Born: 37 A.D.
Died: 9 June 68 A.D. (suicide)
Birthplace: Antium (now Anzio, Italy)
Best known as: The emperor who "fiddled while Rome burned"
Nero is best known for his mad self-indulgence and whimsical cruelty while emperor of Rome. He was the adopted son of the emperor Claudius. While still in his teens, Nero succeeded Claudius; it is generally believed that Nero's mother, Agrippina, poisoned Claudius so that her son could take over the throne. (Nero later had Agrippina killed to consolidate his own power.) In 64 A.D. a great fire swept through Rome, destroying much of the city. The historian Suetonius states that Nero himself ordered the fires set, and that Nero watched the flames from a tower while singing a song about the destruction of Troy. (Other historians call these merely rumors.) True or not, this image of Nero "fiddling while Rome burned" has endured. Nero's high living angered citizens and senators alike, and in 68 A.D. he was forced to commit suicide. He was replaced by the emperor Galba.
Extra credit: Nero couldn't have played an actual fiddle, since the violin wasn't invented until the 16th century; he might have played a lyre, a type of small harp... Nero himself blamed the fires on Christians, thus setting the stage for years of persecution of Christians in Rome... Another Roman ruler known for his madness was the notorious Caligula.
Copyright © 1998-2015 by Who2?, LLC. All rights reserved.
More on Nero from Infoplease: