Emperor Nero: Bad boy of Ancient Rome April 28, 2022

from The Forum· ·

Nero fiddled while Rome burned, didn’t he? At least, that’s what the history books tell us. Nero’s image as a depraved tyrant has been handed down to us by three biased sources, written after the emperor’s suicide in 68AD. These sources have informed interpretations of Nero’s legacy ever since, so much so that his involvement in the Great Fire of Rome has become a meme. Recent scholarship has sought to rehabilitate Nero to a certain extent, to try to understand him in the context of his time. He was indeed a man who succeeded in shocking the Roman elite, but …



Nero fiddled while Rome burned, didn’t he? At least, that’s what the history books tell us. Nero’s image as a depraved tyrant has been handed down to us by three biased sources, written after the emperor’s suicide in 68AD. These sources have informed interpretations of Nero’s legacy ever since, so much so that his involvement in the Great Fire of Rome has become a meme. Recent scholarship has sought to rehabilitate Nero to a certain extent, to try to understand him in the context of his time. He was indeed a man who succeeded in shocking the Roman elite, but also someone who could strike a chord with the public and was well thought of outside the centre of political intrigue. Rajan Datar attempts to separate fact from fiction, with guests Dr Ginna Closs, Associate Professor of Classics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in the US and author of While Rome Burned: Fire, Leadership, and Urban Disaster in the Roman Cultural Imagination which was published in 2020; and Dr Evan Jewell, Assistant Professor of History at Rutgers University, Camden. He’s writing a book entitled Youth and Power: Acting Your Age in the Roman Empire; and Dr Shushma Malik, Senior Lecturer in Classics at the University of Roehampton. She’s the author of The Nero-Antichrist: Founding and Fashioning a Paradigm. Produced by Fiona Clampin for BBC World Service. (Image: Nero and the burning of Rome, July 18-27, 64 A.D. Coloured woodcut by Conti. Credit: Fototeca Gilardi/Getty Images)