• Fri. Jun 2nd, 2023

Did Nero Really Fiddle While Rome Burned?


Mar 26, 2023

Nero, the notorious emperor of the Roman Empire, is thought for his cruelty and debauchery. Nevertheless, probably the most enduring tales about him is that he performed the fiddle whereas Rome burned through the Great Fire of the primary century. However is that this account actually true, or simply one other instance of propaganda and manipulation of historical past?

The Nice Fireplace

On the evening of July 18, 64 AD, a hearth erupted within the service provider district of Rome, fueled by robust summer time winds that quickly unfold flames all through the town’s aged picket buildings. Tacitus, the historian, reported that the fireplace burned uncontrollably for 5 days earlier than it was lastly subdued. Out of the fourteen districts in Rome, 4 have been left untouched, three have been fully destroyed, and 7 suffered vital injury.

Tacitus was the one Roman author alive throughout that interval, other than Pliny the Elder, who wrote in regards to the fireplace. There’s, nevertheless, an epistle, supposedly from Seneca the Youthful to St. Paul, which states explicitly the injury completed by the fireplace – in line with him, solely 4 blocks of insulae (a kind of house constructing) and 132 non-public homes have been broken or destroyed. Nonetheless, one might query the motive of Seneca the Youthful, as these figures got within the context of the execution of Christians who have been blamed for beginning the fireplace. By exhibiting that solely a small quantity of injury was inflicted by the fireplace, it will have highlighted the unjust punishment meted out in opposition to the Christians.

Fireplace in Rome by Hubert Robert (1785). Public area.

The Merciless Emperor Who Fiddled in a Catastrophe

Within the aftermath of the fireplace, rumors shortly unfold about the reason for the fireplace. As one standard account goes,  Nero had been planning the development of his grand palace, the Domus Aurea, however wanted to clear a big space to accommodate the palatial complicated. So, he organized for a hearth to interrupt out with a purpose to clear the aristocratic dwellings on the slopes of the Palatine Hill and gleefully fiddled as he watched the fireplace encompassing Rome. He then, in fact, wanted a scapegoat for his actions, so he blamed the Christians for the fireplace due to their apocalyptic perception that Rome and the world would finish by fireplace. This led to an energetic marketing campaign in opposition to them. Each, the fireplace and the persecution of the Christians turned the defining picture of his reign. However how a lot of this account is definitely true?

Emperor Nero fiddling while Rome burns. Source: Sunshower Shots / Adobe Stock.

Emperor Nero fiddling whereas Rome burns. Supply: Sunshower Shots / Adobe Inventory.

Nero’s Alibi

In response to Tacitus, Nero was at Antium (about 60 km south of Rome) when the fireplace broke out in Rome. Thus, Nero wouldn’t have been about to look at on whereas it burned. Even so, Tacitus acknowledges that Nero appeared on a non-public stage and sang the ‘Sack of Ilium’ as a comparability between Rome’s current misfortune and the catastrophe that befell historic Troy. Tacitus, nevertheless, dismisses the story as merely a rumor that was unfold amongst the lots. This rumor was maybe credible as Nero was recognized in spite of everything to be extremely within the performing arts.

It’s price noting that Tacitus doesn’t point out any musical devices being performed through the Nice Fireplace. Even when Nero had been performing whereas Rome burned, it’s unlikely that he would have been conscious of the fireplace, and it’s much more unlikely that he would have been taking part in a fiddle. It is because the fiddle was not invented till a lot later, presumably within the eleventh century. If Nero had been taking part in a musical instrument, it will have extra probably been the cithara, an historic Greek instrument within the household of the lyre.

A Form and Beneficiant Nero?

Nero’s supposed lack of concern for Rome whereas it burned has caught in our minds for the reason that rumor first started. However Tacitus provides a really completely different account of Nero’s actions upon studying of the Nice Fireplace. In response to Tacitus, Nero opened up the Campus Martius and the general public gardens for the individuals who misplaced their houses. As well as, he raised non permanent buildings, and even opened up his personal gardens to shelter his topics. To be able to feed them, he introduced meals provides from Ostia and the neighboring cities, and the worth of corn was decreased. However, it’s the picture of Nero because the ruthless and conniving emperor that has remained in place over the centuries.

Tarnishing Nero’s Picture

This deliberate try and mar the picture of Nero could also be attributable to the truth that the individuals who wrote Rome’s historical past weren’t very happy with Nero. Though Suetonius and Cassius Dio claimed that the folks of Rome celebrated Nero’s demise, Tacitus paints a extra complicated image. In response to this author, it was the higher class, the the Aristocracy, and the senators, who rejoiced at Nero’s demise. Against this, the lower class and slaves mourned Nero’s death as a result of they felt he had their finest pursuits at coronary heart. Moreover, two future emperors, Otho and Vitellius, would use the reminiscence of Nero to realize the help of the Roman folks. Thus, it might be mentioned that the adverse picture that now we have of Nero will not be solely as a result of evilness of the emperor himself, however due partially to the historians who wrote unfavorably about him.

This additionally leads us to query how a lot of what we learn about Nero actually is true. For instance, in line with standard accounts, Nero took nice pleasure in throwing Christians to packs of canines, and host events whereas he and his company watched Christians burning on stakes in his backyard. The Sibylline Oracles, Ebook 5 and eight, written within the 2nd century, claimed Nero was the antichrist, and it has even been recommended that the quantity 666 within the Ebook of Revelation is a code for Nero.

The brutality of Rome and its emperors is well-known and properly recorded, as was the persecution of Christians, however are such horror tales ascribed to Nero based mostly on reality, or has historical past been manipulated by those that sought to make use of it to realize and preserve energy?  Historians at this time proceed to seek for solutions to those questions, and as excavations on his palace proceed, an increasing number of info is rising about Nero and the world he reigned over.  As for Rome, a metropolis product of marble and stone grew from the ashes of the Nice Fireplace.

Prime picture: Emperor Nero taking part in music whereas Rome burns. Supply: Justinas / Adobe Inventory.

By Ḏḥwty


Ask Historical past, 2012. Did Nero actually fiddle whereas Rome burned?. [Online] Accessible at:  http://www.history.com/news/ask-history/did-nero-really-fiddle-while-rome-burned

Clark, J., 2014. Did Nero actually play the fiddle whereas Rome burned?. [Online] Accessible at:  http://history.howstuffworks.com/history-vs-myth/nero.htm

Gill, N. S., 2014. Nero Burning Rome. [Online] Accessible at:  http://ancienthistory.about.com/od/nero/qt/012911-Nero-Burning-Rome.htm

Gyles, M. F., 1947. Nero Fiddled Whereas Rome Burned. [Online] Accessible at:  http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Journals/CJ/42/4/Nero_Fiddled*.html

Upton, E., 2012. Nero Did not Fiddle Whereas Rome Burned. [Online] Accessible at:  http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2013/07/nero-didnt-fiddle-while-rome-burned/

Wikipedia, 2014. Nero. [Online] Accessible at:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nero

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