See, Nero wasn’t THAT bad!

See, Nero wasn’t THAT bad!

The great Roman Empire has had many an emperor to seat its throne and rule with the senate, and given the treachery and fabrications Rome is steeped in, historical recollections of these emperors have often painted images of debauchery and total depravity – few, however, as horrific and villainous in memory and history as the accounts of Nero.

Nero has earned themselves the position through many counts of alluded insanity and supposed psychopathy of being among the most hated emperors of Rome – but this, in recent years, has been a disputed fact.

Thing is, most of the historical works written in the aftermath of these two were written in contempt by the opposition, by enemies and rivals in the senate, and by Christians, who supposedly saw Nero as the first beast of Revelations 13 – he was, after all, famous for persecuting and slaughtering Christians who at the time were perceived as a threat and a blasphemous cult.

But the facts seem to slowly batter against the historical claims, and some modern-day historians are face-palming at the misconceptions and misgivings of many Roman emperors including Nero – falsehoods and fabrications that are still taught and generally accepted as fact today. The truth of the matter is and will forever be hidden – until we master time travel, that is.

To start off with, perhaps the largest myth surrounding Nero, a young emperor of Rome in the 1st century, is the statement that he “fiddled while Rome burned”. The biggest issue with this is the fact that the fiddle, or violin, wasn’t invented in Italy until around the 10th century – nearly 900 years later. On another note, Nero wasn’t in Rome while it burned – he was away, and upon coming back immediately began efforts to stop the burning and provide relief. Other accounts of this event note Nero singing – although this isn’t surprising. Nero was known as an emperor who loved his theatrics – and thus, singing in mournful grief may have been his choice of medium rather than the much drier public speech.

Furthermore, largest in testimony to the contradiction in his apparent joy at the burning of Rome were the massive relief efforts he financed and oversaw, in fact going so far as to making even his opposition state that the new Rome indeed was a clear superior to the old one.

There was, of course, the massive and grandiose Roman palace, the Domus Aurea, which he constructed a kilometer away from the charred ruins, which obviously makes things look a little suspicious, and takes a bit of credibility from his massive concern over the event.

Nero wasn’t a stand-up guy, either – the man, or boy, more rather, like most Roman emperors was a megalomaniac and an egoist, and most likely suffered psychologically in some form from the amount of responsibility put on his shoulders following his implementation as emperor. Furthermore, his mother was manipulative and plotting, and eventually worked to defame her son through incest after he decided to rule against her wishes and rebel her control. He was also a man of cowardice and paranoia – two things that led him to his untimely death.

The claims to his fault in the Great Fire of Rome, however, are unfounded, as even historically there is no way to truly decipher who’s fault it was or whether it truly was simply an accident. Urban fires were common in Rome, as well, as it burned in a large scale again 5 years later, in 69 AD, and then once more in 80 AD.

Another strange fact is that there is only one account of the scale of the fire by Tacitus – no one else who should have lived through it seemed to mention the massive fire that burned for 5 days and decimated 10 of the 14 districts of Rome, completely destroying 3. A contradictory reference to the fire was in a letter between Seneca the Younger and Paul the Apostle, where the former mentions a fire that burned down four blocks of insulae (a type of apartment building), along with 132 private houses suffering damage (about 7% of the private houses in the city and .009% of the insulae). Nowhere near as large as was claimed – although it was still said to have lasted 5 days.

He was bloodthirsty towards Christians, however, being the first to openly and in large masses execute them in horrendous fashion, more often than not burning them.