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Biography of Nero
Sculpture of Nero
Biographies >> Ancient Rome
- Occupation: Emperor of Rome
- Born: December 15, 37 AD in Antium, Italy
- Died: June 9, 68 AD outside Rome, Italy
- Reign: October 13, 54 AD to June 9, 68 AD
- Best known for: One of the worst Emperors of Rome, legend has it he played the fiddle while Rome burned
Nero ruled Rome from 54 AD to 68 AD. He is one of the most notorious emperors of Rome and is known for executing anyone who didn't agree with him, including his mother.
Where did Nero grow up?
Nero was born on December 15, 37 AD in the city of Antium, Italy near Rome. His father, Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus, was a consul of Rome. His mother, Agrippina the Younger, was the sister of Emperor Caligula.
While Nero was still a young child, his father died. The Emperor Caligula had Nero's mother exiled from Rome and sent Nero to be raised by his aunt. Caligula also stole Nero's inheritance. A few years later, however, Caligula was killed and Claudius became emperor. Claudius was fond of Agrippina and allowed her to return to Rome.
In 49 AD, when Nero was around twelve, Emperor Claudius married Agrippina. Nero now became the adopted son of the emperor. Claudius already had a son named Britannicus, but Agrippina wanted Nero to be the next emperor. She convinced Claudius to name Nero as the heir to the throne. Nero also married the emperor's daughter Octavia to further secure the throne.
At the age of 14, Nero was appointed to the position of proconsul. He began working alongside Claudius learning about the government of Rome. He even addressed the Roman Senate at a young age.
In 54 AD, Emperor Claudius died. Many historians believe that Nero's mother poisoned Claudius so her son could be emperor. Nero was crowned Emperor of Rome at the age of 17.
Did he really kill his mom?
Nero's mother wanted to rule Rome through her son. She tried to influence his policies and gain power for herself. Eventually, Nero got tired of his mother's influence and refused to listen to her. Agrippina became angry and began to plot against Nero. In response, Nero had his mother murdered.
Becoming a Tyrant
Nero started out as a decent emperor. He supported the arts, built many public works, and lowered taxes. However, as his reign continued, Nero became more and more of a tyrant. He had anyone he didn't like executed including political rivals and some of his wives. He started to act crazy and saw himself more as an artist than an emperor. He spent large amounts of money on extravagant parties and began to perform his poetry and music in public.
Watching Rome Burn
In 64 AD, a huge fire swept across Rome destroying much of the city. One story tells how Nero "played the lyre and sang" while watching Rome burn. Most historians agree that this is not true. However, there were rumors at the time that Nero had started the fire in order to make room for his new palace. Whether this is true or not, no one knows.
Blaming the Christians
Nero needed someone to blame for the fire that burnt down Rome. He pointed to the Christians. He had the Christians in Rome rounded up and killed. They were killed in horrible ways including being burned alive, crucified, and thrown to the dogs. This began the persecution of Christians in Rome.
Building a Great House
Whether Nero started the great fire or not, he did build a new palace in the area cleared by the fire. It was called the Domus Aurea. This huge palace covered over 100 acres inside the city of Rome. He had a 100 foot tall bronze statue of himself called the Colossus of Nero placed at the entrance.
Revolt and Death
In 68 AD, some of the provinces of Rome began to rebel against Nero. Afraid that the Senate would have him executed, Nero committed suicide with the help of one of his aides.
Interesting Facts About Roman Emperor Nero
- His birth name was Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus.
- Nero's two main political advisors were the prefect Burrus and the philosopher Seneca.
- He killed his second wife, Poppaea, by kicking her in the belly.
- One of his favorite things to do was drive a chariot. He may have competed in chariot races himself.
- The year after Nero died is called the "Year of the Four Emperors." Four different emperors each ruled for a short time during the year.
For more about Ancient Rome:
Biographies >> Ancient Rome