The ancient history of all civilizations is filled with bloodshed, loot, lust, jealousy, and incest. But Romans were more associated with these all. Roman history has served with several emperors with different characters.
Some Roman emperors become successful emperors due to their wit governance. But others collapsed because of their carelessness to the state.
Charged with several allegations, Nero is a complex character to historians. Let’s lighten Nero’s life with some interesting facts.
10. Nero was the adopted successor of Claudius.
Nero was born Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus on December 15, 37 A.D. in Antium. His father and mother were Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus and Agrippina the Younger. Nero’s father died when he was only two, possibly poisoned by his mother.
Nero’s mother was the sister of the Roman Emperor Gaius Julius Caesar, known as Caligula. She had a particular political interest in the state.
Caligula ruled Rome from 41 to 37 A.D. He was the target of his sister, Agrippina, but she failed to kill him. Later, he got exiled to a remote island in the Mediterranean Sea.
After Caligula died, Claudius became the new Roman emperor. Agrippina found a new hope to fulfill her mission to rule over the country. So, she seduced Claudius to marry her.
After marrying Claudius in 49 A.D., she persuaded Claudius to adopt her son, Nero. By that time, Nero was thirteen.
51 A.D. was the year when Nero entered public life as an adult after being adopted by Claudius. When Nero turned sixteen, his mother arranged his marriage to Claudius’s daughter, Octavia.
9. Nero became the youngest Roman Emperor.
Nero’s mother had made great contributions to avail her son for the Roman throne. Agrippina poisoned Domitius first, then conspired against her brother.
When Agrippina finally became the empress, she took Claudius down by poisoning him in his food. After Claudius died in 54 A.D., she gave the Roman throne to Nero.
Now, Nero became the new Roman emperor On October 13, 54 A.D. At that time, Nero was only sixteen, only two months away from his seventeenth birthday.
This made Nero the youngest Roman emperor in Roman history. Later Nero’s title of the youngest Roman emperor transferred to Elagabalus. Elagabalus became emperor aged 14 in 218.
Claudius had his biological son, Britannicus. So, there’s no point in appointing Nero as the new consul. But Britannicus was only 14 when his father passed away.
Fourteen was a minimum legal age to rule at the time. Thus, Nero had a strong claim to be emperor until Britannicus turned to legal age.
However, Britannicus died mysteriously after drinking wine at his celebratory banquet. After Britannicus’ death, Nero became the sole emperor who ruled for 13 years and eight months.
8. The Great Fire of Rome happened during Nero’s reign.
The Great Fire of Rome was one of the big destructions in Roman history. It took place on July 18 to 19, 64 A.D. The fire first caught the slope of the Aventine overlooking the Circus Maximus.
Because of this massive fire, countless mansions, residences, and temples burnt down. According to reports, the conflagration destroyed three of fourteen Roman districts.
The destruction made people homeless and with a scarcity of food. These homeless people found shelter in Nero’s palace and garden. Nero himself invited people to his palace. There, Nero distributed foods and beverages to gain popularity.
However, this generosity was just pompous. According to Pliny the Elder, Suetonius, and Cassius Dio, Nero set the fire for his benefit.
Historians claim that he didn’t like the city’s ancient construction. So Nero wanted to build a new palace complex, known as the Golden House or Domus Aurea. So, he set the fire.
To reconstruct Rome according to his desired style, he almost emptied the Empire’s treasury. He had devalued the Roman currency to pay the cost, which had dragged the Empire’s economy to the brink.
7. Nero was an art lover and sports-loving emperor.
Ruling Rome wasn’t the first choice of Nero. It was Nero’s mother who served the throne at his hand, readymade. Nero loved performing and had a passion for music and the arts.
Rather than exercising power and winning new lands, Nero dreamt of being an artist. After his mother’s death, Nero started performing publicly to win popularity. He played the lyre, wrote poetry, sang in public, and cherished the crowd.
Nero even forced people to see his performance and applaud him. Because of such sudden-changed behavior, his advisors took his actions a trifle. This way, Nero lost his dignity in Roman citizens.
Along with arts, Nero was also fond of sports. He had huge admiration for Greeks for their Olympic games. Fascinated with Greeks, Nero himself modeled his Neronian Games in 60 A.D.
Also, Nero had participated in the real Greek Olympics in 64 A.D. Nero had bribed the organizers to delay the games a year for him to participate. He forced the hosts to add non-athletic, arts-oriented events for his benefit.
In the Olympics, Nero won every event he participated in. He also won the chariot race in which he almost died after being fell. However, after Nero’s death, his name was removed from the winners’ list.
6. Nero killed his mother and his two wives.
Agrippina made Nero the Roman emperor. But when her job was done, and Nero matured, Nero had his mother killed in 59 A.D.
Agrippina shared equal power in the state, whether it was decision-making or utilizing the treasury. After Nero turned to a decisive age, he didn’t want any interference from his mother in the ruling state. He wanted to have absolute power in his hand.
It isn’t the sole reason that Nero killed his mother. Nero had an affair with Poppaea Sabina, and his mother objected to it. Because of such interference in his political and personal life, Nero planned to kill her.
First, he tried to trap her on the Bay of Naples in a boat designed to sink, but she survived. Then, Nero sent a loyal freedman to complete the mission. The man killed Agrippina at her country house.
Matricide wasn’t only the crime Nero had committed, but he had murdered his two wives. Claudia Octavia was an aristocratic and virtuous wife and best suitor for Nero.
But Nero quickly became bored of Claudia and started to resent her. The reason for this was Nero’s affair with Poppaea Sabina.
After many attempts to strangle Octavia, Nero killed her after eight years of marriage. He executed accusing Octavia of being barren and committing adultery. Nero chopped her head and sent it to Sabina, who became Nero’s second wife.
However, the second marriage also didn’t work when Nero punched Sabina’s belly to death. Once Sabina quarreled with Nero over the trifle things that ended her life.
5. Nero castrated a slave boy and married him.
Nero preserved five spouses in his life because of Roman polygyny. After he killed his second wife, he remarried a woman named Statilia Messalina.
Messalina was a descendant of a successful Roman general. But she didn’t have much popularity as her two predecessors did.
However, Nero wasn’t much happy with his third marriage as he couldn’t forget Sabina. Sabina was the person whom Nero had loved.
One day, Nero found a boy named Sporus who looked exactly like Poppaea Sabina. He sent his armies to find the boy and ordered them to castrate him. After the boy’s castration, Nero married him to be his fourth wife.
It was nothing like a secret wedding but a grand ceremony like any of Nero’s previous marriages. Also, the chants and rituals were just the same as well.
After marriage, Sporus lived with Nero as his wife until Emperor Vitellius came to him. Emperor Vitellius was the next temporary emperor after Nero’s death. Before Vitellius could rape or exploit Sports, he committed suicide.
4. Nero committed suicide after a revolt against him began.
13 year long Nero’s reign was nothing fruitful for Romans. Also, Nero’s weak governance attracted opponents’ eyes to take him down.
When Gaius Julius Vindex, a governor in Gaul, rebelled in 68 A.D., Nero didn’t consider it. Nero started fearing to lose his throne after Servius Sulpicius Galba joined the revolt. Galba was a governor in northern Spain who declared himself emperor.
To increase Nero’s difficulties, the Senate declared Nero, a public enemy. Nero’s allies deserted him one by one, and he knew his end when the Praetorian Guard abandoned him.
Nero had no place to hide and run. He finally ordered the few men still with him to dig a grave for him on June 9, 68 A.D. Before he could get caught by rebellions, Nero wanted to commit suicide.
To prepare for his suicide, Nero asked someone else to set an example first. And later, Nero’s secretary, Epaphroditus, finally helped Nero end his life. Nero died at the age of 30.
3. Nero imposters frequently appeared after his death.
Revolt against Nero extended from 67-68 A.D. leading a series of civil wars. This event threatened Nero and his allies after his death.
Nero’s death led to an end to the Julio-Claudian dynasty. The dynasty had once reigned Rome from a period of its formation under Augustus in 27 B.C.
Even after Nero’s death, people didn’t believe that Nero was dead. They assumed that Nero would return one day and rule the Empire again. This was the perfect reason that “Nero Redivivus Legend” was popular.
To make this campaign more successful, “False Naro” or “Naro Imposers” appeared frequently. They appeared for several decades. They would encounter rebellions and made them believe that Nero was reborn. This belief had a special effect on the lower classes of Roman society.
2. Nero was the emperor who initiated the persecution of Christians.
During Nero’s reign, Christians were in small numbers. Nero accused Christians of being responsible for The Great Fire of Rome.
Christianity was a newly formed religion and didn’t have any influence. Even Romans hadn’t distinguished between Jews and Christians until this time.
However, Roman citizens already disliked this small group. They considered it as a dangerous cult. And Nero didn’t make much effort to make Christians scapegoats for his purpose.
After the fire, Nero ordered the persecution of Christians everywhere in Rome. Christians were getting arrested, tortured, and publicly executed.
It wasn’t a normal death Christians got during Nero’s reign. Rather, they’re dressed in animal skins and giving them to dogs to tear limb from limb in the arena. Christians were also crucified and used as torches in the garden for Nero’s party.
The persecution of Christians continued for the next hundred years.
1. Nero’s early reign was characterized as exemplary governance.
Nero’s reign extended from 54–68 A.D. At that time, Nero was still a teen when he took the throne. It was difficult to rule the country for a 17-year-old emperor.
All conspiracy and murders Agrippina committed only to control the power. When the time came, she ruled the country jointly with her son. Her head was printed on Roman coins next to her son for some periods.
On Agrippina’s arrangement, Nero had two additional advisors; Seneca and Burrus. The philosopher Seneca had been one of Nero’s tutors. Next, Burrus was a prefect of the Praetorian Guard.
Nero’s early reign, especially the first five years of his reign, was very praiseworthy. These years were tagged as political generosity and power-sharing.
During the years, he cut corruption and forbade bloodshed in a circus. He had banned capital punishment and reduced taxes. He allowed slaves to bring complaints to him against their unjust masters. These are some of the examples of good deeds from Nero.
However, the good deeds didn’t remain forever. After Agrippina’s death, Nero went off the track and started Rome’s disaster.
Sometimes a man becomes his enemy and falls in his destruction. This applies exactly to Nero, who had to commit suicide because of his wild nature.
Anyway, when keeping his bloodshed hands at bay, I love the fact that Nero was an art-loving emperor. What other good do you find in Nero? Also, let us know which fact about Nero got you goosebumps? Share your thoughts in the comment box.