NERO (/ˈnɪəroʊ/ ;
Latin : _Nerō
Claudius Caesar Augustus
Germanicus_) (15 December 37 AD – 9 June 68 AD) was the last
emperor of the
Julio-Claudian dynasty . He was adopted by his
Claudius and became Claudius' heir and successor. Like
Nero became emperor with the consent of the Praetorian Guard
. Nero's mother,
Agrippina the Younger , was implicated in Claudius'
death and Nero's nomination as emperor. She dominated Nero's early
life and decisions until he cast her off; five years into his reign,
he had her murdered.
During the early years of his reign,
Nero was content to be guided by
his mother, his tutor Lucius Annaeus Seneca and his Praetorian prefect
Sextus Afranius Burrus . As time passed, he started to play a more
active and independent role in government and foreign policy. During
his reign, the redoubtable general
Corbulo conducted a successful war
and negotiated peace with the
Parthian Empire . His general Suetonius
Paulinus crushed a major revolt in Britain, led by the
Boudica . The
Bosporan Kingdom was briefly annexed to the empire, and
First Jewish–Roman War began.
Nero focused much of his
attention on diplomacy, trade and the cultural life of the empire,
ordering theatres built and promoting athletic games. He made public
appearances as a poet, musician and charioteer; in the eyes of
traditionalists, this undermined the dignity and authority of his
person, status and office. His extravagant, empire-wide program of
public and private works was funded by a rise in taxes that was much
resented by the middle and upper classes. Various plots against his
life were revealed; the ringleaders, most of them Nero's own
courtiers, were executed.
In 68 AD
Vindex , governor of the Gaulish territory Gallia
Lugdunensis , rebelled. He was supported by
Galba , the governor of
Hispania Tarraconensis . Vindex's revolt failed in its immediate aim
Rome when Rome's discontented civil and military
Galba as emperor. He committed suicide on June 9, 68
A.D., when he learned that he had been tried _in absentia_ and
condemned to death as a public enemy, making him the first Roman
Emperor to commit suicide. His death ended the Julio-Claudian
dynasty, sparking a brief period of civil wars known as the Year of
the Four Emperors .
Nero's rule is usually associated with tyranny and extravagance; his
more infamous executions include that of his mother. Most Roman
sources, such as
Cassius Dio , offer overwhelmingly
negative assessments of his personality and reign;
Tacitus claims that
the Roman people thought him compulsive and corrupt. Many Romans
believed that the Great Fire of
Rome was instigated by
Nero to clear
the way for his planned palatial complex, the
Domus Aurea . He was
said to have seized Christians as scapegoats for the fire and burned
them alive, seemingly motivated not by public justice but by personal
cruelty. Some modern historians question the reliability of the
ancient sources on Nero's tyrannical acts. A few sources paint Nero
in a more favourable light. There is evidence of his popularity among
the Roman commoners, especially in the eastern provinces of the
Empire, where a popular legend arose that
Nero had not died and would
return. At least three leaders of short-lived, failed rebellions
presented themselves as "
Nero reborn" , to enlist popular support.
* 1 Early life
* 2 Nero\'s Reign (54 AD–68 AD)
* 2.1 Early reign
* 2.2 Matricide
* 2.3 Decline
* 2.4 Great Fire of
* 2.5 Later years
* 2.6 The revolt of
Galba and the death of
* 2.7 Post mortem
* 3 Military Conflicts
* 3.1 Boudicca\'s Uprising
* 3.2 Peace with
* 3.3 The First Jewish War
* 4 Pursuits
* 5 Historiography
Nero in Jewish and Christian tradition
* 6.1 Jewish tradition
* 6.2 Christian tradition
* 6.2.1 Martyrdoms of Peter and Paul
* 6.2.2 The
* 7 Numismatics Gallery
* 8 Ancestry
* 9 See also
* 10 Notes
* 11 References
* 12 Bibliography
* 13 External links
LUCIUS DOMITIUS AHENOBARBUS, Nero, was born on 15 December 37 AD in
Antium . :87 He was the only son of Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus and
Agrippina the Younger . His maternal grandparents were
Agrippina the Elder . His mother was
Caligula 's sister. :5 He was
Augustus ' great great grandson, descended from the first Emperor's
only daughter Julia . :2
The ancient biographer
Suetonius was critical of Nero's ancestors. He
Augustus had reproached Nero's grandfather for his unseemly
enjoyment of violent gladiator games. Nero's father was said to be
"irascible and brutal". According to Jürgen Malitz ,
that both "enjoyed chariot races and theater performances to a degree
not befitting their position." :3
Nero's father, Domitius, died in 40 AD. A few years before his death,
Domitius had been involved in a political scandal that, according to
Malitz, "could have cost him his life if
Tiberius had not died in the
year 37." :3 In the previous year, 39 AD, Nero's mother, Agrippina had
been caught up in a scandal of her own. Caligula's beloved sister
Drusilla had recently died and
Caligula began to feel threatened by
Marcus Aemilius Lepidus . Agrippina was suspected
of adultery with her brother-in-law and was forced to carry the
funerary urn after Lepidus' execution.
Caligula then banished his two
surviving sisters, Agrippina and
Julia Livilla , to a remote island in
the Mediterranean. :4 According to _The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient
Greece and Rome_, Agrippina was exiled for plotting to overthrow
Caligula. Nero's inheritance was taken from him and he was sent to
live with his paternal aunt
Domitia Lepida , who was the mother of
Claudius ' third wife
Valeria Messalina . :11
Caligula's short reign lasted from 37 AD until 41 AD. :11. He died
from multiple stab wounds in January of 41 AD after being ambushed by
Praetorian Guard on the
Caligula as Emperor. Agrippina married
Claudius in 49 AD and became
his fourth wife. By February 49 AD, she had persuaded
adopt her son Nero. After Nero's adoption, "Claudius" became part of
Claudius Caesar Drusus Germanicus.
Claudius had gold
coins issued to mark the adoption. :119 Classics professor Josiah
Osgood has written that "the coins, through their distribution and
imagery alike, showed that a new Leader was in the making." :231 David
Shotter noted that, despite events in Rome, Nero's step-brother
Brittanicus was more prominent in provincial coinages during the early
Nero officially formally entered public life as an adult in 51
AD—he was around 14 years old. :51 When he turned 16
Claudius' daughter (and his step-sister),
Claudia Octavia . Between
the years 51 AD and 53 AD he gave several speeches on behalf of
various communities including the Ilians; the Apameans, requesting a
five-year tax reprieve after an earthquake; and the northern colony of
Bologna , after their settlement suffered a devastating fire. :231
Claudius died in 54 AD; many ancient historians claim that he was
poisoned by Agrippina . Shotter has written that "Claudius' death in
54 AD has usually been regarded as an event hastened by Agrippina
because of signs that
Claudius was showing a renewed affection for his
natural son," but he notes that among ancient sources
uniquely reserved in describing the poisoning as a rumor. :53
Contemporary sources differ in their accounts.
Tacitus says that
Locusta prepared the poison, which was served to the Emperor by his
Tacitus also writes that Agrippina arranged for
Claudius' doctor Xenophon to administer poison, in the event that the
Emperor survived. :53
Suetonius differs in some details, but also
Halotus and Agrippina. Like Tacitus,
Cassius Dio writes
that the poison was prepared by Locusta, but in Dio's account it is
administered by Agrippina instead of Halotus. In
Seneca the Younger does not mention mushrooms at all. :54 Agrippina's
involvement in Claudius' death is not accepted by all modern scholars.
Before Claudius' death, Agrippina had maneuvered to remove
Britannicus' tutors and replace them with tutors she had selected. She
was also able to convince
Claudius to replace two prefects of the
Praetorian guard who were suspected of supporting
Brittanicus with a
Burrus . :13 Since Agrippina had replaced the guard
officers with men loyal to her,
Nero was able to assume power without
NERO\'S REIGN (54 AD–68 AD)
Most of what we know about Nero's reign comes from three ancient
Tacitus , Suetonius, and Greek historian
Cassius Dio . :37
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
Nero as a boy
Nero was sixteen years old when he became emperor in 54 AD. This made
him the youngest emperor until
Commodus , who became emperor aged 15
in 177. The first five years of Nero's reign were described as
_Quinquennium Neronis_ by
Trajan ; the interpretation of the phrase is
a matter of dispute amongst scholars. :17
Nero's tutor, Seneca, prepared Nero's first speech before the Senate.
During this speech,
Nero spoke about "eliminating the ills of the
previous regime." :16.
H.H. Scullard writes that "he promised to
follow the Augustan model in his principate, to end all secret trials
_intra cubiculum_, to have done with the corruption of court favorites
and freedman, and above all to respect the privileges of the Senate
and individual Senators." :257 His respect of the Senatorial autonomy,
which distinguished him from
Caligula and Claudius, was generally
well-received by the
Roman Senate . :18
Scullard writes that Nero's mother, Agrippina "meant to rule through
her son." :257 Agrippina murdered her political rivals: Domitia
Lepida, the aunt that
Nero had lived with during Agrippina's exile; M.
Iunius Silanus, a great grandson of Augustus; and Narcissus . :257 One
of the earliest coins that
Nero issues during his reign shows
Agrippina on the coin's obverse side; usually, this would be reserved
for a portrait of the emperor. The Senate also allowed Agrippina two
lictors during public appearances, an honor that was customarily only
bestowed upon magistrates and the
Vestalis Maxima . :16 In AD 55, Nero
removed Agrippina's ally Marcus Antonius Pallas from his position in
the treasury. Shotter writes the following about Agrippina's
deteriorating relationship with Nero: "What Seneca and
saw as relatively harmless in Nero—his cultural pursuits and his
affair with the slave girl Acte—were to her signs of her son's
dangerous emancipation of himself from her influence." :12 Britannicus
was poisoned after Agrippina threatened to side with him. :12 Nero,
who was having an affair with Acte, exiled Agrippina from the palace
when she began to cultivate a relationship with his wife Octavia. :257
Jürgen Malitz writes that ancient sources do not provide any clear
evidence to evaluate the extent of Nero's personal involvement in
politics during the first years of his reign. He describes the
policies that are explicitly attributed to
Nero as "well-meant but
incompetent notions" like Nero's failed initiative to abolish taxes in
58 AD. Scholars generally credit Nero's advisors
Burrus and Seneca
with the administrative successes of these years. Malitz writes that
in later years,
Nero panicked when he had to make decisions on his own
during times of crisis. :19
_The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece and Rome_ cautiously notes
that Nero's reasons for killing his mother in 59 AD are "not fully
understood." According to
Tacitus , the source of conflict between
Nero and his mother was Nero's affair with
Poppaea Sabina . In
Tacitus writes that the affair began while Poppaea was
still married to
Rufrius Crispinus , but in his later work _Annals _
Tacitus says Poppaea was married to
Otho when the affair began. :214
Tacitus writes that Agrippina opposed Nero's affair with
Poppaea because of her affection for his wife Octavia . Anthony
Barrett writes that Tacitus' account in _Annals_ "suggests that
Poppaea's challenge drove over the brink." :215 A number of modern
historians have noted that Agrippina's death would not have offered
much advantage for Poppaea, as
Nero did not marry Poppaea until 62 AD.
:215 Barrett writes that Poppaea seems to serve as a "literary
device, utilized because could see no plausible explanation for
Nero's conduct and also incidentally to show that Nero, like
Claudius, had fallen under the malign influence of a woman." :215
Nero had his former freedman Anicetus arrange
a shipwreck; Agrippina survived the wreck and swam ashore and was
executed by Anicetus, who reported her death as a suicide.
Modern scholars believe that Nero's reign had been going well in the
years before Agrippina's death. After Agrippina's exile,
Seneca were responsible for the administration of the Empire. :258
However, Nero's "conduct became far more egregious" after his mother's
death. :22 Miriam T. Griffins suggests that Nero's decline began as
early as 55 AD with the murder of his stepbrother Britannicus, but
also notes that "
Nero lost all sense of right and wrong and listened
to flattery with total credulity" after Agrippina's death. :84 Griffin
points out that
Tacitus "makes explicit the significance of
Agrippina's removal for Nero's conduct". :84
In 62 AD, Nero's adviser
Burrus died. That same year
Nero called for
the first treason trial of his reign (_maiestas_ trial) against
Antistius Sosianus . :53 He also executed his rivals Cornelius Sulla
Rubellius Plautus . Jurgen Malitz considers this to be a turning
point in Nero's relationship with the
Roman Senate . Malitz writes
Nero abandoned the restraint he had previously shown because he
believed a course supporting the Senate promised to be less and less
After Burrus' death
Nero appointed two new Praetorian Prefects
Faenius Rufus and
Ofonius Tigellinus . Politically isolated, Seneca
was forced to retire. :26 According to Tacitus,
Nero divorced Octavia
on grounds of infertility, and banished her. :99 After public
protests over Octavia's exile,
Nero accused her of adultery with
Anicetus and she was executed. :99
In 64 AD
Nero married Pythagoras , a freedman .
Miriam T. Griffin has
described this as "the first example of open sexual depravity." :164
GREAT FIRE OF ROME
Main article: Great Fire of
The Great Fire of
Rome erupted on the night of 18 July to 19 July 64.
The fire started on the slope of the Aventine overlooking the Circus
Maximus . _ The Fire of Rome_ by
Hubert Robert (1785)
Tacitus, the main ancient source for information about the fire,
wrote that countless mansions, residences and temples were destroyed.
Cassius Dio have both written of extensive damage to the
Palatine, which has been supported by subsequent archaeological
excavations. The fire is reported to have burned for over a week.
:260 It destroyed three of fourteen Roman districts and severely
damaged seven more. :260
Tacitus wrote that some ancient accounts described the fire as an
accident, while others had claimed that it was a plot of Nero's.
Tacitus is the only surviving source which does not blame
starting the fire; he says he is "unsure."
Pliny the Elder , Suetonius
Cassius Dio all wrote that
Nero was responsible for the fire.
These accounts give several reasons for Nero's alleged arson like
Nero's envy of
King Priam and a dislike for the city's ancient
Suetonius wrote that
Nero started the fire because he
wanted the space to build his
Golden House . The Golden House, also
called the _Domus Aurea_ included lush artificial landscapes and a
30-meter-tall statue of himself, the
Colossus of Nero . The size of
this complex is debated (from 100 to 300 acres).
Tacitus wrote that
Nero accused Christians of starting the fire to
remove suspicion from himself. According to this account, many
Christians were arrested and brutally executed by "being thrown to the
beasts, crucified, and being burned alive".
Cassius Dio alleged that
Nero sang the "
Sack of Ilium "
in stage costume while the city burned. The popular legend that Nero
played the fiddle while
Rome burned "is at least partly a literary
construct of Flavian propagandawhich looked askance on the abortive
Neronian attempt to rewrite Augustan models of rule." :2
According to Tacitus,
Nero was in
Antium during the fire. 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
built 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
Domus Aurea in an area cleared by the fire. To find the necessary
funds for the reconstruction, tributes were imposed on the provinces
of the empire. The cost to rebuild
Rome was immense, requiring funds
the state treasury did not have.
Nero devalued the
Roman currency for
the first time in the Empire's history. He reduced the weight of the
denarius 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 from 40 per
Roman pound to 45 (8 grams to 7.2
In 65 AD,
Gaius Calpurnius Piso , a Roman statesman, organized a
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 . The freedman Milichus discovered
the conspiracy and reported it to Nero's secretary,
Epaphroditos . As
a result, the conspiracy failed and its members were executed
Lucan , the poet. Nero's previous advisor Seneca was
accused by Natalis; he denied the charges but was still ordered to
commit suicide as by this point he had fallen out of favor with Nero.
Nero was said to have kicked Poppaea to death in 65 AD, before she
could have his second child. Modern historians, noting the probable
biases of Suetonius, Tacitus, and Cassius Dio, and the likely absence
of eyewitnesses to such an event, propose that Poppaea may have died
after miscarriage or in childbirth.
Nero went into deep mourning;
Poppaea was given a sumptuous state funeral , divine honors , and was
promised a temple for her cult. A year's importation of incense was
burned at the funeral. Her body was not cremated, as would have been
strictly customary, but embalmed after the Egyptian manner and
entombed; it is not known where.
THE REVOLT OF VINDEX AND GALBA AND THE DEATH OF NERO
A marble bust of Nero, Antiquarium of the
In March 68, Gaius
Vindex , the governor of Gallia Lugdunensis
, rebelled against Nero's tax policies. Lucius Verginius Rufus , the
Germania Superior , was ordered to put down Vindex's
rebellion. In an attempt to gain support from outside his own
Vindex called upon Servius Sulpicius
Galba , the governor of
Hispania Tarraconensis , 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 him.
Nero had retained some control of the situation, support for
Galba increased despite his being officially declared a public enemy
('hostis publicus' ). The prefect of the
Praetorian Guard , Gaius
Nymphidius Sabinus , also abandoned his allegiance to the Emperor and
came out in support for Galba.
Rome with the intention of going to the port
of Ostia and, from there, to take a fleet to one of the still-loyal
eastern provinces. According to Suetonius,
Nero abandoned the idea
when some army officers openly refused to obey his commands,
responding with a line from
Vergil 's _
Aeneid _: "Is it so dreadful a
thing then to die?"
Nero then toyed with the idea of fleeing to
Parthia , 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
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
Nero sought for some place where he could hide and collect
his thoughts. An imperial freedman, Phaon , offered his villa, located
4 miles outside the city. Travelling in disguise,
Nero and four loyal
Epaphroditos , Phaon , Neophytus , and
Sporus , reached the
Nero ordered them to dig a grave for him.
At this time, a courier arrived with a report that the Senate had
Nero a public enemy and that it was their intention to
execute him by beating him to death and that armed men had been sent
to apprehend him for the act to take place in the Forum. The Senate
actually was still reluctant and deliberating on the right course of
Nero was the last member of the Julio-Claudian Family.
Indeed, most of the senators had served the imperial family all their
lives and felt a sense of loyalty to the deified bloodline, if not to
Nero himself. The men actually had the goal of returning
Nero back to
the Senate, where the Senate hoped to work out a compromise with the
rebelling governors that would preserve Nero's life, so that at least
a future heir to the dynasty could be produced.
Nero, however, did not know this, and at the news brought by the
courier, he prepared himself for suicide , pacing up and down
muttering _Qualis artifex pereo_ ("What an artist dies in me").
Losing his nerve, he begged one of his companions to set an example by
killing himself first. At last, the sound of approaching horsemen
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 , to perform the task.
When one of the horsemen entered and saw that
Nero was dying, he
attempted to stop the bleeding, but efforts to save Nero's life were
unsuccessful. Nero's final words were "Too late! This is fidelity!" He
died on 9 June 68, the anniversary of the death of Octavia, and was
buried in the Mausoleum of the Domitii Ahenobarbi, in what is now the
Villa Borghese (
Pincian Hill ) area of Rome.
With his death, the
Julio-Claudian dynasty ended. :19 When news of
his death reached Rome, the Senate posthumously declared
Nero a public
enemy to appease the coming
Galba (as the Senate had initially
Galba as a public enemy) and proclaimed
Galba the new
emperor. Chaos would ensue in the year of the Four Emperors .
Nero Redivivus legend and
Nero, c. after 68. Artwork portraying
Nero rising to divine status
after his death.
Suetonius and Cassius Dio, the people of
the death of Nero. Tacitus, though, describes a more complicated
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 had been bribed to
Eastern sources, namely
Philostratus II and
Apollonius of Tyana ,
mention that Nero's death was mourned as he "restored the liberties of
Hellas 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
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
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 ). 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 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
those before him could.
Galba began his short reign with the
execution of many of Nero's allies. One such notable enemy included
Nymphidius Sabinus , who claimed to be the son of Emperor
Otho 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
Otho used "Nero" as a surname and reerected many statues to
Vitellius 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 .
The legend of Nero's return lasted for hundreds of years after Nero's
Augustine of Hippo wrote of the legend as a popular belief in
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 (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 , there was a third
pretender. He was supported by the Parthians, who only reluctantly
gave him up, and the matter almost came to war.
In 59 AD
Boudicca 's husband,
Prasutagus , died. Prasutagus, leader
Iceni , had been a client king of Rome's during Claudius'
reign, but this arrangement was unlikely to survive the death of the
former Emperor. When
Catus Decianus scourged
Boudicca and raped her
Iceni revolted. They were joined by the Trinovantes
tribe, and Boudicca\'s uprising became the most significant provincial
rebellion of the 1st century AD. :32 :254
Julius Classicianus replaced
Decianus as procurator . Classicianus advised
Nero to replace the
Suetonius Paulinus , who continued to punish the population
even after the rebellion was over. :265
Nero decided to adopt a more
lenient approach to governing the province, and appointed a new
Petronius Turpilianus . :33
PEACE WITH PARTHIA
For more details on this topic, see
Roman–Parthian War of 58–63 .
Nero began preparing for war in the early years of his reign, after
the Parthian king Vologeses set his brother Tiridates on the Armenian
throne. Around 57 AD and 58 AD Domitius
Corbulo and his legions
advanced on Tiridates and captured the Armenian capital
Tigranes was chosen to replace Tiridates on the Armenian throne. When
Nero had to send further legions to
defend Armenia and Syria from Parthia. After
Rome lost Rhandeia to the
Corbulo reached an agreement with the Parthians:
recognize Tiridates as king of Armenia, only if he agreed to receive
his diadem from Nero. A coronation ceremony was held in Italy 66 AD.
Dio reports that Tiridates said "I have come to you, my God,
worshiping you as
Mithras ." Shotter says this parallels other divine
designations that were commonly applied to
Nero in the East including
Apollo " and "The New Sun." After the coronation, friendly
relations were established between
Rome and the eastern kingdoms of
Parthia and Armenia.
Artaxata was temporarily renamed Neroneia.
THE FIRST JEWISH WAR
First Jewish-Roman War
First Jewish-Roman War
In 66, there was a Jewish revolt in Judea stemming from Greek and
Jewish religious tension. In 67,
Vespasian 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
destroying the Second
Temple of Jerusalem .
Nero studied poetry, music, painting and sculpture. He both sang and
played the _cithara _ (a type of lyre ). Many of these disciplines
were standard education for the Roman elite, but Nero's devotion to
music exceeded what was socially acceptable for a Roman of his class.
:41-2 Ancient sources were critical of Nero's emphasis on the arts,
chariot-racing and athletics. Pliny described
Nero as an
"actor-emperor" (_scaenici imperatoris_) and
Suetonius wrote that he
was "carried away by a craze for popularity...since he was acclaimed
as the equal of
Apollo in music and of the Sun in driving a chariot,
he had planned to emulate the exploits of Hercules as well." :53
In 66 AD
Nero participated in the Olympics. The games had been
postponed for a year so
Nero could participate, and artistic
competitions were added to the athletic events.
Nero won every contest
in which he was a competitor. During the games
Nero sang and played
his lyre on stage, acted in tragedies and raced chariots. Champlin
writes that though Nero's participation "effectively stifled true
competition, seems to have been oblivious of reality." :54-5
Nero established the Neronian games in 60 AD. Modeled on Greek style
games, these games included "music" "gymnastic" and "questrian"
contents. According to
Suetonius the gymnastic contests were held in
the Saepta area of the
Campus Martius . :288
Josephus (c. 37–100) accused other historians of
The history of Nero's reign is problematic in that no historical
sources survived that were contemporary with Nero. These first
histories, while they still existed, 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 ,
Cluvius Rufus and
Pliny the Elder all
wrote condemning histories on
Nero that are now lost. There were also
Nero histories, but it is unknown who wrote them or for what deeds
Nero was praised.
The bulk of what is known of
Nero comes from
Cassius Dio , who were all of the senatorial class.
Suetonius wrote their histories on
Nero over fifty years after his
Cassius Dio wrote his history over 150 years after Nero's
death. These sources contradict one another on a number of events in
Nero's life including the death of
Claudius , the death of Agrippina ,
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 favourable light. Some
sources, though, portray him as a competent emperor who was popular
with the Roman people, especially in the east.
Cassius Dio (c. 155–229) was the son of
Cassius Apronianus , a
Roman senator. He passed the greater part of his life in public
service. He was a senator under
Commodus and governor of Smyrna after
the death of
Septimius Severus ; and afterwards suffect consul around
205, and 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 , an 11th-century monk. Dio Chrysostom
Dio Chrysostom (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:
Indeed the truth about this has not come out even yet; for so far as
the rest of his subjects were concerned, there was nothing to prevent
his continuing to be Emperor for all time, seeing that even now
everybody wishes he were still alive. And the great majority do
believe that he still is, although in a certain sense he has died not
once but often along with those who had been firmly convinced that he
was still alive.
Epictetus (c. 55–135) was the slave to Nero's scribe
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 (c. 37–100), while calling
Nero a tyrant,
was also the first to mention bias against Nero. Of other historians,
But I omit any further discourse about these affairs; for there have
been a great many who have composed the history of Nero; some of which
have departed from the truth of facts out of favour, as having
received benefits from him; while others, out of hatred to him, and
the great ill-will which they bore him, have so impudently raved
against him with their lies, that they justly deserve to be condemned.
Nor do I wonder at such as have told lies of Nero, since they have not
in their writings preserved the truth of history as to those facts
that were earlier than his time, even when the actors could have no
way incurred their hatred, since those writers lived a long time after
Though more of a poet than historian, Lucanus (c. 39–65) has one of
the kindest accounts of Nero's rule. He writes of peace and prosperity
Nero in contrast to previous war and strife. Ironically, he was
later involved in a conspiracy to overthrow
Nero and was executed.
Philostratus II "the Athenian" (c. 172–250) spoke of
Nero in the
Life of Apollonius Tyana (Books 4–5). Though he has a generally bad
or dim view of Nero, he speaks of others' positive reception of Nero
in the East.
Pliny the Elder
The history of
Pliny the Elder (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 (c. 46–127) mentions
Nero indirectly in his account of the
Galba and the Life of Otho, as well as in the Vision of
Thespesius in Book 7 of the Moralia, where a voice orders that Nero's
soul be transferred to a more offensive species.
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 (c. 4 BC–65), Nero's teacher and
advisor, writes very well of Nero.
Suetonius Main article: Lives of
the Twelve Caesars
Suetonius (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 (c. 56–117) is the most detailed and
comprehensive history on the rule of Nero, despite being incomplete
after the year 66 AD.
Tacitus described the rule of the Julio-Claudian
emperors as generally unjust. He also thought that existing writing on
them was unbalanced:
The histories of Tiberius, Caius,
Claudius and Nero, while they were
in power, were falsified through terror, and after their death were
written under the irritation of a recent hatred.
Tacitus was the son of a procurator , 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. Realising that this bias may be apparent to others, Tacitus
protests that his writing is true.
Girolamo Cardano published in Basel his _Encomium Neronis_,
which was one of the first historical references of the
Modern era to
Nero in a positive light.
NERO IN JEWISH AND CHRISTIAN TRADITION
At the end of 66 AD, conflict broke out between Greeks and Jews in
Jerusalem and Caesarea. According to the
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. 25,14).
terrified, believing that God wanted the Temple in
Jerusalem 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
was then dispatched to put down the rebellion.
Talmud adds that the sage Reb Meir Baal HaNess ,
Rabbi Meir or
Rabbi Meir Baal HaNes (
Rabbi Meir the miracle maker) was a Jewish sage
who lived in the time of the
Mishna a prominent supporter of the Bar
Kokhba rebellion against Roman rule. He was considered one of the
greatest of the
Tannaim of the third generation (139-163). According
to the Talmud, his father was a descendant of the
Roman Emperor Nero
who had converted to Judaism. His wife Bruriah is one of the few women
cited in the
Gemara . He is the third most frequently mentioned sage
in the Mishnah.
Roman and Greek sources nowhere report Nero's alleged trip to
Jerusalem or his alleged conversion to Judaism. There is also no
Nero having any offspring who survived infancy: his only
Claudia Augusta , died aged 4 months.
_ A Christian Dirce_, by
Henryk Siemiradzki . A Christian woman
is martyred in this re-enactment of the myth of
Dirce . Nero's
Nero extensively torturing
and executing Christians after the fire of 64.
Nero punishing Christians, though he does so because they are
"given to a new and mischievous superstition" and does not connect it
with the fire.
Tertullian (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
Lactantius (c. 240–320) also said that
persecuted the servants of God". as does
Sulpicius Severus .
Suetonius writes that, "since the Jews constantly made
disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, the expelled them from
Rome" ("_Iudaeos impulsore Chresto assidue tumultuantis Roma
expulit_"). These expelled "Jews" may have been early Christians,
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".
Martyrdoms Of Peter And Paul
The first text to suggest that
Nero ordered the execution of an
apostle is a letter by Clement to the Corinthians traditional dated to
around 96 A.D. :123– The apocryphal
Ascension of Isaiah , a
Christian writing from the 2nd century says, "the slayer of his
mother, who himself (even) 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" was interpreted to mean Nero.
Caesarea (c. 275–339) was the first to write
explicitly 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
Nero did not give any specific orders. However, several other
accounts going back to the 1st century have Paul surviving his two
Rome and travelling to
Hispania , before facing trial in Rome
again prior to his death.
Peter is first said to have been crucified upside-down in
Nero's reign (but not by Nero) in the apocryphal
Acts of Peter (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
Peter and Paul.
The Beast (Revelation) , and Number of
Sibylline Oracles , Book 5 and 8, written in the 2nd century,
Nero returning and bringing destruction. Within Christian
communities, these writings, along with others, fueled the belief
Nero would return as the Antichrist. In 310,
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
Lactantius maintains that it is not right to
believe this. :20–
Augustine of Hippo 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
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 ) of the
American Schools of Oriental Research and
the editors of the _Oxford Study Bible_ and _Harper Collins Study
Bible_, contend that the number 666 in the
Book of Revelation is a
code for Nero, a view that is also supported in Roman Catholic
The concept of
Nero as the
Antichrist is often a central belief of
Preterist eschatology .
Coin issued under
Claudius celebrating young
Nero as the future
emperor, c. 50
Nero coin, c. 66.
Ara Pacis on the reverse.
Sestertius with countermark "X" of
Legio X Gemina
Nero and his mother, Agrippina , c. 54
Nero distributing charity to a citizen. c. 64–66.
ANCESTORS OF NERO
16. Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus
Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus (consul 32 BC)
Porcia (sister of Cato the Younger)
Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus (consul 16 BC)
Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus (consul 32)
Marcus Antonius Creticus
22. Gaius Octavius
Nero (praetor 42 BC)
Agrippina the Younger
Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa
Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa
Agrippina the Elder
Julia the Elder
Nero in popular culture
* ^ Classical
Latin spelling and reconstructed Classical Latin
pronunciation of the names of Nero: LVCIVS DOMITIVS AHENOBARBVS IPA:
, NERO CLAVDIVS CAESAR AVGVSTVS GERMANICVS IPA:
Tacitus wrote the following about Agrippina's marriage to
Claudius: "From this moment the country was transformed. Complete
obedience was accorded to a woman—and not a woman like Messalina who
toyed with national affairs. This was a rigorous, almost masculine,
despotism. In public, Agrippina was austere and often arrogant. Her
private life was chaste—unless power was to be gained. Her passion
to acquire money was unbounded; she wanted it as a stepping stone to
* ^ According to _The Oxford Encyclopedia of Greece and Rome_ Nero
was adopted in 50 AD.
* ^ For further information see adoption in
Suetonius wrote "It is commonly agreed that
Claudius was killed
by poison. There is, however, disagreement as to where and by whom it
was administered. Some record that, when he was at a feast with
priests on the citadel, it was given to him by his taster, the eunuch
Halotus, others that it was given him at a family dinner by Agrippina
herself, offering him the drug in a dish of mushrooms, a kind of food
to which he was very partial...His death was concealed until all
arrangements were in place with regard to his successor." :193
* ^ Sources describe Acte as a slave girl (Shotter) and a
freedwoman (Champlin and Scullard).
* ^ Talmudic sources say that
Nero refrained from attacking
Jerusalem, and even converted to Judaism. (
Suetonius states that
Nero committed suicide in Suetonius, _The
Lives of Twelve Caesars_, Life of
Nero 49; Sulpicius Severus, who
possibly used Tacitus' lost fragments as a source, reports that it was
Nero committed suicide, Sulpicius Severus,
_Chronica_ II.29, also see T.D. Barnes, "The Fragments of Tacitus'
Histories", _Classical Philology_ (1977), p. 228.
Galba criticized the excesses (_luxuria_) of Nero's public and
private spending. See Kragelund, Patrick, "Nero's Luxuria, in Tacitus
and in the Octavia", in _The Classical Quarterly_, 2000, pp.
494–515. Kragelund is citing Tacitus, _Annals_ I.16
* ^ References to Nero's matricide appear in the _Sibylline Oracles
Geoffrey Chaucer 's _
Canterbury Tales _ The Monk\'s
William Shakespeare 's _
Hamlet _ 3.ii.
* ^ "
Suetonius • Vita Neronis". _penelope.uchicago.edu_.
* ^ _A_ _B_ Tacitus, _Annals_. XV.44.
* ^ On fire and Christian persecution, see F.W. Clayton, "Tacitus
and Christian Persecution", _The Classical Quarterly_, pp. 81–85;
B.W. Henderson, _Life and
Principate of the Emperor Nero_, p. 437; On
general bias against Nero, see Edward Champlin, _Nero_, Cambridge, MA:
Harvard University Press , 2003, pp. 36–52 (ISBN 0-674-01192-9
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* ^ Dando-Collins, Stephen (2010). _The great fire of Rome: the
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* ^ Tacitus, _Annals_ XIV.48.
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* ^ Plutarch, _The Parallel Lives_, The Life of
* ^ Tacitus, _Histories_ I.13.
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* ^ Suetonius, _The Lives of Twelve Caesars_, Life of
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* ^ Dio Chrysostom, _Discourse_ XXI, On Beauty.
* ^ https://www.college.columbia.edu/core/content/epictetus
* ^ Josephus, _Antiquities of the Jews_ XX.8.3.
* ^ Marcus Annaeus Lucanus, _Pharsalia_ (Civil War) (_c._ 65).
* ^ Pliny the Elder, _Natural Histories_ VII.8.46.
* ^ Plutach, _Moralia,_ ed. by G. P. Goold, trans. by Phillip H. De
Lacy and Benedict Einarson, Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge: Harvard
University Press, 1959), 7: 269–99.
* ^ Seneca the Younger, _Apocolocyntosis_ 4.
* ^ Tacitus, _Annals_ I.1.
* ^ Tacitus, _History_ I.1.
* ^ Talmud, tractate Gitin 56a-b
* ^ Drew Kaplan, "Rabbinic Popularity in the Mishnah VII: Top Ten
Overall _Drew Kaplan's Blog_ (5 July 2011).
* ^ Isaac, Benjamin (2004) The Invention of Racism in Classical
Antiquity pp. 440–491. Princeton.
Suetonius _The Lives of Twelve Caesars_, Life of Nero, chapter
Tertullian _Apologeticum_, lost text quoted in ,
_Ecclesiastical History _, II.25.4.
* ^ _A_ _B_ Lactantius, _Of the Manner in Which the Persecutors
* ^ Sulpicius Severus, _Chronica_ II.28.
Suetonius _The Lives of Twelve Caesars_, Life of
* ^ Acts of the Apostles 18:2 .
* ^ _A_ _B_
Edward Champlin (1 July 2009). _Nero_. Harvard
University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-02936-1 .
Ascension of Isaiah Chapter 4.2.
* ^ Eusebius, _Ecclesiastical History_ II.25.5.
* ^ In the apocryphal Acts of Paul, in the apocryphal Acts of
Peter, in the First Epistle of Clement 5:6, and in The Muratorian
Apocryphal _Acts of Peter_.
Lactantius wrote that
Nero "crucified Peter, and slew Paul.",
Lactantius, _Of the Manner in Which the Persecutors Died_ II; John
Nero knew Paul personally and had him killed, John
Chrysostom, _Concerning Lowliness of Mind_ 4;
Sulpicius Severus says
Nero killed Peter and Paul, Sulpicius Severus, _Chronica_ II.28–29.
* ^ _Sibylline Oracles_ 5.361–376, 8.68–72, 8.531–157.
* ^ Miriam T. Griffin; Tutor in Ancient History and Fellow Miriam T
Griffin (11 September 2002). _Nero: The End of a Dynasty_. Routledge.
pp. 15–. ISBN 978-1-134-61044-0 .
Sulpicius Severus and
Victorinus of Pettau also say that Nero
is the Antichrist, Sulpicius Severus, _Chronica_ II.28–29;
Victorinus of Pettau, _Commentary on the Apocalypse_ 17.
* ^ "2 Thessalonians 2:7 – Passage Lookup – King James
Version". BibleGateway.com. Retrieved 2010-11-09.
* ^ The Book of Revelation, Catherine A. Cory.
* ^ Revelation, Alan John Philip Garrow.
* ^ Hillers, Delbert, "Rev. 13, 18 and a scroll from Murabba'at",
Bulletin of the
American Schools of Oriental Research 170 (1963) 65.
* ^ The New Jerome Biblical Commentary. Ed. Raymond E. Brown,
Joseph A. Fitzmyer, and Roland E. Murphy. Englewood Cliffs, NJ:
Prentice-Hall, 1990. 1009.
* ^ Just, S.J., Ph.D., Prof. Felix. "_The Book of Revelation,
Apocalyptic Literature, and Millennial Movements_, University of San
Francisco, USF Jesuit Community". Retrieved 2007-05-18. CS1 maint:
Multiple names: authors list (link )
* Tacitus, _Histories_, I–IV (_c._ 105)
* Tacitus, _Annals_, XIII–XVI (_c._ 117)
* Josephus, _War of the Jews_, Books II–VI (_c._ 94)
* Josephus, _Antiquities of the Jews_, Book XX (_c._ 94)
* Cassius Dio, _Roman History_, Books 61–63 (_c._ 229)
* Plutarch, _The Parallel Lives_, The Life of
Galba (_c._ 110)
Philostratus II, _Life of Apollonius Tyana_, Books 4–5, (_c._
* Suetonius, _The Lives of Twelve Caesars_, the Life of
* Benario, Herbert W.
Nero at _De Imperatoribus Romanis_.
* Champlin, Edward (2005). _Nero_. Harvard University Press. ISBN
* Cronin, Vincent . _Nero_. London: Stacey International, 2010 (ISBN
* Donahue, John, "
Galba (68–69 A.D.)" at _De Imperatoribus
* Grant, Michael. _Nero_. New York: Dorset Press, 1989 (ISBN
* Griffin, Miriam T. _Nero: The End of a Dynasty_. New Haven, CT;
Yale University Press , 1985 (hardcover, ISBN 0-300-03285-4 );
London; New York: Routledge, 1987 (paperback, ISBN 0-7134-4465-7 ).
* Holland, Richard. _Nero: The Man Behind the Myth_. Stroud: Sutton
Publishing, 2000 (paperback ISBN 0-7509-2876-X ).
* (in French) Minaud, Gérard, _Les vies de 12 femmes d'empereur
romain - Devoirs, Intrigues color:#555">(Registration required
* Warmington, Brian Herbert. _Nero: Reality and Legend_. London:
Chatto New York: W.W Norton New York: Vintage, 1981 (paperback, ISBN
* (Russian) Mikhail Berman-Tsikinovsky "The Pisonian
Conspiracy"(Заговор Пизона)docudrama based on Tacitus
Annals 15 and other sources. Failed conspiracy against
Nero led to
tragic death of 26 year old Great Roman poet
Lucan and his famous
uncle Seneca, executed by
Nero order. Moscow, Wagrius plus, 2008. ISBN
Nero Nero: The Actor-Emperor
Nero entry in historical sourcebook by Mahlon H. Smith
Nero basic data & select quotes posted by _Romans On Line_
* THE LIFE AND TIMES OF NERO By CARLO MARIA FRANZERO (BTM format).
* Nero\'s depiction in Tacitus\' Annals
Germanicus entry in the _Illustrated History
of the Roman Empire_.
* _ Pelham, Henry Francis (1911). "Nero". In Chisholm, Hugh.
Encyclopædia Britannica _. 19 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
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