Skip to main content

Roman Emperor - Nero

  • Author:
  • Updated date:

AD 37 - 68

Born Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus, at Antium (now Anzio), Italy in AD 37.

His father was Gnaeus Domitianus Ahenobarbus and his mother Agrippina (II), the great-granddaughter of Augustus, daughter of Germanicus, sister of Caligula and niece of Claudius. Agrippina, twice widowed, was determined to see Nero emperor, and married her uncle Emperor Claudius I in 49 AD and induced him to adopt her son.

During the reign of Claudius (41-54) Agrippina became her uncle's third wife, and successfully plotted to make her son Nero Claudius' heir in place of his own son Britannicus (son of Claudius by his second wife, Messalina).

In 52 AD Nero married Octavia, daughter of Claudius.

Nero gained precedence over Claudius' son, Britannicus, and married Claudius's daughter Octavia in 52 AD. Claudius died suddenly in 54 AD, possibly by poison administered by Agrippina. And Nero was proclaimed emperor by the senate. Britannicus died of poisoning in 55.

Because Nero was only 16, Agrippina hoped to rule through him, but Seneca, his tutor and Burrus, the head of the Praetorians, kept control of the government.

During the first few years of his reign the youthful emperor, steering a prudent course between the ambition of Agrippina and the counsel of Seneca, managed to gain the respect and affection of the Romans for his clemency and moderation.

As Emperor he patronized the arts and often performed in public. The first five years of Nero's reign were peaceful. He followed his strong artistic and amorous inclinations, and his two advisers ran the government. Nero ruled wisely at first, under the influence of his tutor, Seneca, but later became increasingly cruel and unpopular and became a byword for decadence and corruption.

His mother's efforts to rule continued until Nero had her killed in 59 AD.

The external affairs of the empire were marked by the revolt of Boadicea in Britain (61) and by disturbances in Asia Minor (63). At home, in 64, the greater part of Rome was burnt out. The city was rebuilt at enormous cost, mainly borne by the provinces. As a result, Nero became as unpopular abroad as he was now at home. A conspiracy to dethrone him in favor of Piso was discovered just in time.

In 62, however, the mad streak in Nero emerged. His tutors were unable to check the emperor's vicious propensities. After the death of Burrus in 62 AD, Seneca was forced to retire. Now free from the restrictions of sound counsel, Nero had Octavia put to death and married Poppaea Sabina, his mistress. Poppaea reputedly was responsible for the tyranny of Nero's reign.

Rome Burns

The great fire of Rome in 64 was attributed by some ancient writers to Nero himself, though there was no proof of his guilt. He rebuilt the city on an improved plan and with greater magnificence. To meet the increasing costs of government, he taxed the provinces heavily. In addition, a number of wealthy men were murdered, and their property was confiscated. But the odium of the disaster belonged in the public mind to himself. Seeking to divert suspicion from himself, the emperor charged the Christians with arson and executed many of them. According to tradition, St Peter and St Paul were among the victims of this first Roman persecution of Christians.

His tyranny led in 65 to a conspiracy headed by Gaius Calpurnius Piso to depose him; but the plot was discovered, and many distinguished men were executed or compelled to commit suicide, among them Piso himself, Seneca, and the poet Lucan.

Although opposition to him continued to grow, Nero, long a lover of Greek culture, went to Greece in 67, soon after the death of Poppaea to participate in various festivals and games. His questionable success in competition yielded him hudnreds of prizes, which he repaid by freeing Greece.

He was obliged to return hurriedly to Italy on hearing of rebellion in Gaul by Gaius Julius Vindex, governor of Gallia Lugdunensis. And also of Galba in Spain secured wide support, including that of the Praetorians

Finally, the army rebelled, Galba was proclaimed emperor and the Roman Senate proclaimed Nero a public enemy, and Nero committed suicide.

His suicide ended the line of emperors descended from Augustus. Among Nero's final words were the now famous "What an artist the world is losing in me!"

Scroll to Continue


Achristian on October 14, 2014:

It wasn't a fiddle. It was the sound of their screams.

Hbibihguftuy on March 14, 2012:

What about the candles?

that on chic on February 08, 2012:

we are learning about his nero dude at school i love the way he was killed "what a great artist the world is losing" STAB! ha!

Ally Patrick on January 03, 2012:

This is nuts!!

Zeezee on November 23, 2011:

What is Nero famous for??

Dangleo on November 14, 2011:

@someone Let Me get that paper

Someone on April 12, 2011:

I am in school and i'm doing a report on the famous Roman, Nero. This was a very useful page

aSHTYN on August 26, 2010:


Latin Teach on August 06, 2010:

It's my understanding that the Romans mainly objected to Christianity because they (Romans) could not fathom believing in only one god. Many other "cults" were allowed by them.

ss sneh from the Incredible India! on June 01, 2010:

HI! There is famous story tells us... When Rome was burning Emperor Nero entertained himself by playing a violin! Well --thanks for the useful info

emmanueka on May 24, 2010:

this is a great fact/nifo to find new things you don't know about nero

HI on May 13, 2010:

Nero did not lit the fire but he order people to do it.

russiangypsygirl on February 16, 2010:

Fantastic article. I can't wait until I have the time to read the rest you have written about the rulers of Rome. You are right about the recent HBO Series, Rome, which of course, as the majority of good entertainment has the habit of doing, was discontinued. I've been twice to Rome, and you can really feel the history and culture that are there in your article. Very well done.

TheAllSeeingEye from England. on November 11, 2009:

It was no secret that Nero despised the Christian faith and he was quick to point the finger and blame the Christians for torching Rome. He had them marched to their deaths was such his ruthlessness.

Another rumour that circulated through the senate was that Nero wanted to restructure the city of Rome and have a new palace built. Was this his motive?

It really doesn't matter if he was 30 miles away in a villa or played a lyre on a balcony somewhere. He could easily have gotten his pretorian guards to start the fire. The Christians just took the blame for it and Nero had that new palace he wanted!

Brian Long on November 09, 2009:

I really enjoyed reading this hub.

secondreview from Toronto, Canada on November 09, 2009:

John Hurt played Nero in "I Claudius" the series. You can find several sections on it on You Tube. Having seen the performance, John Hurt became one of my favourite actors.

BookFlame on November 01, 2009:

I love ancient history and you're doing a good job getting other people interested in it too!

heyju on September 19, 2009:

Great hub, I enjoyed reading this!! The ancient Romans are so interesting. Wow they killed anyone and everyone didn't they and married anyone and everyone lol Thanks again.

Bbudoyono on September 02, 2009:

Thanks for this great hub. I like it.

Sidney Rayne on August 06, 2009:

Great article Darkside...I happened to catch a piece on Nero on the History Channel a few years ago and became rather infatuated with the Emperor. I remember passing out while the program was on and hearing something in regards to "Throwing Christians to lions..." and was immediately bright eyed and bushy tailed....watched the entire special without ever blinking an eyelid.

Again, great topic and above all...very informative and detailed piece of writing.

chris pike on May 14, 2009:

well.. what can one say about such a preposterous source, this bland and sterile evidence is nothing more than a one-dimensional account of history.

EcoAsh from Hemet on April 30, 2009:

Nice article. I love learning about Roman history

dude on April 28, 2009:

this is amazing! thanks for giving me research.

Glen (author) from Australia on March 31, 2009:

Ralph, here's something I found...

Great Happenings That Never Happened.

Rome may have burned, but Nero didn't fiddle. It is only an unfounded rumor, albeit an old one, that the mad Emperor Nero started a fire near the imperial palace and then climbed to the top of the Tower of Maecenas, where he gleefully played his fiddle, sang arias from his own execrable operas, and watched the city go up in flames. True, Nero did fancy himself a poet and musician, and often summoned audiences to attend recitals of his composition. But according to the contemporary historian and chronicler Tacitus, the fire which gutted Rome in 64 A.D. could not possibly have been Nero's doing; at the time it broke out, Nero was at his villa in Antium 30 mi. away. Besides, the violin wasn't even invented until the 16th century, although in some versions of the tale Nero plays a lute or lyre.

Source: The People's Alamanac #2, David Wallechinsky and Irving Wallace, Bantam Books. 1978. Page 1239.

vivekananda from India on March 27, 2009:

Roman emperors and Rome, always interesting to read about them. Like Egypt and Pyramids...this too is interesting.

Williamjordan from Houston TX on March 27, 2009:

Good Hub Rome is a Great Topic I Studied Rome And My Cildhood Days YOu Made My Day.

Glen (author) from Australia on March 27, 2009:

I vagule remember 'I, Claudius' from my childhood.

The fairly recent HBO series Rome was excellent.

And while researching Marcus Aurelius and Commodus for this series I've discovered that the movie Gladiator wasn't as completely fictitious as I was led to believe.

Iphigenia on March 27, 2009:

Enjoyed this readvery much. Coincidentally, I've just re-watched the 1978 BBC seris "I, Claudius" - it's a bit potted in its historical detail, but nevertheless it really shows the intricate relationships and alliances that were fomed to take/keep power among the early emperors.

William F Torpey from South Valley Stream, N.Y. on March 26, 2009:

The story of Nero is truly interesting. Is that where the expression, "fiddling around" came from?

Good hub. I enjoyed the history.

Glen (author) from Australia on March 26, 2009:

I couldn't find any mention of the fiddling in reference books. Maybe it's an ancient urban myth.

caesar 56 from US on March 26, 2009:

Excellent article!

All that inbreeding led to some very strange individuals...

Ralph Deeds from Birmingham, Michigan on March 26, 2009:

Interesting bit of history. Did Nero fiddle while Rome burned?

Related Articles