drusus Germanicus (see adoption in Rome). Nero was older than his stepbrother Britannicus, and thus became heir to the throne.

Nero was proclaimed an adult in 51 at the age of 14. He was appointed proconsul
Proconsul
A proconsul was a governor of a province in the Roman Republic appointed for one year by the senate. In modern usage, the title has been used for a person from one country ruling another country or bluntly interfering in another country's internal affairs.-Ancient Rome:In the Roman Republic, a...

, entered and first addressed the Senate
Roman Senate
The Senate of the Roman Republic was a political institution in the ancient Roman Republic, however, it was not an elected body, but one whose members were appointed by the consuls, and later by the censors. After a magistrate served his term in office, it usually was followed with automatic...

, made joint public appearances with Claudius, and was featured in coinage. In 53, he married his stepsister Claudia Octavia
Claudia Octavia
Claudia Octavia was an Empress of Rome. She was a great-niece of the Emperor Tiberius, paternal first cousin of the Emperor Caligula, daughter of the Emperor Claudius, and stepsister and first wife of the Emperor Nero...

.

Early rule



Claudius
Claudius
Claudius , was Roman Emperor from 41 to 54. A member of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, he was the son of Drusus and Antonia Minor. He was born at Lugdunum in Gaul and was the first Roman Emperor to be born outside Italy...

 died in 54 and Nero, taking the name Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, was established as Emperor. Though accounts vary, many ancient historians state Agrippina
Agrippina the Younger
Julia Agrippina, most commonly referred to as Agrippina Minor or Agrippina the Younger, and after 50 known as Julia Augusta Agrippina was a Roman Empress and one of the more prominent women in the Julio-Claudian dynasty...

 poisoned Claudius. According to Pliny the Elder
Pliny the Elder
Gaius Plinius Secundus , better known as Pliny the Elder, was a Roman author, naturalist, and natural philosopher, as well as naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire, and personal friend of the emperor Vespasian...

, she used poison mushrooms. It is not known how much Nero knew or if he was even involved in the death of Claudius.
Suetonius wrote "...for even if he was not the instigator of the emperor's death, he was at least privy to it, as he openly admitted; for he used afterwards to laud mushrooms, the vehicle in which the poison was administered to Claudius, as "the food of the gods," as the Greek proverb has it. At any rate, after Claudius's death he vented on him every kind of insult, in act and word, charging him now with folly and now with cruelty; for it was a favourite joke of his to say that Claudius had ceased "to play the fool among mortals, lengthening the first syllable of the word morari, and he disregarded many of his decrees and acts as the work of a madman and a dotard. Finally, he neglected to enclose the place where his body was burned except with a low and mean wall."

Nero became Emperor at 17 when the news of Claudius' death was made known, the youngest emperor until that time. Ancient historians describe Nero's early reign as being strongly influenced by his mother Agrippina
Agrippina the Younger
Julia Agrippina, most commonly referred to as Agrippina Minor or Agrippina the Younger, and after 50 known as Julia Augusta Agrippina was a Roman Empress and one of the more prominent women in the Julio-Claudian dynasty...

, his tutor Lucius Annaeus Seneca
Seneca the Younger
Lucius Annaeus Seneca was a Roman Stoic philosopher, statesman, dramatist, and in one work humorist, of the Silver Age of Latin literature. He was tutor and later advisor to emperor Nero...

, and the Praetorian Prefect Sextus Afranius Burrus
Sextus Afranius Burrus
Sextus Afranius Burrus , Praetorian prefect, was advisor to Roman Emperor Nero and, together with Seneca the Younger, very powerful in the early years of Nero's reign....

, especially in the first year. Other tutors were less often mentioned, such as Alexander of Aegae
Alexander of Aegae
Alexander of Aegae was a Peripatetic philosopher who flourished in Rome in the 1st century, and was a disciple of the celebrated mathematician Sosigenes of Alexandria. He was tutor to the emperor Nero. He wrote commentaries on the Categories and the De Caelo of Aristotle...

.

Very early in Nero's rule, problems arose from competition for influence between Agrippina and Nero's two main advisers, Seneca and Burrus.


In 54, Agrippina tried to sit down next to Nero while he met with an Armenian envoy, but Seneca stopped her and prevented a scandalous scene (as it was unimaginable at that time for a woman to be in the same room as men doing official business). Nero's friends also mistrusted Agrippina and told Nero to beware of his mother. Nero was reportedly unsatisfied with his marriage to Octavia
Claudia Octavia
Claudia Octavia was an Empress of Rome. She was a great-niece of the Emperor Tiberius, paternal first cousin of the Emperor Caligula, daughter of the Emperor Claudius, and stepsister and first wife of the Emperor Nero...

 and entered into an affair with Claudia Acte
Claudia Acte
Claudia Acte was a freedwoman of ancient Rome who became a mistress of the emperor Nero. She came from Asia Minor and might have become a slave of the Emperor Claudius, following his expansion of the Roman Empire into Lycia and Pamphylia; or she might have been purchased later, by Octavia,...

, a former slave. In 55, Agrippina attempted to intervene in favor of Octavia and demanded that her son dismiss Acte. Nero, with the support of Seneca, resisted the intervention of his mother in his personal affairs.

With Agrippina's influence over her son severed, she reportedly began pushing for Britannicus, Nero's stepbrother, to become emperor. Nearly fifteen-year-old Britannicus, heir-designate prior to Nero's adoption, was still legally a minor, but was approaching legal adulthood. According to Tacitus, Agrippina hoped that with her support, Britannicus, being the blood son of Claudius, would be seen as the true heir to the throne by the state over Nero. However, the youth died suddenly and suspiciously on 12 February 55, the very day before his proclamation as an adult had been set. Nero claimed that Britannicus died from an epileptic seizure, but ancient historians all claim Britannicus' death came from Nero's poisoning him. Supposedly, he enlisted the services of Locusta, a woman who specialized in the manufacture of poisons. She devised a mixture to kill Britannicus, but after testing it unsuccessfully on a slave, Nero angrily threatened to have her put to death if she did not come up with something usable. Locusta then devised a new concoction that she promised would "kill swifter than a viper." Her promise was fulfilled after Britannicus consumed it at a dinner party and succumbed within minutes. After the death of Britannicus, Agrippina was accused of slandering Octavia and Nero ordered her out of the imperial residence.

Matricide and consolidation of power


Over time, Nero became progressively more powerful, freeing himself of his advisers and eliminating rivals to the throne. In 55, he removed Marcus Antonius Pallas
Pallas (freedman)
Marcus Antonius Pallas was a prominent Greek freedman and secretary during the reigns of the Roman Emperors Claudius and Nero. His younger brother was Marcus Antonius Felix, a procurator of Iudaea Province...

, an ally of Agrippina, from his position in the treasury. Pallas, along with Burrus, was accused of conspiring against the Emperor to bring Faustus Sulla
Faustus Cornelius Sulla Felix
Faustus Cornelius Sulla Felix was one of the lesser known figures of the Julio-Claudian dynasty of ancient Rome. His grandmother was Antonia Major, the niece of Emperor Augustus by her husband Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus . His mother was Domitia Lepida, a great niece of Emperor Augustus and...

 to the throne. Seneca
Seneca the Younger
Lucius Annaeus Seneca was a Roman Stoic philosopher, statesman, dramatist, and in one work humorist, of the Silver Age of Latin literature. He was tutor and later advisor to emperor Nero...

 was accused of having relations with Agrippina and embezzlement. Seneca succeeded in having himself, Pallas and Burrus acquitted. According to Cassius Dio, at this time, Seneca and Burrus reduced their role in governing from careful management to mere moderation of Nero.

In 58, Nero became romantically involved with Poppaea Sabina
Poppaea Sabina
Poppaea Sabina and sometimes referred to as Poppaea Sabina the Younger to differentiate her from her mother of the same name, was a Roman Empress as the second wife of the Emperor Nero. Prior to this she was the wife of the future Emperor Otho...

, the wife of his friend and future emperor Otho
Otho
Otho , was Roman Emperor for three months, from 15 January to 16 April 69. He was the second emperor of the Year of the four emperors.- Birth and lineage :...

. Reportedly because a marriage to Poppaea and a divorce from Octavia did not seem politically feasible with Agrippina alive, Nero ordered the murder of his mother in 59. A number of modern historians find this an unlikely motive as Nero did not marry Poppaea until 62 . Additionally, according to Suetonius
Suetonius
Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, commonly known as Suetonius , was a Roman historian belonging to the equestrian order in the early Imperial era....

, Poppaea did not divorce her husband until after Agrippina's death, making it unlikely that the already married Poppaea would be pressing Nero for marriage. Some modern historians theorize that Nero's execution of Agrippina was prompted by her plotting to set Rubellius Plautus
Rubellius Plautus
Gaius Rubellius Plautus was a Roman noble and a political rival of Emperor Nero. Through his mother Julia, he was a relative of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. He was the grandson of Drusus , and the great-grandson of Tiberius and his brother Drusus...

 on the throne. According to Suetonius
Suetonius
Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, commonly known as Suetonius , was a Roman historian belonging to the equestrian order in the early Imperial era....

, Nero tried to kill his mother through a planned shipwreck, which took the life of her friend, Acerronia Polla
Acerronia Polla
Acerronia Polla was a servant and friend of Agrippina the Younger, the mother of Nero. She was drowned in AD 59, when an unsuccessful attempt was made at the same time to drown Agrippina...

, but when Agrippina survived, he had her executed and framed it as a suicide. The incident is also recorded by Tacitus.
In 62, Nero's adviser, Burrus, died. Additionally, Seneca was again faced with embezzlement charges. Seneca asked Nero for permission to retire from public affairs. Nero divorced and banished Octavia
Claudia Octavia
Claudia Octavia was an Empress of Rome. She was a great-niece of the Emperor Tiberius, paternal first cousin of the Emperor Caligula, daughter of the Emperor Claudius, and stepsister and first wife of the Emperor Nero...

 on grounds of infertility, leaving him free to marry the pregnant Poppaea. After public protests, Nero was forced to allow Octavia to return from exile, but she was executed shortly after her return. Nero also was reported to have kicked Poppaea to death in 65 before she could have his second child. However, modern historians, noting Suetonius, Tacitus and Cassius Dio's possible bias against Nero and the likelihood that they did not have eyewitness accounts of private events, postulate that Poppaea may have died because of complications of miscarriage or childbirth.

Accusations of treason being plotted against Nero and the Senate first appeared in 62. The Senate ruled that Antistius, a praetor, should be put to death for speaking ill of Nero at a party. Later, Nero ordered the exile of Fabricius Veiento who slandered the Senate in a book. Tacitus writes that the roots of the conspiracy led by Gaius Calpurnius Piso
Gaius Calpurnius Piso
Gnaeus Calpurnius Piso was a Roman senator in the 1st century. He was the focal figure in the Pisonian Conspiracy of 65 AD, the most famous and wide-ranging plot against the throne of Emperor Nero.-Character and early life:...

 began in this year. To consolidate power, Nero executed a number of people in 62 and 63 including his rivals Pallas
Pallas (freedman)
Marcus Antonius Pallas was a prominent Greek freedman and secretary during the reigns of the Roman Emperors Claudius and Nero. His younger brother was Marcus Antonius Felix, a procurator of Iudaea Province...

, Rubellius Plautus
Rubellius Plautus
Gaius Rubellius Plautus was a Roman noble and a political rival of Emperor Nero. Through his mother Julia, he was a relative of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. He was the grandson of Drusus , and the great-grandson of Tiberius and his brother Drusus...

 and Faustus Sulla
Faustus Cornelius Sulla Felix
Faustus Cornelius Sulla Felix was one of the lesser known figures of the Julio-Claudian dynasty of ancient Rome. His grandmother was Antonia Major, the niece of Emperor Augustus by her husband Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus . His mother was Domitia Lepida, a great niece of Emperor Augustus and...

. According to Suetonius, Nero "showed neither discrimination nor moderation in putting to death whomsoever he pleased" during this period.

Nero's consolidation of power also included a slow usurping of authority from the Senate. In 54, Nero promised to give the Senate powers equivalent to those under Republican rule. By 65, senators complained that they had no power left and this led to the Pisonian conspiracy
Pisonian conspiracy
The conspiracy of Gaius Calpurnius Piso in AD 65 represented one of the major turning points in the reign of the Roman emperor Nero...

.

Administrative policies



Over the course of his reign, Nero often made rulings that pleased the lower class. Nero was criticized as being obsessed with being popular.

Nero began his reign in 54 by promising the Senate more autonomy. In this first year, he forbade others to refer to him with regard to enactments, for which he was praised by the Senate. Nero was known for spending his time visiting brothels and taverns during this period.

In 55, Nero began taking on a more active role as an administrator. He was consul
Roman consul
A consul served in the highest elected political office of the Roman Republic.Each year, two consuls were elected together, to serve for a one-year term. Each consul was given veto power over his colleague and the officials would alternate each month...

 four times between 55 and 60. During this period, some ancient historians speak fairly well of Nero and contrast it with his later rule.

Under Nero, restrictions were put on the amount of bail and fines. Also, fees for lawyers were limited. There was a discussion in the Senate on the misconduct of the freedmen class, and a strong demand was made that patrons should have the right of revoking freedom. Nero supported the freedmen and ruled that patrons had no such right. The Senate tried to pass a law in which the crimes of one slave applied to all slaves within a household. Despite riots from the people, Nero supported the Senate on their measure, and deployed troops to organise the execution of 400 slaves affected by the law. However, he vetoed strong measures against the freedmen affected by the case. After tax collectors were accused of being too harsh to the poor, Nero transferred collection authority to lower commissioners. Nero banned any magistrate or procurator from exhibiting public entertainment for fear that the venue was being used as a method to sway the populace. Additionally, there were many impeachments and removals of government officials along with arrests for extortion and corruption. When further complaints arose that the poor were being overly taxed, Nero attempted to repeal all indirect taxes. The Senate convinced him this action would bankrupt the public treasury. As a compromise, taxes were cut from 4.5% to 2.5%. Additionally, secret government tax records were ordered to become public. To lower the cost of food imports, merchant ships were declared tax-exempt.
In imitation of the Greeks, Nero built a number of gymnasiums and theatres. Enormous gladiatorial shows were also held. Nero also established the quinquennial Neronia
Quinquennial Neronia
The quinquennial Neronia was a massive Greek-style festival created by Nero. The festival was in three parts. The first was music, oratory and poetry, the second was gymnastics, and the third was riding...

. The festival included games, poetry, and theater. Historians indicate that there was a belief that theatre led to immorality. Others considered that to have performers dressed in Greek clothing was old fashioned. Some questioned the large public expenditure on entertainment.

In 64, Rome burned
Great Fire of Rome
The Great Fire of Rome was an urban fire that occurred beginning July 19, AD 64.-Background:According to Tacitus, the fire spread quickly and burned for six days. Only four of the fourteen districts of Rome escaped the fire; three districts were completely destroyed and the other seven suffered...

. Nero enacted a public relief effort as well as significant reconstruction. A number of other major construction projects occurred in Nero's late reign. Nero had the marshes of Ostia filled with rubble from the fire. He erected the large Domus Aurea
Domus Aurea
The Domus Aurea was a large landscaped portico villa, designed to take advantage of artificially created landscapes built in the heart of Ancient Rome by the Emperor Nero after the Great Fire of Rome had cleared away the aristocratic dwellings on the slopes of the Palatine...

. In 67, Nero attempted to have a canal dug at the Isthmus of Corinth
Isthmus of Corinth
The Isthmus of Corinth is the narrow land bridge which connects the Peloponnese peninsula with the rest of the mainland of Greece, near the city of Corinth. The word "isthmus" comes from the Ancient Greek word for "neck" and refers to the narrowness of the land. The Isthmus was known in the ancient...

. Ancient historians state that these projects and others exacerbated the drain on the State's budget.

The cost to rebuild Rome was immense, requiring funds the state treasury did not have. Nero devalued the Roman currency
Roman currency
The Roman currency during most of the Roman Republic and the western half of the Roman Empire consisted of coins including the aureus , the denarius , the sestertius , the dupondius , and the as...

 for the first time in the Empire's history. He reduced the weight of the denarius
Denarius
In the Roman currency system, the denarius was a small silver coin first minted in 211 BC. It was the most common coin produced for circulation but was slowly debased until its replacement by the antoninianus...

 from 84 per Roman pound to 96 (3.85 grams to 3.35 grams). He also reduced the silver purity from 99.5% to 93.5% — the silver weight dropping from 3.83 grams to 3.4 grams. Furthermore, Nero reduced the weight of the aureus
Aureus
The aureus was a gold coin of ancient Rome valued at 25 silver denarii. The aureus was regularly issued from the 1st century BC to the beginning of the 4th century, when it was replaced by the solidus...

 from 40 per Roman pound to 45 (8 grams to 7.2 grams).

Between 62 and 67, according to Plinius the Elder and Seneca, Nero promoted an expedition to discover the sources of the Nile River. It was the first exploration of equatorial Africa
Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

 from Europe in History. However, Nero's expedition up the Nile failed because water hyacinths
Water hyacinth
The seven species of water hyacinth comprise the genus Eichhornia. Water hyacinth are a free-floating perennial aquatic plant native to tropical and sub-tropical South America. With broad, thick, glossy, ovate leaves, water hyacinth may rise above the surface of the water as much as 1 meter in...

 had clogged the river, denying Nero's vessels access to the Sudd
Sudd
The Sudd , also known as the Bahr al Jabal, As Sudd or Al Sudd, is a vast swamp in South Sudan, formed by the White Nile. The word “sudd” is derived from the Arabic word “sadd”, meaning “block.” The term has come to refer to any large solid floating vegetation island or mat...

 of Nubia
Nubia
Nubia is a region along the Nile river, which is located in northern Sudan and southern Egypt.There were a number of small Nubian kingdoms throughout the Middle Ages, the last of which collapsed in 1504, when Nubia became divided between Egypt and the Sennar sultanate resulting in the Arabization...

.

The economic policy of Nero is a point of debate among scholars. According to ancient historians, Nero's construction projects were overly extravagant and the large number of expenditures under Nero left Italy "thoroughly exhausted by contributions of money" with "the provinces ruined." Modern historians, though, note that the period was riddled with deflation and that it is likely that Nero's spending came in the form of public works projects and charity intended to ease economic troubles.

Great Fire of Rome



The Great Fire of Rome erupted on the night of 18 July to 19 July CE 64. The fire started at the southeastern end of the Circus Maximus
Circus Maximus
The Circus Maximus is an ancient Roman chariot racing stadium and mass entertainment venue located in Rome, Italy. Situated in the valley between the Aventine and Palatine hills, it was the first and largest stadium in ancient Rome and its later Empire...

 in shops selling flammable goods.
The extent of the fire is uncertain. According to Tacitus
Tacitus
Publius Cornelius Tacitus was a senator and a historian of the Roman Empire. The surviving portions of his two major works—the Annals and the Histories—examine the reigns of the Roman Emperors Tiberius, Claudius, Nero and those who reigned in the Year of the Four Emperors...

, who was nine at the time of the fire, it spread quickly and burned for over five days. It destroyed three of fourteen Roman districts and severely damaged seven. The only other historian who lived through the period and mentioned the fire is Pliny the Elder
Pliny the Elder
Gaius Plinius Secundus , better known as Pliny the Elder, was a Roman author, naturalist, and natural philosopher, as well as naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire, and personal friend of the emperor Vespasian...

, who wrote about it in passing. Other historians who lived through the period (including Josephus
Josephus
Titus Flavius Josephus , also called Joseph ben Matityahu , was a 1st-century Romano-Jewish historian and hagiographer of priestly and royal ancestry who recorded Jewish history, with special emphasis on the 1st century AD and the First Jewish–Roman War, which resulted in the Destruction of...

, Dio Chrysostom
Dio Chrysostom
Dio Chrysostom , Dion of Prusa or Dio Cocceianus was a Greek orator, writer, philosopher and historian of the Roman Empire in the 1st century. Eighty of his Discourses are extant, as well as a few Letters and a funny mock essay In Praise of Hair, as well as a few other fragments...

, Plutarch
Plutarch
Plutarch then named, on his becoming a Roman citizen, Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus , c. 46 – 120 AD, was a Greek historian, biographer, essayist, and Middle Platonist known primarily for his Parallel Lives and Moralia...

, and Epictetus
Epictetus
Epictetus was a Greek sage and Stoic philosopher. He was born a slave at Hierapolis, Phrygia , and lived in Rome until banishment when he went to Nicopolis in northwestern Greece where he lived the rest of his life. His teachings were noted down and published by his pupil Arrian in his Discourses...

) make no mention of it.

It is uncertain who or what actually caused the fire — whether accident or arson
Arson
Arson is the crime of intentionally or maliciously setting fire to structures or wildland areas. It may be distinguished from other causes such as spontaneous combustion and natural wildfires...

. Suetonius
Suetonius
Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, commonly known as Suetonius , was a Roman historian belonging to the equestrian order in the early Imperial era....

 and Cassius Dio favor Nero as the arson
Arson
Arson is the crime of intentionally or maliciously setting fire to structures or wildland areas. It may be distinguished from other causes such as spontaneous combustion and natural wildfires...

ist, so he could build a palatial complex. Tacitus mentions that Christians confessed to the crime, but it is not known whether these confessions were induced by torture. However, accidental fires were common in ancient Rome. In fact, Rome suffered another large fire in 69 and in 80.

It was said by Suetonius and Cassius Dio that Nero sang the "Sack of Ilium" in stage costume while the city burned. Popular legend claims that Nero played the fiddle
Fiddle
The term fiddle may refer to any bowed string musical instrument, most often the violin. It is also a colloquial term for the instrument used by players in all genres, including classical music...

 at the time of the fire, an anachronism based merely on the concept of the lyre
Lyre
The lyre is a stringed musical instrument known for its use in Greek classical antiquity and later. The word comes from the Greek "λύρα" and the earliest reference to the word is the Mycenaean Greek ru-ra-ta-e, meaning "lyrists", written in Linear B syllabic script...

, a stringed instrument associated with Nero and his performances. (There were no fiddles in 1st-century Rome.) Tacitus's account, however, has Nero in Antium at the time of the fire. Tacitus also said that Nero playing his lyre and singing while the city burned was only rumor.

According to Tacitus, upon hearing news of the fire, Nero returned to Rome to organize a relief effort, which he paid for from his own funds. Nero's contributions to the relief extended to personally taking part in the search for and rescue of victims of the blaze, spending days searching the debris without even his bodyguards. After the fire, Nero opened his palaces to provide shelter for the homeless, and arranged for food supplies to be delivered in order to prevent starvation among the survivors. In the wake of the fire, he made a new urban development plan. Houses after the fire were spaced out, built in brick, and faced by porticos on wide roads. Nero also built a new palace complex known as the Domus Aurea
Domus Aurea
The Domus Aurea was a large landscaped portico villa, designed to take advantage of artificially created landscapes built in the heart of Ancient Rome by the Emperor Nero after the Great Fire of Rome had cleared away the aristocratic dwellings on the slopes of the Palatine...

 in an area cleared by the fire. This included lush artificial landscapes and a 30-meter-tall statue of himself, the Colossus of Nero
Colossus of Nero
The Colossus Neronis was an enormous, 30 m bronze statue that the Emperor Nero erected in the vestibule of his Domus Aurea, the imperial villa complex on the Palatine Hill. It was modified by Nero's successors into a statue of the sun god Sol Invictus. It is last mentioned in the 4th century AD...

. The size of this complex is debated (from 100 to 300 acres). To find the necessary funds for the reconstruction, tributes were imposed on the provinces of the empire.

According to Tacitus, the population searched for a scapegoat and rumors held Nero responsible. To deflect blame, Nero targeted Christians. He ordered Christians to be thrown to dogs, while others were crucified and burned.

Tacitus described the event:

Public performances


Nero enjoyed driving a one-horse chariot, singing to the lyre, and poetry. He even composed songs that were performed by other entertainers throughout the empire. At first, Nero only performed for a private audience.

In 64 A.D., Nero began singing in public in Neapolis
Naples
Naples is a city in Southern Italy, situated on the country's west coast by the Gulf of Naples. Lying between two notable volcanic regions, Mount Vesuvius and the Phlegraean Fields, it is the capital of the region of Campania and of the province of Naples...

 in order to improve his popularity. He also sang at the second quinquennial Neronia
Quinquennial Neronia
The quinquennial Neronia was a massive Greek-style festival created by Nero. The festival was in three parts. The first was music, oratory and poetry, the second was gymnastics, and the third was riding...

 in 65. It was said that Nero craved the attention, but historians also write that Nero was encouraged to sing and perform in public by the Senate, his inner circle and the people. Ancient historians strongly criticize his choice to perform, calling it shameful.

Nero was convinced to participate in the Olympic Games of 67 in order to improve relations with Greece and display Roman dominance. As a competitor, Nero raced a ten-horse chariot and nearly died after being thrown from it. He also performed as an actor and a singer. Though Nero faltered in his racing (in one case, dropping out entirely before the end) and acting competitions, he won these crowns nevertheless and paraded them when he returned to Rome. The victories are attributed to Nero bribing the judges and his status as emperor.

War and peace with Parthia



Shortly after Nero's accession to the throne in 55, the Roman vassal
Vassal
A vassal or feudatory is a person who has entered into a mutual obligation to a lord or monarch in the context of the feudal system in medieval Europe. The obligations often included military support and mutual protection, in exchange for certain privileges, usually including the grant of land held...

 kingdom of Armenia overthrew their Iberian
Caucasian Iberia
Iberia , also known as Iveria , was a name given by the ancient Greeks and Romans to the ancient Georgian kingdom of Kartli , corresponding roughly to the eastern and southern parts of the present day Georgia...

 prince Rhadamistus
Rhadamistus
Rhadamistus was an Iberian prince who reigned in Armenia from 51 to 53 and 54 to 55 CE. Considered to be an usurper and tyrant, he was overthrown in a rebellion supported by the Parthian Empire.- Life :...

 and he was replaced with the Parthian
Parthian Empire
The Parthian Empire , also known as the Arsacid Empire , was a major Iranian political and cultural power in ancient Persia...

 prince Tiridates
Tiridates I of Armenia
Tiridates I was King of Armenia beginning in AD 53 and the founder of the Arshakuni Dynasty, the Armenian line of the Arsacid Dynasty. The dates of his birth and death are unknown. His early reign was marked by a brief interruption towards the end of the year 54 and a much longer one from 58...

. This was seen as a Parthian invasion of Roman territory. There was concern in Rome over how the young Emperor would handle the situation. Nero reacted by immediately sending the military to the region under the command of Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo
Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo
Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo was a Roman general and a brother-in-law of the emperor Caligula.-Descent:Corbulo was born in Italy into a senatorial family...

. The Parthians temporarily relinquished control of Armenia to Rome.

The peace did not last and full-scale war broke out in 58. The Parthian king Vologases I
Vologases I of Parthia
Vologases I of Parthia, sometimes called Vologaeses or Vologeses or, following Zoroastrian usage, Valakhsh ruled the Parthian Empire from about 51 to 78. Son of Vonones II by a Thracian concubine, he succeeded his father in 51 AD. He gave the kingdom of Media Atropatene to his brother Pacorus II,...

 refused to remove his brother Tiridates from Armenia. The Parthians began a full-scale invasion of the Armenian kingdom. Commander Corbulo responded and repelled most of the Parthian army that same year. Tiridates retreated and Rome again controlled most of Armenia.

Nero was acclaimed in public for this initial victory. Tigranes
Tigranes VI of Armenia
Tigranes VI, also known as Tigran VI or by his Roman name Gaius Julius Tigranes was a Herodian Prince and served as a Roman Client King of Armenia in the 1st century....

, a Cappadocian noble raised in Rome, was installed by Nero as the new ruler of Armenia. Corbulo was appointed governor of Syria as a reward.
In 62, Tigranes invaded the Parthian province of Adiabene
Adiabene
Adiabene was an ancient Assyrian independent kingdom in Mesopotamia, with its capital at Arbela...

. Again, Rome and Parthia were at war and this continued until 63. Parthia began building up for a strike against the Roman province of Syria. Corbulo tried to convince Nero to continue the war, but Nero opted for a peace deal instead. There was anxiety in Rome about eastern grain supplies and a budget deficit.

The result was a deal where Tiridates again became the Armenian king, but was crowned in Rome by Emperor Nero. In the future, the king of Armenia was to be a Parthian prince, but his appointment required approval from the Romans. Tiridates was forced to come to Rome and partake in ceremonies meant to display Roman dominance.

This peace deal of 63 was a considerable victory for Nero politically. Nero became very popular in the eastern provinces of Rome and with the Parthians as well. The peace between Parthia and Rome lasted 50 years until Emperor Trajan
Trajan
Trajan , was Roman Emperor from 98 to 117 AD. Born into a non-patrician family in the province of Hispania Baetica, in Spain Trajan rose to prominence during the reign of emperor Domitian. Serving as a legatus legionis in Hispania Tarraconensis, in Spain, in 89 Trajan supported the emperor against...

 of Rome invaded Armenia in 114.

Other major power struggles and rebellions



The war with Parthia was not Nero's only major war but he was both criticized and praised for an aversion to battle. Like many emperors, Nero faced a number of rebellions and power struggles within the empire.

British Revolt of 60–61 (Boudica's Uprising)

In 60, a major rebellion broke out in the province of Britannia
Britannia
Britannia is an ancient term for Great Britain, and also a female personification of the island. The name is Latin, and derives from the Greek form Prettanike or Brettaniai, which originally designated a collection of islands with individual names, including Albion or Great Britain. However, by the...

. While the governor Gaius Suetonius Paullinus and his troops were busy capturing the island of Mona (Anglesey) from the druids, the tribes of the southeast staged a revolt led by queen Boudica
Boudica
Boudica , also known as Boadicea and known in Welsh as "Buddug" was queen of the British Iceni tribe who led an uprising against the occupying forces of the Roman Empire....

 of the Iceni
Iceni
The Iceni or Eceni were a British tribe who inhabited an area of East Anglia corresponding roughly to the modern-day county of Norfolk between the 1st century BC and the 1st century AD...

. Boudica and her troops destroyed three cities before the army of Paullinus could return, receive reinforcements, and quell the rebellion in 61. Fearing Paullinus himself would provoke further rebellion, Nero replaced him with the more passive Publius Petronius Turpilianus
Publius Petronius Turpilianus
Publius Petronius Turpilianus was a Roman politician and general.He was consul in AD 61, but in the second half of that year he laid down that office and was appointed governor of Britain, replacing Gaius Suetonius Paulinus who had been removed from office in the wake of the rebellion of Boudica...

.

The Pisonian Conspiracy of 65

In 65, Gaius Calpurnius Piso
Gaius Calpurnius Piso
Gnaeus Calpurnius Piso was a Roman senator in the 1st century. He was the focal figure in the Pisonian Conspiracy of 65 AD, the most famous and wide-ranging plot against the throne of Emperor Nero.-Character and early life:...

, a Roman statesman, organized a conspiracy against Nero with the help of Subrius Flavus and Sulpicius Asper, a tribune and a centurion of the Praetorian Guard. According to Tacitus, many conspirators wished to "rescue the state" from the emperor and restore the Republic
Roman Republic
The Roman Republic was the period of the ancient Roman civilization where the government operated as a republic. It began with the overthrow of the Roman monarchy, traditionally dated around 508 BC, and its replacement by a government headed by two consuls, elected annually by the citizens and...

. The freedman Milichus discovered the conspiracy and reported it to Nero's secretary, Epaphroditos
Epaphroditos
Epaphroditos or Epaphroditus was a freedman and secretary of the Roman Emperor Nero. He was later executed by Domitian for failing to prevent Nero's suicide.-Name:...

. As a result, the conspiracy failed and its members were executed including Lucan
Marcus Annaeus Lucanus
Marcus Annaeus Lucanus , better known in English as Lucan, was a Roman poet, born in Corduba , in the Hispania Baetica. Despite his short life, he is regarded as one of the outstanding figures of the Imperial Latin period...

, the poet. Nero's previous advisor, Seneca
Seneca the Younger
Lucius Annaeus Seneca was a Roman Stoic philosopher, statesman, dramatist, and in one work humorist, of the Silver Age of Latin literature. He was tutor and later advisor to emperor Nero...

 was ordered to commit suicide after admitting he discussed the plot with the conspirators.

The First Jewish War of 66–70
In 66, there was a Jewish revolt
First Jewish-Roman War
The First Jewish–Roman War , sometimes called The Great Revolt , was the first of three major rebellions by the Jews of Judaea Province , against the Roman Empire...

 in Judea stemming from Greek and Jewish religious tension. In 67, Nero dispatched Vespasian
Vespasian
Vespasian , was Roman Emperor from 69 AD to 79 AD. Vespasian was the founder of the Flavian dynasty, which ruled the Empire for a quarter century. Vespasian was descended from a family of equestrians, who rose into the senatorial rank under the Emperors of the Julio-Claudian dynasty...

 to restore order. This revolt was eventually put down in 70, after Nero's death. This revolt is famous for Romans breaching the walls of Jerusalem and destroying the Second Temple of Jerusalem.

The revolt of Vindex and Galba and the death of Nero


In March 68, Gaius Julius Vindex
Vindex
Gaius Iulius Vindex, of a noble Gaulish family of Aquitania given senatorial status under Claudius, was a Roman governor in the province of Gallia Lugdunensis. In either late 67 or early 68, he rebelled against the tax policy of the Emperor Nero...

, the governor of Gallia Lugdunensis
Gallia Lugdunensis
Gallia Lugdunensis was a province of the Roman Empire in what is now the modern country of France, part of the Celtic territory of Gaul. It is named after its capital Lugdunum , possibly Roman Europe's major city west of Italy, and a major imperial mint...

, rebelled against Nero's tax policies. Lucius Verginius Rufus, the governor of Germania Superior
Germania Superior
Germania Superior , so called for the reason that it lay upstream of Germania Inferior, was a province of the Roman Empire. It comprised an area of western Switzerland, the French Jura and Alsace regions, and southwestern Germany...

, was ordered to put down Vindex's rebellion. In an attempt to gain support from outside his own province, Vindex called upon Servius Sulpicius Galba
Galba
Galba , was Roman Emperor for seven months from 68 to 69. Galba was the governor of Hispania Tarraconensis, and made a bid for the throne during the rebellion of Julius Vindex...

, the governor of Hispania Tarraconensis
Hispania Tarraconensis
Hispania Tarraconensis was one of three Roman provinces in Hispania. It encompassed much of the Mediterranean coast of Spain along with the central plateau. Southern Spain, the region now called Andalusia, was the province of Hispania Baetica...

, to join the rebellion and further, to declare himself emperor in opposition to Nero. At the Battle of Vesontio in May 68, Verginius' forces easily defeated those of Vindex and the latter committed suicide. However, after putting down this one rebel, Verginius' legions attempted to proclaim their own commander as Emperor. Verginius refused to act against Nero, but the discontent of the legions of Germany and the continued opposition of Galba in Spain did not bode well for Nero.

While Nero had retained some control of the situation, support for Galba increased despite his being officially declared a public enemy. The prefect of the Praetorian Guard
Praetorian Guard
The Praetorian Guard was a force of bodyguards used by Roman Emperors. The title was already used during the Roman Republic for the guards of Roman generals, at least since the rise to prominence of the Scipio family around 275 BC...

, Gaius Nymphidius Sabinus
Nymphidius Sabinus
Gaius Nymphidius Sabinus, or Nymphidius Sabinus, was a prefect of the Roman imperial bodyguard, known as the Praetorian Guard, during the rule of Emperor Nero from 65 until his death in 68. He shared this office together with Gaius Ophonius Tigellinus, replacing his previous colleague Faenius Rufus...

, also abandoned his allegiance to the Emperor and came out in support for Galba.

In response, Nero fled Rome with the intention of going to the port of Ostia
Ostia Antica
Ostia Antica is a large archeological site, close to the modern suburb of Ostia , that was the location of the harbour city of ancient Rome, which is approximately 30 km to the northeast. "Ostia" in Latin means "mouth". At the mouth of the River Tiber, Ostia was Rome's seaport, but, due to...

 and from there to take a fleet to one of the still-loyal eastern provinces. However, he abandoned the idea when some army officers openly refused to obey his commands, responding with a line from Vergil's Aeneid
Aeneid
The Aeneid is a Latin epic poem, written by Virgil between 29 and 19 BC, that tells the legendary story of Aeneas, a Trojan who travelled to Italy, where he became the ancestor of the Romans. It is composed of roughly 10,000 lines in dactylic hexameter...

: "Is it so dreadful a thing then to die?" Nero then toyed with the idea of fleeing to Parthia
Parthia
Parthia is a region of north-eastern Iran, best known for having been the political and cultural base of the Arsacid dynasty, rulers of the Parthian Empire....

, throwing himself upon the mercy of Galba, or to appeal to the people and beg them to pardon him for his past offences "and if he could not soften their hearts, to entreat them at least to allow him the prefecture of Egypt". Suetonius reports that the text of this speech was later found in Nero's writing desk, but that he dared not give it from fear of being torn to pieces before he could reach the Forum.

Nero returned to Rome and spent the evening in the palace. After sleeping, he awoke at about midnight to find the palace guard had left. Dispatching messages to his friends' palace chambers for them to come, he received no answers. Upon going to their chambers personally, he found them all abandoned. When he called for a gladiator or anyone else adept with a sword to kill him, no one appeared. He cried, "Have I neither friend nor foe?" and ran out as if to throw himself into the Tiber
Tiber
The Tiber is the third-longest river in Italy, rising in the Apennine Mountains in Emilia-Romagna and flowing through Umbria and Lazio to the Tyrrhenian Sea. It drains a basin estimated at...

.

Returning, Nero sought for some place where he could hide and collect his thoughts. An imperial freedman offered his villa, located 4 miles outside the city. Travelling in disguise, Nero and four loyal servants reached the villa, where Nero ordered them to dig a grave for him. At this time, a courier arrived with a report that the Senate had declared Nero a public enemy and that it was their intention to execute him by beating him to death.

At this news, Nero prepared himself for suicide
Forced suicide
Forced suicide is a method of execution where the victim is coerced into committing suicide to avoid facing an alternative option they perceive as much worse, such as suffering torture or having friends or family members imprisoned, tortured, or killed...

. Losing his nerve, he first begged for one of his companions to set an example by first killing himself. At last, the sound of approaching horsemen drove Nero to face the end. However he still could not bring himself to take his own life but instead he forced his private secretary, Epaphroditos
Epaphroditos
Epaphroditos or Epaphroditus was a freedman and secretary of the Roman Emperor Nero. He was later executed by Domitian for failing to prevent Nero's suicide.-Name:...

, to perform the task. Nero's famous last words from this moment are "Qualis artifex pereo" or in english "What an artist dies in me!"

When one of the horsemen entered, upon his seeing Nero all but dead he attempted to stop the bleeding in vain. Nero died on 9 June 68. This was the anniversary of the death of Octavia. Nero was buried in the Mausoleum of the Domitii Ahenobarbi, in what is now the Villa Borghese
Villa Borghese
Villa Borghese may refer to:*The Villa Borghese Pinciana , the villa built by the architect Flaminio Ponzio , developing sketches by Scipione Borghese, who used it as a villa suburbana, a party villa, at the edge of Rome, and to house his art collection.**The Galleria...

 (Pincian Hill
Pincian Hill
The Pincian Hill is a hill in the northeast quadrant of the historical center of Rome. The hill lies to the north of the Quirinal, overlooking the Campus Martius...

) area of Rome.

With his death, the Julio-Claudian dynasty
Julio-Claudian Dynasty
The Julio-Claudian dynasty normally refers to the first five Roman Emperors: Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula , Claudius, and Nero, or the family to which they belonged; they ruled the Roman Empire from its formation, in the second half of the 1st century BC, until AD 68, when the last of the line,...

 ended. Chaos ensued in the Year of the Four Emperors
Year of the Four Emperors
The Year of the Four Emperors was a year in the history of the Roman Empire, AD 69, in which four emperors ruled in a remarkable succession. These four emperors were Galba, Otho, Vitellius, and Vespasian....

.

After death


According to Suetonius and Cassius Dio, the people of Rome celebrated the death of Nero. Tacitus, though, describes a more complicated political environment. Tacitus mentions that Nero's death was welcomed by Senators, nobility and the upper class. The lower-class, slaves, frequenters of the arena and the theater, and "those who were supported by the famous excesses of Nero", on the other hand, were upset with the news. Members of the military were said to have mixed feelings, as they had allegiance to Nero, but were bribed to overthrow him.

Eastern sources, namely Philostratus II and Apollonius of Tyana
Apollonius of Tyana
Apollonius of Tyana was a Greek Neopythagorean philosopher from the town of Tyana in the Roman province of Cappadocia in Asia Minor. Little is certainly known about him...

, mention that Nero's death was mourned as he "restored the liberties of Hellas
Roman Greece
Roman Greece is the period of Greek history following the Roman victory over the Corinthians at the Battle of Corinth in 146 BC until the reestablishment of the city of Byzantium and the naming of the city by the Emperor Constantine as the capital of the Roman Empire...

 with a wisdom and moderation quite alien to his character" and that he "held our liberties in his hand and respected them."

Modern scholarship generally holds that, while the Senate and more well-off individuals welcomed Nero's death, the general populace was "loyal to the end and beyond, for Otho and Vitellius both thought it worthwhile to appeal to their nostalgia."

Nero's name was erased from some monuments, in what Edward Champlin regards as an "outburst of private zeal". Many portraits of Nero were reworked to represent other figures; according to Eric R. Varner, over fifty such images survive. This reworking of images is often explained as part of the way in which the memory of disgraced emperors was condemned posthumously (see damnatio memoriae
Damnatio memoriae
Damnatio memoriae is the Latin phrase literally meaning "condemnation of memory" in the sense of a judgment that a person must not be remembered. It was a form of dishonor that could be passed by the Roman Senate upon traitors or others who brought discredit to the Roman State...

). Champlin, however, doubts that the practice is necessarily negative and notes that some continued to create images of Nero long after his death.

The civil war during the Year of the Four Emperors
Year of the Four Emperors
The Year of the Four Emperors was a year in the history of the Roman Empire, AD 69, in which four emperors ruled in a remarkable succession. These four emperors were Galba, Otho, Vitellius, and Vespasian....

 was described by ancient historians as a troubling period. According to Tacitus, this instability was rooted in the fact that emperors could no longer rely on the perceived legitimacy of the imperial bloodline, as Nero and those before him could. Galba
Galba
Galba , was Roman Emperor for seven months from 68 to 69. Galba was the governor of Hispania Tarraconensis, and made a bid for the throne during the rebellion of Julius Vindex...

 began his short reign with the execution of many allies of Nero and possible future enemies. One such notable enemy included Nymphidius Sabinus
Nymphidius Sabinus
Gaius Nymphidius Sabinus, or Nymphidius Sabinus, was a prefect of the Roman imperial bodyguard, known as the Praetorian Guard, during the rule of Emperor Nero from 65 until his death in 68. He shared this office together with Gaius Ophonius Tigellinus, replacing his previous colleague Faenius Rufus...

, who claimed to be the son of Emperor Caligula
Caligula
Caligula , also known as Gaius, was Roman Emperor from 37 AD to 41 AD. Caligula was a member of the house of rulers conventionally known as the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Caligula's father Germanicus, the nephew and adopted son of Emperor Tiberius, was a very successful general and one of Rome's most...

.

Otho
Otho
Otho , was Roman Emperor for three months, from 15 January to 16 April 69. He was the second emperor of the Year of the four emperors.- Birth and lineage :...

 overthrew Galba. Otho was said to be liked by many soldiers because he had been a friend of Nero's and resembled him somewhat in temperament. It was said that the common Roman hailed Otho as Nero himself. Otho used "Nero" as a surname and reerected many statues to Nero. Vitellius
Vitellius
Vitellius , was Roman Emperor for eight months, from 16 April to 22 December 69. Vitellius was acclaimed Emperor following the quick succession of the previous emperors Galba and Otho, in a year of civil war known as the Year of the Four Emperors...

 overthrew Otho. Vitellius began his reign with a large funeral for Nero complete with songs written by Nero.

After Nero's suicide in 68, there was a widespread belief, especially in the eastern provinces, that he was not dead and somehow would return. This belief came to be known as the Nero Redivivus Legend
Nero Redivivus legend
Nero Redivivus Legend was a belief popular during the last part of the 1st century that Nero would return after his death in 68 AD. The legend was a common belief as late as the 5th century. The belief was either the result or cause of several pretenders who posed as Nero leading...

.

The legend of Nero's return lasted for hundreds of years after Nero's death. Augustine of Hippo
Augustine of Hippo
Augustine of Hippo , also known as Augustine, St. Augustine, St. Austin, St. Augoustinos, Blessed Augustine, or St. Augustine the Blessed, was Bishop of Hippo Regius . He was a Latin-speaking philosopher and theologian who lived in the Roman Africa Province...

 wrote of the legend as a popular belief in 422.

At least three Nero imposters emerged leading rebellions. The first, who sang and played the cithara or lyre and whose face was similar to that of the dead emperor, appeared in 69 during the reign of Vitellius. After persuading some to recognize him, he was captured and executed. Sometime during the reign of Titus
Titus
Titus , was Roman Emperor from 79 to 81. A member of the Flavian dynasty, Titus succeeded his father Vespasian upon his death, thus becoming the first Roman Emperor to come to the throne after his own father....

 (79–81), another impostor appeared in Asia and sang to the accompaniment of the lyre and looked like Nero but he, too, was killed. Twenty years after Nero's death, during the reign of Domitian
Domitian
Domitian was Roman Emperor from 81 to 96. Domitian was the third and last emperor of the Flavian dynasty.Domitian's youth and early career were largely spent in the shadow of his brother Titus, who gained military renown during the First Jewish-Roman War...

, there was a third pretender. Supported by the Parthians, they hardly could be persuaded to give him up and the matter almost came to war.

Physical appearance


In his book "The Lives of the Twelve Caesars", Suetonius
Suetonius
Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, commonly known as Suetonius , was a Roman historian belonging to the equestrian order in the early Imperial era....

 describes Nero as "about the average height, his body marked with spots and malodorous
Malodorant
A malodorant is a chemical compound whose extreme stench acts as a temporary incapacitant. It attacks the olfactory and/or trigeminal nerves of the person introduced to the chemical. These compounds are usually composed of at least two ingredients: the malodorant compound and a carrier liquid...

, his hair light blond, his features regular rather than attractive, his eyes blue and somewhat weak, his neck over thick, his belly prominent, and his legs very slender."

Historiography


The history of Nero’s reign is problematic in that no historical sources survived that were contemporary with Nero. These first histories at one time did exist and were described as biased and fantastical, either overly critical or praising of Nero. The original sources were also said to contradict on a number of events. Nonetheless, these lost primary sources were the basis of surviving secondary and tertiary histories on Nero written by the next generations of historians. A few of the contemporary historians are known by name. Fabius Rusticus
Fabius Rusticus
Fabius Rusticus was a Roman historian who was quoted on several occasions by Tacitus. Tacitus couples his name with that of Livy and describes him as "the most graphic among ancient and modern historians." Tacitus also said that he embellished matters with his eloquence...

, Cluvius Rufus
Cluvius Rufus
Marcus Cluvius Rufus was a Roman consul, senator, governor, and historian who was mentioned on several occasions by Tacitus, Suetonius, Cassius Dio, Josephus and Plutarch.-Career:...

 and Pliny the Elder
Pliny the Elder
Gaius Plinius Secundus , better known as Pliny the Elder, was a Roman author, naturalist, and natural philosopher, as well as naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire, and personal friend of the emperor Vespasian...

 all wrote condemning histories on Nero that are now lost. There were also pro-Nero histories, but it is unknown who wrote them or on what deeds Nero was praised.

The bulk of what is known of Nero comes from Tacitus
Tacitus
Publius Cornelius Tacitus was a senator and a historian of the Roman Empire. The surviving portions of his two major works—the Annals and the Histories—examine the reigns of the Roman Emperors Tiberius, Claudius, Nero and those who reigned in the Year of the Four Emperors...

, Suetonius
Suetonius
Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, commonly known as Suetonius , was a Roman historian belonging to the equestrian order in the early Imperial era....

 and Cassius Dio, who were all of the senatorial class. Tacitus and Suetonius wrote their histories on Nero over fifty years after his death, while Cassius Dio wrote his history over 150 years after Nero’s death. These sources contradict on a number of events in Nero’s life including the death of Claudius
Claudius
Claudius , was Roman Emperor from 41 to 54. A member of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, he was the son of Drusus and Antonia Minor. He was born at Lugdunum in Gaul and was the first Roman Emperor to be born outside Italy...

, the death of Agrippina
Agrippina the Younger
Julia Agrippina, most commonly referred to as Agrippina Minor or Agrippina the Younger, and after 50 known as Julia Augusta Agrippina was a Roman Empress and one of the more prominent women in the Julio-Claudian dynasty...

, and the Roman fire of 64, but they are consistent in their condemnation of Nero.

A handful of other sources also add a limited and varying perspective on Nero. Few surviving sources paint Nero in a favorable light. Some sources, though, portray him as a competent emperor who was popular with the Roman people, especially in the east.

Cassius Dio
Cassius Dio (c. 155–229) was the son of Cassius Apronianus
Cassius Apronianus
Cassius Apronianus or Apronianus was a Roman who lived in the 2nd century. He was a member of Cassius , one of the oldest families in Ancient Rome....

, a Roman senator. He passed the greater part of his life in public service. He was a senator under Commodus
Commodus
Commodus , was Roman Emperor from 180 to 192. He also ruled as co-emperor with his father Marcus Aurelius from 177 until his father's death in 180. His name changed throughout his reign; see changes of name for earlier and later forms. His accession as emperor was the first time a son had succeeded...

 and governor of Smyrna after the death of Septimius Severus
Septimius Severus
Septimius Severus , also known as Severus, was Roman Emperor from 193 to 211. Severus was born in Leptis Magna in the province of Africa. As a young man he advanced through the customary succession of offices under the reigns of Marcus Aurelius and Commodus. Severus seized power after the death of...

; and afterwards suffect consul around 205, as also proconsul in Africa and Pannonia.

Books 61–63 of Dio's Roman History describe the reign of Nero. Only fragments of these books remain and what does remain was abridged and altered by John Xiphilinus
John Xiphilinus
Joannes Xiphilinus , epitomator of Dio Cassius, lived at Constantinople during the latter half of the 11th century AD. He was a monk and the nephew of Patriarch John VIII of Constantinople, a well-known preacher ....

, an 11th century monk.

Dio Chrysostom
Dio Chrysostom
Dio Chrysostom
Dio Chrysostom , Dion of Prusa or Dio Cocceianus was a Greek orator, writer, philosopher and historian of the Roman Empire in the 1st century. Eighty of his Discourses are extant, as well as a few Letters and a funny mock essay In Praise of Hair, as well as a few other fragments...

 (c. 40–120), a Greek philosopher and historian, wrote the Roman people were very happy with Nero and would have allowed him to rule indefinitely. They longed for his rule once he was gone and embraced imposters when they appeared:
Epictetus
Epictetus
Epictetus
Epictetus was a Greek sage and Stoic philosopher. He was born a slave at Hierapolis, Phrygia , and lived in Rome until banishment when he went to Nicopolis in northwestern Greece where he lived the rest of his life. His teachings were noted down and published by his pupil Arrian in his Discourses...

 (c. 55–135) was the slave to Nero's scribe Epaphroditos
Epaphroditos
Epaphroditos or Epaphroditus was a freedman and secretary of the Roman Emperor Nero. He was later executed by Domitian for failing to prevent Nero's suicide.-Name:...

. He makes a few passing negative comments on Nero's character in his work, but makes no remarks on the nature of his rule. He describes Nero as a spoiled, angry, and unhappy man.

Josephus

The historian Josephus
Josephus
Titus Flavius Josephus , also called Joseph ben Matityahu , was a 1st-century Romano-Jewish historian and hagiographer of priestly and royal ancestry who recorded Jewish history, with special emphasis on the 1st century AD and the First Jewish–Roman War, which resulted in the Destruction of...

 (c. 37–100), while calling Nero a tyrant, was also the first to mention bias against Nero. Of other historians, he said:
Lucan
Though more of a poet than historian, Lucanus
Marcus Annaeus Lucanus
Marcus Annaeus Lucanus , better known in English as Lucan, was a Roman poet, born in Corduba , in the Hispania Baetica. Despite his short life, he is regarded as one of the outstanding figures of the Imperial Latin period...

 (c. 39–65) has one of the kindest accounts of Nero's rule. He writes of peace and prosperity under Nero in contrast to previous war and strife. Ironically, he was later involved in a conspiracy to overthrow Nero and was executed.

Philostratus
Philostratus
Philostratus
Philostratus or Lucius Flavius Philostratus , , called "the Athenian", was a Greek sophist of the Roman imperial period. His father was a minor sophist of the same name. He was born probably around 172, and is said by the Suda to have been living in the reign of emperor Philip the Arab . His death...

 II "the Athenian" (c. 172–250) spoke of Nero in the Life of Apollonius Tyana
Life of Apollonius Tyana
Life of Apollonius of Tyana is a book written in Ancient Greece by Philostratus . It tells the story of Apollonius of Tyana , a Pythagorean philosopher and teacher.-Contents:...

 (Books 4–5). Though he has a generally a bad or dim view of Nero, he speaks of others' positive reception of Nero in the East.

Pliny the Elder
The history of Nero by Pliny the Elder
Pliny the Elder
Gaius Plinius Secundus , better known as Pliny the Elder, was a Roman author, naturalist, and natural philosopher, as well as naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire, and personal friend of the emperor Vespasian...

 (c. 24–79) did not survive. Still, there are several references to Nero in Pliny's Natural Histories. Pliny has one of the worst opinions of Nero and calls him an "enemy of mankind."

Plutarch
Plutarch
Plutarch
Plutarch then named, on his becoming a Roman citizen, Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus , c. 46 – 120 AD, was a Greek historian, biographer, essayist, and Middle Platonist known primarily for his Parallel Lives and Moralia...

 (c. 46–127) mentions Nero indirectly in his account of the Life of Galba and the Life of Otho. Nero is portrayed as a tyrant, but those that replace him are not described as better.

Seneca the Younger
It is not surprising that Seneca
Seneca the Younger
Lucius Annaeus Seneca was a Roman Stoic philosopher, statesman, dramatist, and in one work humorist, of the Silver Age of Latin literature. He was tutor and later advisor to emperor Nero...

 (c. 4 BEC–65), Nero's teacher and advisor, writes very well of Nero.

Suetonius

Suetonius
Suetonius
Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, commonly known as Suetonius , was a Roman historian belonging to the equestrian order in the early Imperial era....

 (c. 69–130) was a member of the equestrian order, and he was the head of the department of the imperial correspondence. While in this position, Suetonius started writing biographies of the emperors, accentuating the anecdotal and sensational aspects.

Tacitus

The Annals by Tacitus
Tacitus
Publius Cornelius Tacitus was a senator and a historian of the Roman Empire. The surviving portions of his two major works—the Annals and the Histories—examine the reigns of the Roman Emperors Tiberius, Claudius, Nero and those who reigned in the Year of the Four Emperors...

 (c. 56–117) is the most detailed and comprehensive history on the rule of Nero, despite being incomplete after the year 66. Tacitus described the rule of the Julio-Claudian emperors as generally unjust. He also thought that existing writing on them was unbalanced:
Tacitus was the son of a procurator
Promagistrate
A promagistrate is a person who acts in and with the authority and capacity of a magistrate, but without holding a magisterial office. A legal innovation of the Roman Republic, the promagistracy was invented in order to provide Rome with governors of overseas territories instead of having to elect...

, who married into the elite family of Agricola. He entered his political life as a senator after Nero's death and, by Tacitus' own admission, owed much to Nero's rivals. Realizing that this bias may be apparent to others, Tacitus protests that his writing is true.

Jewish tradition


At the end of 66, conflict broke out between Greeks and Jews in Jerusalem and Caesarea. According to the Talmud
Talmud
The Talmud is a central text of mainstream Judaism. It takes the form of a record of rabbinic discussions pertaining to Jewish law, ethics, philosophy, customs and history....

, Nero went to Jerusalem and shot arrows in all four directions. All the arrows landed in the city. He then asked a passing child to repeat the verse he had learned that day. The child responded, "I will lay my vengeance upon Edom by the hand of my people Israel" (Ez.
Ezekiel
Ezekiel , "God will strengthen" , is the central protagonist of the Book of Ezekiel in the Hebrew Bible. In Judaism, Christianity and Islam, Ezekiel is acknowledged as a Hebrew prophet...

 25,14). Nero became terrified, believing that God wanted the Temple in Jerusalem
Temple in Jerusalem
The Temple in Jerusalem or Holy Temple , refers to one of a series of structures which were historically located on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem, the current site of the Dome of the Rock. Historically, these successive temples stood at this location and functioned as the centre of...

 to be destroyed, but would punish the one to carry it out. Nero said, "He desires to lay waste His House and to lay the blame on me," whereupon he fled and converted to Judaism to avoid such retribution. Vespasian
Vespasian
Vespasian , was Roman Emperor from 69 AD to 79 AD. Vespasian was the founder of the Flavian dynasty, which ruled the Empire for a quarter century. Vespasian was descended from a family of equestrians, who rose into the senatorial rank under the Emperors of the Julio-Claudian dynasty...

 was then dispatched to put down the rebellion.

The Talmud adds that the sage Reb Meir Baal HaNess, a prominent supporter of the Bar Kokhba
Simon bar Kokhba
Simon bar Kokhba was the Jewish leader of what is known as the Bar Kokhba revolt against the Roman Empire in 132 CE, establishing an independent Jewish state of Israel which he ruled for three years as Nasi...

 rebellion
Bar Kokhba's revolt
The Bar Kokhba revolt 132–136 CE; or mered bar kokhba) against the Roman Empire, was the third major rebellion by the Jews of Judaea Province being the last of the Jewish-Roman Wars. Simon bar Kokhba, the commander of the revolt, was acclaimed as a Messiah, a heroic figure who could restore Israel...

 against Roman rule, was a descendant of Nero.

Roman and Greek sources nowhere report Nero's alleged trip to Jerusalem or his alleged conversion to Judaism. There is also no record of Nero having any offspring who survived infancy: his only recorded child, Claudia Augusta
Claudia Augusta
Claudia Augusta was the only daughter of the Roman Emperor Nero by his second wife Roman Empress Poppaea Sabina. She was born in Antium on 21 January 63....

, died aged 4 months.

Christian tradition


Christian
Christian
A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament...

 tradition and secular historical sources hold Nero as the first major state sponsor of Christian persecution, and sometimes as the killer of Apostles Peter
Saint Peter
Saint Peter or Simon Peter was an early Christian leader, who is featured prominently in the New Testament Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. The son of John or of Jonah and from the village of Bethsaida in the province of Galilee, his brother Andrew was also an apostle...

 and Paul. Some 2nd- and 3rd-century theologians, among others, recorded their belief that Nero would return from death or exile, usually as "the Anti-Christ."

First Persecutor
Non-Christian historian Tacitus
Tacitus
Publius Cornelius Tacitus was a senator and a historian of the Roman Empire. The surviving portions of his two major works—the Annals and the Histories—examine the reigns of the Roman Emperors Tiberius, Claudius, Nero and those who reigned in the Year of the Four Emperors...

 describes Nero extensively torturing and executing Christians after the fire of 64. Suetonius
Suetonius
Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, commonly known as Suetonius , was a Roman historian belonging to the equestrian order in the early Imperial era....

 also mentions Nero punishing Christians, though he does so as a praise and does not connect it with the fire.

Christian writer Tertullian
Tertullian
Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus, anglicised as Tertullian , was a prolific early Christian author from Carthage in the Roman province of Africa. He is the first Christian author to produce an extensive corpus of Latin Christian literature. He also was a notable early Christian apologist and...

 (c. 155–230) was the first to call Nero the first persecutor of Christians. He wrote, "Examine your records. There you will find that Nero was the first that persecuted this doctrine". Lactantius
Lactantius
Lucius Caecilius Firmianus Lactantius was an early Christian author who became an advisor to the first Christian Roman emperor, Constantine I, guiding his religious policy as it developed, and tutor to his son.-Biography:...

 (c. 240–320) also said that Nero "first persecuted the servants of God". as does Sulpicius Severus
Sulpicius Severus
Sulpicius Severus was a Christian writer and native of Aquitania. He is known for his chronicle of sacred history, as well as his biography of Saint Martin of Tours.-Life:...

. However, Suetonius writes that, "since the Jews constantly made disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he [emperor Claudius
Claudius
Claudius , was Roman Emperor from 41 to 54. A member of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, he was the son of Drusus and Antonia Minor. He was born at Lugdunum in Gaul and was the first Roman Emperor to be born outside Italy...

] expelled them from Rome" ("Iudaeos impulsore Chresto assidue tumultuantis Roma expulit"). These expelled "Jews" may have been early Christians, although Suetonius is not explicit. Nor is the Bible explicit, calling Aquila of Pontus and his wife, Priscilla, both expelled from Italy at the time, "Jews."

Killer of Peter and Paul
The first text to suggest that Nero killed an apostle is the apocryphal Ascension of Isaiah
Ascension of Isaiah
The book Ascension of Isaiah is one of the Pseudepigrapha. Theories as to the date of its composition place it in a range from the late 1st century AD to the second half of the 2nd century AD...

, a Christian writing from the 2nd century. It says, the slayer of his mother, who himself this king, will persecute the plant which the Twelve Apostles of the Beloved have planted. Of the Twelve one will be delivered into his hands.

Bishop
Bishop
A bishop is an ordained or consecrated member of the Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox Churches, in the Assyrian Church of the East, in the Independent Catholic Churches, and in the...

 Eusebius of Caesarea (c. 275–339) was the first to write that Paul was beheaded in Rome during the reign of Nero. He states that Nero's persecution led to Peter and Paul's deaths, but that Nero did not give any specific orders. Several other accounts have Paul surviving his two years in Rome and traveling to Hispania
Hispania
Another theory holds that the name derives from Ezpanna, the Basque word for "border" or "edge", thus meaning the farthest area or place. Isidore of Sevilla considered Hispania derived from Hispalis....

.

Peter is first said to have been crucified upside-down
Cross of St. Peter
The Cross of St. Peter or Petrine Cross is an inverted Latin cross traditionally used as a Christian symbol, but in recent times also used widely as an anti-Christ symbol .-In Christianity:The origin of this symbol comes from the Catholic tradition that Simon Peter was crucified upside...

 in Rome during Nero's reign (but not by Nero) in the apocryphal Acts of Peter
Acts of Peter
The Acts of Peter is one of the earliest of the apocryphal Acts of the Apostles. The majority of the text has survived only in the Latin translation of the Vercelli manuscript. It is mainly notable for a description of a miracle contest between Saint Peter and Simon Magus, and as the first record...

 (c. 200). The account ends with Paul still alive and Nero abiding by God's command not to persecute any more Christians.

By the 4th century, a number of writers were stating that Nero killed Peter and Paul.

The Antichrist
The Ascension of Isaiah
Ascension of Isaiah
The book Ascension of Isaiah is one of the Pseudepigrapha. Theories as to the date of its composition place it in a range from the late 1st century AD to the second half of the 2nd century AD...

is the first text to suggest that Nero was the Antichrist . It claims that a lawless king, the slayer of his mother...will come and there will come with him all the powers of this world, and they will hearken unto him in all that he desires.

The Sibylline Oracles
Sibylline oracles
The Sibylline Oracles are a collection of oracular utterances written in Greek hexameters ascribed to the Sibyls, prophetesses who uttered divine revelations in a frenzied state. Fourteen books and eight fragments of Sibylline Oracles survive...

, Book 5 and 8, written in the 2nd century, speak of Nero returning and bringing destruction. Within Christian communities, these writings, along with others, fueled the belief that Nero would return as the Antichrist. In 310, Lactantius
Lactantius
Lucius Caecilius Firmianus Lactantius was an early Christian author who became an advisor to the first Christian Roman emperor, Constantine I, guiding his religious policy as it developed, and tutor to his son.-Biography:...

 wrote that Nero suddenly disappeared, and even the burial-place of that noxious wild beast was nowhere to be seen. This has led some persons of extravagant imagination to suppose that, having been conveyed to a distant region, he is still reserved alive; and to him they apply the Sibylline verses.

In 422, Augustine of Hippo
Augustine of Hippo
Augustine of Hippo , also known as Augustine, St. Augustine, St. Austin, St. Augoustinos, Blessed Augustine, or St. Augustine the Blessed, was Bishop of Hippo Regius . He was a Latin-speaking philosopher and theologian who lived in the Roman Africa Province...

 wrote about 2 Thessalonians 2:1–11, where he believed Paul mentioned the coming of the Antichrist. Though he rejects the theory, Augustine mentions that many Christians believed that Nero was the Antichrist or would return as the Antichrist. He wrote, so that in saying, "For the mystery of iniquity doth already work," he alluded to Nero, whose deeds already seemed to be as the deeds of Antichrist.

Some modern biblical scholars such as Delbert Hillers (Johns Hopkins University
Johns Hopkins University
The Johns Hopkins University, commonly referred to as Johns Hopkins, JHU, or simply Hopkins, is a private research university based in Baltimore, Maryland, United States...

) of the American Schools of Oriental Research
American Schools of Oriental Research
The American Schools of Oriental Research, founded in 1900, supports and encourages the study of the peoples and cultures of the Near East, from the earliest times to the present. It is apolitical and has no religious affiliation...

 and the editors of the Oxford & Harper Collins Study Bibles, contend that the number 666
Number of the Beast
The Number of the Beast is a term in the Book of Revelation, of the New Testament, that is associated with the first Beast of Revelation chapter 13, the Beast of the sea. In most manuscripts of the New Testament and in English translations of the Bible, the number of the Beast is...

 in the Book of Revelation
Book of Revelation
The Book of Revelation is the final book of the New Testament. The title came into usage from the first word of the book in Koine Greek: apokalupsis, meaning "unveiling" or "revelation"...

 is a code for Nero, a view that is also supported in Roman Catholic Biblical commentaries.

The concept of Nero as the Antichrist is often a central belief of Preterist
Preterism
Preterism is a Christian eschatological view that interprets prophecies of the Bible, especially Daniel and Revelation, as events which have already happened in the first century A.D. Preterism holds that Ancient Israel finds its continuation or fulfillment in the Christian church at the...

 eschatology
Eschatology
Eschatology is a part of theology, philosophy, and futurology concerned with what are believed to be the final events in history, or the ultimate destiny of humanity, commonly referred to as the end of the world or the World to Come...

.

Ancestry



External links