Sensitive and handsome, Nero (37 â 68 AD / reigned 54 â 68 AD) started out well as emperor. It showcased his talent that went hand in hand with his over-the-top extravagance. Born as the son of Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus and Agrippina the Younger, he lost his father at an early age. Eventually he was not content even with amateur status but wanted to be a professional musician, actor, and chariot racer, and competed in contests, déclassé for an emperor. The historian Suetonius said that his ‘craving for immortal fame’ was his leading trait and his tragedy. 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. (Image credit: Classical Numismatic Group, Inc.). 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. Neroâs father was violent and died when his son was only three years old. Then he became emperor at 16 years old, which he wasnât equipped to â¦ "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.". Stay up to date on the coronavirus outbreak by signing up to our newsletter today. â¦ Nero became Emperor at the age of 17. His father had died when he was very young, and he really didnât have very good guidance. 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. Much of what is known about Nero stems from three ancient historians — Publius Cornelius Tacitus, Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus and Cassius Dio. Unfortunately, aristocrats wrote his history and from them has come the negative image he has endured ever since. Marriage between a Roman citizen and a foreigner was illegal in Rome (as Marc Antony found out), let alone with a foreigner who was a slave. He could not stay an observer for long, but was driven to be a participant, needed to be a participant, never an armchair critic. "If it had been up to him, he probably wouldn't have chosen to be emperor at all," Benefiel said. 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. There was a legend that he would return as the Antichrist one day and he was not dead. Nero's suicide in A.D. 68 — without an heir or a clear successor — left the empire in chaos, according to Benefiel. Nero was a bad emperor. Imagine yourself as nine-year-old Tiberius. A Roman coin featuring Nero's image, dating to A.D. 64-66. 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. Augustus forces you to marry his daugâ¦ 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. "Military processions brought revenue to the empire and celebrated the victories, power and prestige of Rome — with Nero, that wasn't happening as frequently.". 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. His infamous reign is usually associated with tyranny, extravagance and debauchery. NY 10036. It's Nero 2.0. 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. But the love-smitten emperor ordered a bogus pedigree of royal descent to be created for her to make it kosher. Most of the accounts we have of Nero are hostile; ancient writers loved to â¦ 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. Nero married and executed one stepsister, executed his other stepsister, raped and murdered his stepbrother. His father, Gnaeus Domitius, who died when Nero was three, was extremely violent in his own right -- described by his contemporaries as âa despicable characterâ. According to ancient texts, Nero killed his own mother. Please refresh the page and try again. She thought she could control Nero and be the true ruler in Rome, but when she fell out of favor she started supporting Britannicusâ claim to the throne. He also know that Britannicus actually had a better claim to being Emperor than he did. Future US, Inc. 11 West 42nd Street, 15th Floor, Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment. Nero was appointed emperor in A.D. 54, when he was only 17 years old. The short version is, he was either an incredibly spoiled brat or borderline insane. Please deactivate your ad blocker in order to see our subscription offer. Nero tried and succeeded in poisoning the rightful heir to Emperor, Claudiusâ son Britannicus The new Emperor feared that the plebeians would come to like Britannicus, the legitimate son of Claudius, better than they liked him. He was not afraid to be embarrassed or ridiculed, and he has been—for centuries. 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. He is instantly recognizable on his coins two thousand years later, out of the welter of cookie-cutter emperors on other coins. It was not a bloodline. All of the historical sources refer to Neroâs passion for a number of artistic â¦ 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. Stephen King, Alexander McCall Smith and more…, WRITING JOURNALS, NOTEPADS, PENS AND DESK ACCESSORIES. Nero was the adopted son of his grand-uncle Claudius. Nero was mostly depicted as a despotic ruler who tortured Christians. So, we get this wonderful glimpse of the favor the emperor held with the general population," she said. That is why he has been so hated. 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. He was certainly an artist but hardly a starving one. His most visible achievement today is the Colosseum (which was completed by his son Titus). Nero also slept with his mother. After Nero's death, the Roman Empire plunged into chaos as a succession of short-lived emperors tried to gain control of the empire. Unfortunately, this cost him his throne. The ancient city was buried by an erupting Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79, and Nero ruled until 10 years before that, Benefiel said. Archaeologists Johann Csar and Ferdinand Hirschhofer examine scraps of Roman-era papyrus that describe the death of Nero's wife, Poppaea Sabina. Agrippina the Younger was the daughter of Agrippina the Elder and the great-granddaughter of Emperor Augustus. Certainly when it comes to historical revisionism, few could benefit more from a kinder, gentler second look than the Roman Emperor Nero â â¦ Your stepfather gleefully divorced his wife, who was pregnant, too. Three ancient writers, Tacitus, Suetonius, â¦ The emperor Nero, who reigned from A.D. 54â68, has been called âthe first mass market pop starâ and âthe Elvis of the ancient world.â Who could not want to know such a character better? âMany believe that Nero did not kill himself in June of 68,â he writes. You will receive a verification email shortly. Third, he was an internationalist, not stuck on Rome as the ultimate model. Nero WAS a good emperor, by modern standards. 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. Such a poison would have a notable smell and color, and would easily have been detected before Britannicus took a sip, according to the filmmakers. (Image: © Photographer Helmut Wimmer/Copyright Interspot Film GmbH). That he holds this place fascinates me, and has others for centuries. Your father was forced to divorce your pregnant mother, marrying your stepfather instead. 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. 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. New York, 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? Convinced that Nero had become a self-aggrandising liability, they decided he must go. Sign up for our newsletter to get the latest on our latest issue which features a John Grisham interview, plus insider offers, blog posts by today's bestselling authors, and much more! He became emperor on â¦ 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. Nero was emperor of Rome from 54 to 68 . Likewise he was honest about his looks. Nero (NerÅ Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus; 15 December 37 AD â 9 June 68 AD) was the fifth and last Roman Emperor of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. ", "While he was singing no one was allowed to leave the theatre even for the most urgent reasons," Suetonius wrote. The five Roman emperors, Nerva (96â98 CE), Trajan (98â117), Hadrian (117â138), Antoninus Pius (138â161), and Marcus Aurelius (161â180), who ruled over the most majestic days of the empire. It is still impenetrable today by either land or water. 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 a romantic. Nero was born in 37 A.D., the nephew of the emperor. Your stepfather is none other than Emperor Augustus, so his wish is your command. He may have been the first hippie, a prototype. However, Agrippina was the one pulling the strings. His vanity was for his projects and not his person. However, it is his personality that fascinates and endures. 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. 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). But in a way he had the last laugh, as the original name ‘the Flavian Amphitheater’ is lost and the structure is known to all as the Colosseum, because of the hundred and twenty foot colossal statue of Nero standing beside it, which for some reason they didn’t bother to destroy. © But no true artist balks at the price of art. Second, and the key to his character, he was also way out of his era in pursuing self-fulfillment as his highest goal. The third of Romeâs 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 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. He grossly misrepresented and slandered by Roman witters because they were aristocrats. 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. Yes! Was the infamously cruel Nero really as terrible an emperor as Roman historians have suggested? He got what he wanted, but not in the way he wanted. "His last words were, 'Oh, what an artist dies with me,' summing himself up as an artist more than as a military leader.". Nerva was made emperor by the killers â¦ Neros father Domitiâ¦ He was the only son of Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus, consul of Rome, and his wife Agrippina the Younger, sister of another infamous emperor Caligula. Roman historians accused Nero of deliberately setting the Great Fire of Rome so that he could rebuild the city in a more pleasing style. For the first five years of his reign, he was actually known for his political savvy and generosity. Nero was not a good emperor, and he did do some pretty vile and outrageous things, but he wasnât âcrazyâ. Required fields are marked *. After a failed plot by Agrippina to murder Caligula, she was exiled by her brother in 39 AD. Even though elite Romans may have despised Nero, the common people celebrated him, according to hand-drawn inscriptions discovered in the city of Pompeii. Nero cannot be dismissed as a mere dabbler: He took his hobbies seriouslyâtoo seriously, in fact, for a Roman establishment that liked its emperors to make war, not art. He also tried to ascertain whether the legendary Alcyon Lake in Greece, purportedly bottomless, really was. Visit our corporate site. Finally, he was the last true Caesar—that is, a member of the dynasty founded by Julius Caesar. Some believe Neroâs fate was inevitable. 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. Nero was neither good nor bad. He was born Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus. Two Sides to Every Story. But his early promise gave way to wild extravagance and murder. "Nero did not have the military triumphs that previous leaders had," she said. Nero is commonly regarded to be one of the worst emperors â¦ There is a always a melancholy ring to being the last of a family, a culture, an era. 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. He once deliberately ran over a young boy with his chariot as he drove through a local village. 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. Nero was appointed emperor in A.D. 54, when he was only 17 years old. However, a re-enactment for the documentary revealed significant flaws in Tacitus' account of the politically motivated poisoning. Thank you for signing up to Live Science. 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. Nero was hated by the aristocracy. Nero was born Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus on 15th December 37 AD in Antium, near Rome. 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 7 Most Mysterious Archaeological Finds on Earth]. 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 remember, this was personal and had nothing to do with his ability as an emperor. Indeed, he executed or murdered most of his close relatives. 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. [Family Ties: 8 Truly Dysfunctional Royal Families]. "One of these says, 'Hooray for the decisions of the emperor and the empress — with you two safe and sound, we are happy forever.' 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. Oh, young Tiberius! When ash blanketed Pompeii, it preserved writings on buildings in public spaces, some of which were singing Nero's praises, according to Benefiel. He grew his hair long, grew a beard, and ditched togas for flowered tunics, receiving senators barefoot. He was the fifth and last emperor of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, which had been founded by Augustus. Nero was the last of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, which had ruled Rome since the first emperor, Augustus. 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. He had good relations with the Senate and granted the rank of senator to many legionary commanders from the provinces. 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. He hung out with the lower classes, preferring the company of charioteers and slaves to the aristocrats, who disdained him for it. 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. 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. Sotter notes that Nero still had a considerable deal of popular support and one of these emperors, Otho, even renamed himself âNero Othoâ in his honor.Champlin writes that people also refused to believe that Nero was actually dead. Neroâs father died when at the â¦ Nero Reconsidered V Ve all know about Nero. You fall in love? 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. Nero murdered his mother, and Nero fiddled while Rome burned. 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. 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. If only your troubles ended there. He was bad because he killed his half brother, mother, and his wife. Some of those incidents probably did happen. Your email address will not be published. So it loomed over the structure for centuries. Too bad! "Secrets of the Dead: The Nero Files" is available to stream Feb. 21 via the PBS website and PBS apps. We can walk through it today and appreciate its genius. 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. It didn’t happen. 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. The last emperor of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, he was notorious as a brutal, tyrannical, and ineffective leader. Nero was the fifth Roman emperor, ruling from 54 to 68. After his fatherâs death, his mother married his great uncle, Claudius, and persuaded him to name Nero his successor. Your email address will not be published. And he had your father executed. 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Nero The Entertainer. Neroâs 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. Henceforth emperors would compete for the throne. 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. [The Weird Reason Roman Emperors Were Assassinated]. In real life, he had a keen mind and a leaning toward science as well as the arts. Nero (in full Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus) was a Roman emperor who lived during the 1 st century AD. 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. "We have this series of painted inscriptions that are welcoming the emperor and his wife and applauding him," Benefiel said. 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. He was blessed with boundless energy to attack all his interests with focused devotion. Suetonius also targeted Nero's sexual appetites, writing that Nero abused boys, seduced married women, debauched a vestal virgin and "even desired illicit relations with his own mother." 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. They filled in his Golden House, pulled down his statues, filled in his lake and built the Colosseum on top of it. Nero was a Roman emperor who ruled from 54 to 68 AD. Live Science is part of Future US Inc, an international media group and leading digital publisher. AD Agrippina attempted to â¦ Unfortunately for Nero, historians didn't see him in this flattering light — particularly Suetonius, Benefiel said. 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