Everyone knows something about the Roman Empire, even if it is only the names of its most famous rulers, the Roman emperors. Of these, perhaps the most infamous is the emperor Nero, who has gone down in history as one of the cruelest and most capricious of rulers. This article, one of a series, will detail the family and reign of this famous Roman emperor.
According to the Roman-Empire.net, Nero was a member of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, a family that had produced four other emperors, including Nero’s uncle (and cousin) Claudius. His mother was Agrippina the Younger, a great-granddaughter of Augustus through his daughter Julia. Nero had a troubled relationship with almost all the members of his family, including his wives (one of whom he kicked to death when she was pregnant with his child) and his mother (who he attempted to have killed several times, including the use of a collapsing boat. He eventually hired assassins to kill her on the pretext that she was plotting against him). He was also responsible for murdering his adopted brother Brittanicus, the son of his adopted father Claudius.
According to the Biography Channel, although Nero was fairly popular with the people of Rome, his reign was plagued by various troubles, including a terrible fire that consumed a great deal of the city. Although Nero most likely did not fiddle while Rome burned (although he did consider himself something of an artist), he did nevertheless use the burning of significant parts of the city to implement some of his more ambitious building projects, which included a magnificent palace that was built over one of the former neighborhoods.
However, Nero is probably best known for his ruthless persecution of Christians, for which he has gained a bad reputation among Christians everywhere. After the great fire, he found in this obscure religious group the perfect scapegoat, and they soon came under his ire. He was well-known for using them as human torches for his gardens, among other tortures.
Downfall and Death
Nero’s reign, however, came to an abrupt end after a rebellion broke out. He was declared an enemy of the state by the Senate and attempted to flee the city. However, before he could set sail to the East (where he hoped to find support among the legions there), the soldiers sent by the Senate caught up with him. With the aid of his freedman he committed suicide. He is supposed to have said something along the lines of, “What and artist dies with me.”
With his death, the dynasty begun by Augustus came to an end, and the Roman Empire plunged into a year of chaos and civil war known as the Year of the Four Emperors.
In Popular Culture
Nero has been a fixture of popular culture for some time, including in the famous novel Claudius The God by Robert Graves, as well as the film Quo Vadis, where he was campily portrayed by the delightful actor Peter Ustinov. Nero’s name has come to be synonymous with decadence and cruelty, a reputation that is not entirely undeserved.
“Nero.” Biography Channel Online.