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. Second, and the key to his character, he was also way out of his era in pursuing self-fulfillment as his highest goal. Archaeologists Johann Csar and Ferdinand Hirschhofer examine scraps of Roman-era papyrus that describe the death of Nero's wife, Poppaea Sabina. 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. A Roman coin featuring Nero's image, dating to A.D. 64-66. Then he became emperor at 16 years old, which he wasnât equipped to â¦ Was the infamously cruel Nero really as terrible an emperor as Roman historians have suggested? So, we get this wonderful glimpse of the favor the emperor held with the general population," she said. 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. Nerva was made emperor by the killers â¦ Born as the son of Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus and Agrippina the Younger, he lost his father at an early age. He also know that Britannicus actually had a better claim to being Emperor than he did. Neroâs father died when at the â¦ [The Weird Reason Roman Emperors Were Assassinated]. 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. 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. His father had died when he was very young, and he really didnât have very good guidance. But the love-smitten emperor ordered a bogus pedigree of royal descent to be created for her to make it kosher. 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. Convinced that Nero had become a self-aggrandising liability, they decided he must go. Nero murdered his mother, and Nero fiddled while Rome burned. Nero was mostly depicted as a despotic ruler who tortured Christians. 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. Too bad! (Image credit: Classical Numismatic Group, Inc.). Third, he was an internationalist, not stuck on Rome as the ultimate model. "Military processions brought revenue to the empire and celebrated the victories, power and prestige of Rome — with Nero, that wasn't happening as frequently.". Unfortunately for Nero, historians didn't see him in this flattering light — particularly Suetonius, Benefiel said. Sensitive and handsome, Nero (37 â 68 AD / reigned 54 â 68 AD) started out well as emperor. â¦ Stay up to date on the coronavirus outbreak by signing up to our newsletter today. 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. New York, Indeed, he executed or murdered most of his close relatives. 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. 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. Nero married and executed one stepsister, executed his other stepsister, raped and murdered his stepbrother. Stephen King, Alexander McCall Smith and more…, WRITING JOURNALS, NOTEPADS, PENS AND DESK ACCESSORIES. We can walk through it today and appreciate its genius. 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. Your stepfather is none other than Emperor Augustus, so his wish is your command. Much of what is known about Nero stems from three ancient historians — Publius Cornelius Tacitus, Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus and Cassius Dio. Visit our corporate site. Nero also slept with his 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. 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. Nero was the last of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, which had ruled Rome since the first emperor, Augustus. He is instantly recognizable on his coins two thousand years later, out of the welter of cookie-cutter emperors on other coins. Three ancient writers, Tacitus, Suetonius, â¦ "If it had been up to him, he probably wouldn't have chosen to be emperor at all," Benefiel said. Unfortunately, aristocrats wrote his history and from them has come the negative image he has endured ever since. In real life, he had a keen mind and a leaning toward science as well as the arts. However, a re-enactment for the documentary revealed significant flaws in Tacitus' account of the politically motivated poisoning. Nero was the fifth Roman emperor, ruling from 54 to 68. He may have been the first hippie, a prototype. 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. If the aristocrats didn’t completely blacken his name, the succeeding Flavian dynasty finished the job. He was the fifth and last emperor of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, which had been founded by Augustus. "Secrets of the Dead: The Nero Files" is available to stream Feb. 21 via the PBS website and PBS apps. You will receive a verification email shortly. There was a legend that he would return as the Antichrist one day and he was not dead. It didn’t happen. It showcased his talent that went hand in hand with his over-the-top extravagance. Your stepfather gleefully divorced his wife, who was pregnant, too. His most visible achievement today is the Colosseum (which was completed by his son Titus). Nero Reconsidered V Ve all know about Nero. 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. There was a problem. 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. Certainly when it comes to historical revisionism, few could benefit more from a kinder, gentler second look than the Roman Emperor Nero â â¦ Augustus forces you to marry his daugâ¦ Nero was neither good nor bad. Please refresh the page and try again. So it loomed over the structure for centuries. Nero was emperor of Rome from 54 to 68 . 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. Henceforth emperors would compete for the throne. He grossly misrepresented and slandered by Roman witters because they were aristocrats. 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. 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. 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. Nero was not a good emperor, and he did do some pretty vile and outrageous things, but he wasnât âcrazyâ. He could not stay an observer for long, but was driven to be a participant, needed to be a participant, never an armchair critic. [Family Ties: 8 Truly Dysfunctional Royal Families]. 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. 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. © The short version is, he was either an incredibly spoiled brat or borderline insane. Thank you for signing up to Live Science. Nero was appointed emperor in A.D. 54, when he was only 17 years old. The historian Suetonius said that his ‘craving for immortal fame’ was his leading trait and his tragedy. He once deliberately ran over a young boy with his chariot as he drove through a local village. Neroâs father was violent and died when his son was only three years old. It was not a bloodline. Please deactivate your ad blocker in order to see our subscription offer. 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? But remember, this was personal and had nothing to do with his ability as an emperor. Nero was a bad emperor. 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." (Image: © Photographer Helmut Wimmer/Copyright Interspot Film GmbH). 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. Yes! 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). 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. 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. After Nero's death, the Roman Empire plunged into chaos as a succession of short-lived emperors tried to gain control of the empire. Nero was born Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus on 15th December 37 AD in Antium, near Rome. He had good relations with the Senate and granted the rank of senator to many legionary commanders from the provinces. He was born Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus. He got what he wanted, but not in the way he wanted. He hung out with the lower classes, preferring the company of charioteers and slaves to the aristocrats, who disdained him for it. 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. 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 was blessed with boundless energy to attack all his interests with focused devotion. Nero WAS a good emperor, by modern standards. If only your troubles ended there. He was bad because he killed his half brother, mother, and his wife. According to ancient texts, Nero killed his own mother. 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. And he had your father executed. "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 hated by the aristocracy. Nero's suicide in A.D. 68 — without an heir or a clear successor — left the empire in chaos, according to Benefiel. 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. 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. Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment. 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. NY 10036. 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 was certainly an artist but hardly a starving one. Nero is commonly regarded to be one of the worst emperors â¦ Two Sides to Every Story. Nero was appointed emperor in A.D. 54, when he was only 17 years old. That he holds this place fascinates me, and has others for centuries. His infamous reign is usually associated with tyranny, extravagance and debauchery. Nero The Entertainer. 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. 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. 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. It's Nero 2.0. Imagine yourself as nine-year-old Tiberius. 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. 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Required fields are marked *. 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. 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. 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. However, it is his personality that fascinates and endures. Your email address will not be published. Some believe Neroâs fate was inevitable. For the first five years of his reign, he was actually known for his political savvy and generosity. He was not afraid to be embarrassed or ridiculed, and he has been—for centuries. He also tried to ascertain whether the legendary Alcyon Lake in Greece, purportedly bottomless, really was. Agrippina the Younger was the daughter of Agrippina the Elder and the great-granddaughter of Emperor Augustus. Finally, he was the last true Caesar—that is, a member of the dynasty founded by Julius Caesar. 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. Your father was forced to divorce your pregnant mother, marrying your stepfather instead. The last emperor of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, he was notorious as a brutal, tyrannical, and ineffective leader. Nero became Emperor at the age of 17. He became emperor on 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. 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. 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. There is a always a melancholy ring to being the last of a family, a culture, an era. Neros father Domitiâ¦ But his early promise gave way to wild extravagance and murder. You fall in love? But no true artist balks at the price of art. Future US, Inc. 11 West 42nd Street, 15th Floor, 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. "His last words were, 'Oh, what an artist dies with me,' summing himself up as an artist more than as a military leader.". They filled in his Golden House, pulled down his statues, filled in his lake and built the Colosseum on top of it. 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. Nero was the adopted son of his grand-uncle Claudius. Nero was a Roman emperor who ruled from 54 to 68 AD. His vanity was for his projects and not his person. 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? He was a romantic. 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. All of the historical sources refer to Neroâs passion for a number of artistic â¦ 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. After his fatherâs death, his mother married his great uncle, Claudius, and persuaded him to name Nero his successor. Unfortunately, this cost him his throne. AD Agrippina attempted to â¦ However, Agrippina was the one pulling the strings. 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. 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. 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. 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! "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.". Nero was born in 37 A.D., the nephew of the emperor. Live Science is part of Future US Inc, an international media group and leading digital publisher. Oh, young Tiberius! That is why he has been so hated. ", "While he was singing no one was allowed to leave the theatre even for the most urgent reasons," Suetonius wrote. Her husband/uncle, the emperor Claudius, died by poisoning soon after, making Nero, 16 or 17 at the time, the fifth emperor of Rome. Nero (in full Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus) was a Roman emperor who lived during the 1 st century AD. Most of the accounts we have of Nero are hostile; ancient writers loved to â¦ He dropped long weighted lines down from a boat, hoping to feel a thump that would indicate the bottom. It is still impenetrable today by either land or water. He tried to foist Greek culture on them—it didn’t take. 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. Some of those incidents probably did happen. "Nero did not have the military triumphs that previous leaders had," she said. [The 7 Most Mysterious Archaeological Finds on Earth]. The ancient city was buried by an erupting Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79, and Nero ruled until 10 years before that, Benefiel said. Likewise he was honest about his looks. "We have this series of painted inscriptions that are welcoming the emperor and his wife and applauding him," Benefiel said. âMany believe that Nero did not kill himself in June of 68,â he writes. 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. 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. 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. Your email address will not be published. After a failed plot by Agrippina to murder Caligula, she was exiled by her brother in 39 AD. 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. Ruling from 54 to 68 ridiculed, and his wife gain control of the the. Infamously cruel Nero really as terrible an emperor as Roman historians have suggested he a... — without an heir or a clear successor — left the empire who lived during 1. Holds this place fascinates me, and website in this browser for the documentary significant. A more pleasing style his reign, he was not afraid to be created for to! He got what he wanted 15th Floor, New York, NY 10036 keen. Would indicate the bottom: © Photographer Helmut Wimmer/Copyright Interspot Film GmbH ) executed or murdered of! 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