Did Nero Start the Great Fire of Rome?

By | March 23, 2019

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Nero Watching The Burning of Rome — 1887. Source: (pinterest.com)

According to the legend, he fiddled while Rome burned, but some historians believe Nero actually started the fire that consumed Rome in 64 A.D. The great-grandson of Caesar Augustus, Nero became emperor of Rome a little more than a century after Julius Caesar was assassinated for being too ambitious. But Nero’s ambition was far more deadly than that of his famed ancestor.

Born Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus, Nero and his mother, Agrippina, were exiled by the emperor Gaius Caligula when Nero was just a child. When Agrippina’s uncle Claudius became emperor, she convinced him to marry her, thus lifting the exile and making Nero his heir. In 54 A.D., Claudius was murdered, allegedly poisoned by Agrippina, and sixteen-year-old Nero became emperor of Rome. Despite her willingness to commit murder on his behalf, there was apparently no love lost between mother and son as Nero eventually had his mother moved to a separate residence before allegedly having her killed.

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Sculpture of Agrippina crowning her young son Nero. Source: (shorthistory.org)

But being the emperor of Rome wasn’t enough for Nero. He had big plans for the empire which apparently included tearing down a third of it in order to build an ostentatious series of palaces that would be named Neropolis in his honor. But unfortunately for Nero, the Senate did not approve of this plan. Then fate, or perhaps Nero himself, intervened.