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NERO

Books about Nero :

Nero: The End of a Dynasty

From the Gracchi to Nero : A History of Rome from 133 B.C. to A.D. 68

(37-68). He was born Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus in AD 37, but he has come down through history as Nero, the last Roman emperor descended from Julius Caesar. He also won the reputation of being a demented and depraved tyrant, the ruler who "fiddled while Rome burned" and who instigated the first persecution of Christians; however, Nero's unsavory reputation is almost wholly undeserved. He was certainly not the bloody dictator that Roman and Christian historians have depicted.
Nero was born in the Mediterranean seaport of Antium (now Anzio, Italy). He was brought up by his mother Agrippina, a great-granddaughter of the emperor Augustus. She is noted for her relentless scheming to secure the fortunes of her son, killing those who stood in her way--including her uncle and third husband, the emperor Claudius. Agrippina's brother was the mad emperor Caligula.
Nero became emperor in 54, and for the first five years his reign was exemplary. He stopped contests in the circus that involved bloodshed, banned capital punishment, reduced taxes, increased the independence of the Roman Senate, and gave permission for slaves to bring complaints against their masters. He promoted competitions in poetry, theater, and athletics. In everything he seemed to be pursuing the goal his teacher Seneca thought impossible--to remain innocent of all crime. (See also Seneca the Younger.)
The emergence of brutality and derangement in Nero occurred in 59, when he had his mother put to death. Her insanity and fury at him led him to this act. Three years later he had his wife Octavia killed. He also developed extraordinary pretensions as a poet, musician, and actor. He even considered abdicating to devote himself to the arts. He also became preoccupied with the mystery religions of Greece and the Middle East. In 66 he left Rome for 15 months of travel in Greece to further his religious quest.
Nero's religious obsessions and his artistic pretensions alienated many, including senators and the military. Yet he took little vengeance on his opponents. He was not in Rome when the city burned in 64, nor did he inaugurate a persecution of Christians because of the fire. The army became dissatisfied with his lack of attention to government, and he was soon deserted by all. He is believed to have killed himself in Rome in 68. For years afterward he was honored by the people, but later emperors destroyed his works and despised his memory.

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