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Unpopular Ancient Roman Emperor – Nero Part 1
Posted In: Ancient Civilizations  8/30/12
By: Yona Williams

Nero was interested in indulging in all of the wealth and luxury that came with being an emperor, but he didn’t care at all for the people he was supposed to be leading. While some believe that it was an incorrect rumor, Nero supposedly "fiddled while Rome burned." In this article, you will learn more about the man that is known as one of the worst emperors of Rome.

Nero (also known as Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus) became emperor of Rome in 54 and ruled over the land until 68. He would mark the last leaders of the Julio-Claudian dynasty.  Claudius (Nero's great uncle) adopted the boy and looked forward to becoming his heir and successor. When Claudius died, Nero took over the throne. Nero was 17 years old when he assumed his position over Rome. At that time, this made him the youngest emperor in history. Ancient historians often write that his early reign (especially during the first year) was greatly influenced by his mother, Agrippina, his tutor Lucius Annaeus Seneca, and the Praetorian Prefect Sextus Afranius Burrus.

During his reign, Nero concentrated on diplomacy, trade, as well as uplifting the cultural life of the Empire. He is responsible for ordering the construction of theaters and encouraged participation in athletic games. A successful war took place while under his reign and peace was negotiated with the Parthian Empire.

However, there are other tales about Nero that stand out, such as being an early persecutor of Christians. There are few surviving texts that highlight the good of Nero.

For starters, Nero found it difficult to trust anyone, including close family members such as his mother, Agrippina. He actually tried to have her killed by sinking her ship, but she lived through the ordeal. He then ordered her execution. It was not uncommon to see Nero execute people who were close to him. He made sure that deaths came under mysterious circumstances because he still feared the Praetorian Guard.

He would go out to whorehouses and did not disguise himself like other Roman emperors. While Nero ruled for 15 years, he was accused of treason at the start of 62 AD, but this did not stop him. He had the accusers executed, which amounted to several dozen.

When the Great Fire of Rome took place in 64 AD, legends started that he fiddled while Rome burned, but he was actually away in Antium and returned to Rome to try and have the fire put out. He even paid for the expenses out of his own pocket, but his reputation for being cruel and uncaring surpassed this gesture. The survivors were treated well – Nero allowed them to stay in the palace until their home were rebuilt. The fire destroyed most of the city center and Nero had a large portion of this destruction rebuilt as his Domus Aurea – a gift to himself that included a garden complex that stretched between 100 and 300 acres. To add insult to injury, the citizens were heavily taxed throughout the empire to help fund this venture.


 

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