Unfortunately, this cost him his throne. “Many believe that Nero did not kill himself in June of 68,” he writes. Tacitus was also responsible for the tale that Nero started the great fire of Rome in A.D. 64, and that the emperor played his violin while the city burned, according to PBS. When he was in his late teens, he fell madly in love with a freed slave who worked in the palace, and was determined to marry her and make her his empress. Please deactivate your ad blocker in order to see our subscription offer. Stay up to date on the coronavirus outbreak by signing up to our newsletter today. Nero was mostly depicted as a despotic ruler who tortured Christians. Second, and the key to his character, he was also way out of his era in pursuing self-fulfillment as his highest goal. Nerva was made emperor by the killers … He was a romantic. He was certainly an artist but hardly a starving one. Nero was a Roman emperor who ruled from 54 to 68 AD. Based on accounts written during and after his reign, Nero (A.D. 37 to 68) has long been considered a power-mad despot whose leadership was defined by terrible acts of violence, such as poisoning a teenage rival, arranging his mother's assassination, setting a fire that destroyed much of Rome, executing Christians and even murdering his own wife. We can walk through it today and appreciate its genius. "We have this series of painted inscriptions that are welcoming the emperor and his wife and applauding him," Benefiel said. Nero was the fifth Roman emperor, ruling from 54 to 68. Everything he did was theatrical and operatic, whether it was actually performing on stage, or orchestrating creative murders such as the famous episode of the collapsing boat for his mother, or the poison to simulate an epileptic fit that carried off a rival. Certainly when it comes to historical revisionism, few could benefit more from a kinder, gentler second look than the Roman Emperor Nero — … Much of what is known about Nero stems from three ancient historians — Publius Cornelius Tacitus, Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus and Cassius Dio. He was blessed with boundless energy to attack all his interests with focused devotion. When ash blanketed Pompeii, it preserved writings on buildings in public spaces, some of which were singing Nero's praises, according to Benefiel. He was not afraid to be embarrassed or ridiculed, and he has been—for centuries. Sotter notes that Nero still had a considerable deal of popular support and one of these emperors, Otho, even renamed himself “Nero Otho” in his honor.Champlin writes that people also refused to believe that Nero was actually dead. Your stepfather gleefully divorced his wife, who was pregnant, too. They filled in his Golden House, pulled down his statues, filled in his lake and built the Colosseum on top of it. "One of these says, 'Hooray for the decisions of the emperor and the empress — with you two safe and sound, we are happy forever.' Most of the accounts we have of Nero are hostile; ancient writers loved to … "Nero did not have the military triumphs that previous leaders had," she said. Archaeologists Johann Csar and Ferdinand Hirschhofer examine scraps of Roman-era papyrus that describe the death of Nero's wife, Poppaea Sabina. Although he was emperor, he saw himself primarily as an artist, especially as a performer on the cithara, a lyre-like instrument fancied by Apollo and Orpheus. He hung out with the lower classes, preferring the company of charioteers and slaves to the aristocrats, who disdained him for it. After his father’s death, his mother married his great uncle, Claudius, and persuaded him to name Nero his successor. (Image: © Photographer Helmut Wimmer/Copyright Interspot Film GmbH). Indeed, he executed or murdered most of his close relatives. The short version is, he was either an incredibly spoiled brat or borderline insane. When he first became emperor at the age of sixteen, he was slim but as he put on weight he allowed himself to be portrayed on his coins as he really was, double chins and all. "If it had been up to him, he probably wouldn't have chosen to be emperor at all," Benefiel said. © He dropped long weighted lines down from a boat, hoping to feel a thump that would indicate the bottom. Nero was the adopted son of his grand-uncle Claudius. What's more, even though Roman historians wrote that Nero was widely reviled, archaeological evidence from the city of Pompeii suggests that Nero was unexpectedly popular among the common people, historian Rebecca Benefiel, a professor of classics at Washington and Lee University in Virginia, told Live Science. Third, he was an internationalist, not stuck on Rome as the ultimate model. Nero (Nerō Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus; 15 December 37 AD – 9 June 68 AD) was the fifth and last Roman Emperor of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. He tried to foist Greek culture on them—it didn’t take. Her husband/uncle, the emperor Claudius, died by poisoning soon after, making Nero, 16 or 17 at the time, the fifth emperor of Rome. That he holds this place fascinates me, and has others for centuries. And he had your father executed. Henceforth emperors would compete for the throne. So, we get this wonderful glimpse of the favor the emperor held with the general population," she said. Vespasian (r. 69-79 CE): He was a soldier-statesman who brought back stability after the turmoils following Nero's suicide and avoided the collapse of the empire. 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He also know that Britannicus actually had a better claim to being Emperor than he did. Nero was a bad emperor. Thank you for signing up to Live Science. Tacitus wrote that Nero added odorless, colorless poison to a jug of water, which was then used to cool a hot beverage; the poison was so powerful that Britannicus was dead within seconds. You fall in love? "Military processions brought revenue to the empire and celebrated the victories, power and prestige of Rome — with Nero, that wasn't happening as frequently.". They still preferred their gladiator bouts to Greek theater and the audiences would flee from the theater when the shows at the arena were announced. There was no evidence that Nero had anything to do with the fire, but the nobility's displeasure with his construction project likely made it easy for the rumor to spread, according to PBS. Visit our corporate site. Future US, Inc. 11 West 42nd Street, 15th Floor, [The Weird Reason Roman Emperors Were Assassinated]. It was not a bloodline. ", "While he was singing no one was allowed to leave the theatre even for the most urgent reasons," Suetonius wrote. However, a recent examination of historic records suggests that Nero was likely innocent of some of these heinous crimes, according to a new PBS documentary on the beleaguered emperor, "Secrets of the Dead: The Nero Files," airing today (Feb. 20) at 10 p.m. on PBS (check local listings). Nero, originally named Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus, belonged to the Julio-Claudian dynasty, and was adopted as heir by the emperor Claudius, his great-uncle and stepfather. Nero also slept with his mother. He eventually went on a year long artistic tour in Greece with his backup  groupies where the sound of applause rang sweetly in his ears. But no true artist balks at the price of art. He may have seen himself more as an artist than as emperor, but being emperor was what paid for his artistic projects—he was his own National Endowment for the Arts. Three ancient writers, Tacitus, Suetonius, … Two Sides to Every Story. Augustus forces you to marry his daug… Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment. Nero’s father died when at the … His infamous reign is usually associated with tyranny, extravagance and debauchery. There is a always a melancholy ring to being the last of a family, a culture, an era. Oh, young Tiberius! In the eyes of the Roman elite, Nero's construction project "would have been seen as very inappropriate," Eric Varner, an associate professor of art history at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, told PBS. Nero was appointed emperor in A.D. 54, when he was only 17 years old. Nero succeeded Claudius while not yet aged 17, and his mother, Agrippina, tried to dominate his early life and decisions, but Nero cast her off and had her killed five years into his reign. Neros father Domiti… "And so it is said that some women gave birth to children there, while many who were worn out with listening and applauding, secretly leaped from the wall, since the gates at the entrance were closed, or feigned death and were carried out as if for burial.". As for Nero's leadership, Suetonius wrote that the emperor was a spendthrift who "wasted money without stint," and whose armies deserted him after he failed to quash a rebellion by the Gauls. Nero was the last of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, which had ruled Rome since the first emperor, Augustus. Finally, he was the last true Caesar—that is, a member of the dynasty founded by Julius Caesar. However, Agrippina was the one pulling the strings. Nero is commonly regarded to be one of the worst emperors … Imagine yourself as nine-year-old Tiberius. It is not surprising that the rumor of his singing of the Fall of Troy while watching Rome burn started—although it wasn’t true, the backdrop of the fire would have been perfect for his theme. He became emperor on … Then he became emperor at 16 years old, which he wasn’t equipped to … If only your troubles ended there. Even though elite Romans may have despised Nero, the common people celebrated him, according to hand-drawn inscriptions discovered in the city of Pompeii. It is still impenetrable today by either land or water. For the first five years of his reign, he was actually known for his political savvy and generosity. He could not stay an observer for long, but was driven to be a participant, needed to be a participant, never an armchair critic. But remember, this was personal and had nothing to do with his ability as an emperor. There was a legend that he would return as the Antichrist one day and he was not dead. So strong was his identity as an artist that he sealed it with his famous last words, , “What an artist the world is losing!” thus officially registering himself that way for all of history. His Domus Aurea—the Golden House—built in the aftermath of the Great Fire of Rome in A.D. 64—was a visionary project that used light as an architectural element long before Frank Lloyd Wright thought of it. Nero’s place was taken by Galba who was to be the first emperor to head the Empire in the so-called Year of the Four Emperors. Your email address will not be published. After Nero's death, the Roman Empire plunged into chaos as a succession of short-lived emperors tried to gain control of the empire. Too bad! Nero tried and succeeded in poisoning the rightful heir to Emperor, Claudius’ son Britannicus The new Emperor feared that the plebeians would come to like Britannicus, the legitimate son of Claudius, better than they liked him. If the aristocrats didn’t completely blacken his name, the succeeding Flavian dynasty finished the job. According to ancient texts, Nero killed his own mother. When Neros father was congratulated on having a son, he reportedly said that nothing produced by me and Agrippina could possibly be good for the state or the people. He had a busy posthumous career after his death, with no fewer than three Nero impersonators popping up in various places around the Mediterranean, and numerous other ‘sightings’ (again like Elvis) before the Book of Revelation transformed him in to the diabolical Beast whose number was 666 (the letters of his name adding up to this in Hebrew), and from there he morphed into the Antichrist for early Christians. It didn’t happen. He is instantly recognizable on his coins two thousand years later, out of the welter of cookie-cutter emperors on other coins. There was a problem. After a failed plot by Agrippina to murder Caligula, she was exiled by her brother in 39 AD. Some of those incidents probably did happen. … He didn’t fiddle while Rome burned (in fact he was active in fire fighting and relief efforts), he wasn’t insane (just peculiar), he wasn’t a tyrant, and his reign was a stable and prosperous one for the empire. Perhaps everyone would have been happier — Nero included — if only he'd stayed away from politics and devoted himself entirely to the arts, Benefiel said. He was surprisingly modern in many ways:  first, in that he was unmilitary,  preferring diplomatic to military solutions, shocking for an emperor, especially one whose grandfather was the glorious Germanicus, and whose great grandfather was Marc Antony. He supported the under classes and even the slaves (several complotts against him were averted because thankful slaves always told him in advance), and that was not something the upper class liked. Nero’s father was violent and died when his son was only three years old. So it loomed over the structure for centuries. He got what he wanted, but not in the way he wanted. The ancient city was buried by an erupting Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79, and Nero ruled until 10 years before that, Benefiel said. He grew his hair long, grew a beard, and ditched togas for flowered tunics, receiving senators barefoot. Nero was also a good emperor because the new Rome that he built was, first of all, much more immune and resistant to fire, second of all there were lots of gardens where Romans could go to for recreation, and last of all, he placed lots of beautiful decorations, sculptures etc. But filmed experiments showed that popular plant-based poisons of the day need to be very highly concentrated to kill as quickly as Nero's poison supposedly did. Nero was emperor of Rome from 54 to 68 . [Family Ties: 8 Truly Dysfunctional Royal Families]. Nero was born with name Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus in 37 AD, but renamed as Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus because his mother, Agrippina the Younger, married Emperor Claudius in 49 AD, who adopted Nero in 50 AD. The third of Rome’s emperors, Caligula (formally known as Gaius) achieved feats of waste and carnage during his four-year reign (A.D. 37-41) unmatched even by his infamous nephew Nero. Nero was born Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus in 37 CE but renamed Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus when his mother, Agrippina, married Emperor Claudius in 49 CE. Born as the son of Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus and Agrippina the Younger, he lost his father at an early age. He may have been the first hippie, a prototype. Nero was not a good emperor, and he did do some pretty vile and outrageous things, but he wasn’t “crazy”. However, it is his personality that fascinates and endures. His most visible achievement today is the Colosseum (which was completed by his son Titus). Nero murdered his mother, and Nero fiddled while Rome burned. She thought she could control Nero and be the true ruler in Rome, but when she fell out of favor she started supporting Britannicus’ claim to the throne. Likewise he was honest about his looks. Nero (in full Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus) was a Roman emperor who lived during the 1 st century AD. Nero was hated by the aristocracy. The emperor Nero, who reigned from A.D. 54—68, has been called “the first mass market pop star” and “the Elvis of the ancient world.” Who could not want to know such a character better? Agrippina the Younger was the daughter of Agrippina the Elder and the great-granddaughter of Emperor Augustus. Suetonius described Nero as overly preoccupied with singing, once summoning more than 5,000 young men to applaud him while he performed, according to a University of Chicago translation of Suetonius' "The Lives of the Twelve Caesars. The historian Suetonius said that his ‘craving for immortal fame’ was his leading trait and his tragedy. By all accounts, he was more interested in the arts than he was in governing; this preoccupation didn't exactly endear him to the powerful Roman Senate, Benefiel said. Yes! However, a re-enactment for the documentary revealed significant flaws in Tacitus' account of the politically motivated poisoning. He was the fifth and last emperor of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, which had been founded by Augustus. Was the infamously cruel Nero really as terrible an emperor as Roman historians have suggested? It showcased his talent that went hand in hand with his over-the-top extravagance. Some believe Nero’s fate was inevitable. But his early promise gave way to wild extravagance and murder. Nero Reconsidered V Ve all know about Nero. He once deliberately ran over a young boy with his chariot as he drove through a local village. His father had died when he was very young, and he really didn’t have very good guidance. But their writings may have been biased against Nero, and it's possible that they exaggerated or invented misdeeds to make a bad emperor look even worse, PBS representatives said in a statement. Required fields are marked *. Sensitive and handsome, Nero (37 – 68 AD / reigned 54 – 68 AD) started out well as emperor. Convinced that Nero had become a self-aggrandising liability, they decided he must go. The five Roman emperors, Nerva (96–98 CE), Trajan (98–117), Hadrian (117–138), Antoninus Pius (138–161), and Marcus Aurelius (161–180), who ruled over the most majestic days of the empire. He grossly misrepresented and slandered by Roman witters because they were aristocrats. He also tried to ascertain whether the legendary Alcyon Lake in Greece, purportedly bottomless, really was. AD Agrippina attempted to … He was bad because he killed his half brother, mother, and his wife. He dispatched an expedition to discover the source of the Nile; they got as far south as the great Sudd in South Sudan, a vast impenetrable swamp on the White Nile branch that is 200 miles wide and 250 miles long, a thousand miles from the mouth of the Nile. Nero The Entertainer. The fire blazed for six days and destroyed two-thirds of the city, enabling Nero to build a new complex of palaces over the burned ruins — many of Rome's aristocrats believed that Nero set the fire to advance his building plans without the senate's permission, PBS reported. Your email address will not be published. Please refresh the page and try again. All of the historical sources refer to Nero’s passion for a number of artistic … [The 7 Most Mysterious Archaeological Finds on Earth]. Suetonius, the biographer of Nero, reports that the emperor was merely thought to have desired his mother, ... helped to define the expectations of a good emperor in the minds of the readers. His father, Gnaeus Domitius, who died when Nero was three, was extremely violent in his own right -- described by his contemporaries as “a despicable character”. The image of a crazed and capricious Emperor Nero is immortalised in popular culture: from fiddling while Rome burns to having a sexual relationship with his mother. For example, a young Nero was said to have murdered his 13-year-old step-brother Britannicus by slipping poison into his drink, according to Tacitus. He was born Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus. It did not work, but they remained close all their lives and in the end she was the one who gave him his funeral rites. His vanity was for his projects and not his person. New York, He had good relations with the Senate and granted the rank of senator to many legionary commanders from the provinces. Your father was forced to divorce your pregnant mother, marrying your stepfather instead. The last emperor of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, he was notorious as a brutal, tyrannical, and ineffective leader. And also there are some people and experts of historical events that are saying that Nero uses the fire to clear space for palace expansion which is such a drastically bad thing to hear from any Roman emperor as per the reputation of the famous emperor actually quite good comparatively. The emperor Nero, who reigned from A.D. 54—68, has been called “the first mass market pop star” and “the Elvis of the ancient world.”  Who could not want to know such a character better? That is why he has been so hated. Nero married and executed one stepsister, executed his other stepsister, raped and murdered his stepbrother. Mysterious Archaeological Finds on Earth ] please deactivate your AD blocker in order to see our subscription offer or. Domitius Ahenobarbus and Agrippina the Younger, he was blessed with boundless energy to attack his... 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