profile pic.jpg

Nero the mad Emperor of Rome

Elvira Valentina Resta

Arts & History Writer

(Italian version)

Nero was known for his debaucheries, political murders, persecution of Christians and a passion for music that led to the probably apocryphal rumor that Nero “fiddled” while Rome burned during the great fire of 64 A.D

Everything was covered in gold and adorned with gems, mother of pearl, stucco and frescoes. The ceiling of the dining room was lined with perforated ivory slabs so that flowers could rain down on them. The central hall was circular and always rotated day and night without ever stopping like the earth. In the bath rooms flowed seawater and natural hot water. So Svetonio writes of the greatest palace in Rome, built in 68 D.C. the Domus Aurea, the magnificent palace all golden because inspired by the sun god, Apollo. It had long colonnades, palaces, gardens, woods, villas, vineyards, nymphs and a large lake. Today only part of it remains, near the Colosseum, on the Oppio Hill. Forty years later, Emperor Trajan wanted to build his baths right on the gilded palace, thus burying the memory of his owner. But in doing so ended up protecting the structure, so today we can still visit the Domus Aurea and its incredible paintings. At the center of the entrance vestibule was a tall bronze statue, a 35-meter-high colossus erected on an 11-meter pedestal made by the Greek sculptor Zenodoro who wanted to represent the magnificence of the landlord: Lucius Domizio Enobarbo, Nero.

He ruled for 14 years, from 54 to 68 AD until he became a legend. But who was he really? To know this we have to go back to the night of July 14, 64 when a frightful fire burns a third of the city of Rome, Nero tries everything to douse the flames and makes available his gardens to save the people. Half a million people are homeless. Yet in Rome many people say that he is the inse leading of that misfortune. Nero starts the most impressive urban planning program in the history of Rome. Metals and tons of marble come from every corner of the empire; the use of new mortars for masonry allows prodigious works. He personally follows the works. The economic cost is exorbitant. Tigellino plunders the temples in search of the riches kept in them. No one had ever dared so much. The assets of the richest families in the Empire are seized. It was an attack on the aristocracy and the Senate of Rome. The people cheered him on. So much megalomania and greed caused the indignation of the senators who captained Pisone and prepared the conspiracy against the emperor. Nero discovers them and without trial kills them all with great cruelty.

Rome becomes the most opulent city on earth, but the emperor who has gone down in history for his cruelty is also the most fruitful patron of the arts, beauty and theatre. Nero likes to perform on stage in front of spectators, play and recite, loves poetry, but when his wife Poppea criticizes him for his theatrical performance, he goes crazy and kicks her to death. In Greece, during a party, he meets Sporus , the slave who was favoured and who, it was said, bore a striking resemblance to Poppea.

You cannot understand the story of Nero by ignoring that of his mother Agrippina, the only empress woman in the history of Rome. Possessive and intrusive, she secretly followed the Senate sessions by entering through a secret door. There was also talk of incestuous relations with Nero, warmed by     wine and lascivious kisses. She will be killed on Nero's orders.

Senators from all provinces of the empire begin to rebel against the emperor preparing for the conspiracy. Nero is declared a public enemy by the senators and is forced to flee to his villa on Cassia, where he commits suicide in June 68 A.D.

With Nero ends the Giulio-Claudia dynasty, a civil war breaks out at his death that ends with the election of Vespasian. Nero is credited with the fire of Rome, the persecution of Christians, the murder of Poppea and his mother. But he was also a great reformer, he lowered taxes on the poor, introduced monetary reform, and reformed the Senate. He ascended the throne at the age of 17 and died at 31, a voracious, greedy, fast life that cost him prejudices, convictions and many attempts at imitation.

Galleria

Nero the Mad Emperor of Rome

press to zoom
press to zoom
press to zoom