Birthday: December 15, 37
Emperors & Kings
Died At Age: 30
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Also Known As: Imperator Nero Cladius Divi Claudius filius Caesar Augustus Germanicus
Born Country: Italy
Born in: Anzio, Italy
Famous as: Roman Emperor
Spouse/Ex-: Claudia Octavia, Poppaea Sabina, Pythagoras (freedman), Sporus, Statilia Messalina
father: Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus, Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus, Claudius
mother: Agrippina the Younger
children: Claudia Augusta
Died on: June 9, 68
place of death: Rome, Italy
Cause of Death: Suicide
Nero was a Roman emperor who ruled from 54 to 68 AD. The last emperor of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, he was notorious as a brutal, tyrannical, and ineffective leader. Born as the son of Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus and Agrippina the Younger, he lost his father at an early age. His mother went on to marry her own uncle Claudius who was the Roman Emperor at the time. She persuaded him to adopt her own son and proclaim him the heir to the throne. Many ancient historians state that Agrippina then poisoned Claudius to death in order to pave the way for her son to ascend the throne. Nero became the emperor following Claudius’ death in 54. Aged just 17 at the time, he became the youngest Roman emperor. During the initial years of his rule, his mother’s influence was tremendous. Over time, Nero became more powerful and had his own mother murdered. He became notorious for his extravagant lifestyle and deviant sexual practices. He proved to be an ineffectual ruler and Rome was in turmoil for the greater part of his reign. His tyrannical reign and cruelty made him highly despised, forcing the Senate to declare him a public enemy and condemn him to death by beating. In order to escape the death sentence, he committed suicide in 68 AD.
Childhood & Early Life
Nero was born Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus on 15 December 37AD, in Antium near Rome, to Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus and Agrippina the Younger.
Ahenobarbus died in 48 AD following which Agrippina married her own uncle Claudius who was the emperor. Claudius adopted Lucius Domitius and gave him the name Nero Claudius Caesar Drusus Germanicus. Agrippina then persuaded Claudius to proclaim Nero the heir to the throne.
Nero turned 14 in 51 AD and was proclaimed an adult. He was appointed proconsul and began taking an active part in the governance. He started addressing the Senate and was featured in coinage.
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Accession & Reign
Claudius died in 54 AD. Many historians believe that he was poisoned to death by Agrippina in order to pave the way for her son to ascend the throne. Nero became the emperor at the age of 17; he was the youngest emperor at the time.
His mother was a highly ambitious and domineering woman. She tried to influence him greatly during the initial years of his reign. The other major influences in his life were his tutor Lucius Annaeus Seneca and the Praetorian Prefect Sextus Afranius Burrus who developed a dislike for the overbearing Agrippina.
For the first few years of his rule, Nero proved to be a reasonable leader. He lowered taxes, was empathetic towards slaves, and eliminated capital punishment. He also strived towards becoming a more independent leader and gave more importance to the advice of the wise Seneca than that of his mother.
However, things started changing soon after. Tired of his mother’s interference in his public and private life, Nero had her murdered in 59 AD. His trusted advisor Burrus died in 62 AD and Seneca retired from public life. Around this time, accusations of treason against Nero and the Senate began to surface. A defensive Nero executed a number of people, including his rivals Pallas, Rubellius Plautus, and Faustus Sulla.
Over the next few years, he eliminated several of his other rivals and consolidated his power. His reputation as a reasonable leader diminished because of his tyrannical behavior.
A war between the Roman Empire and the Parthian Empire had been going on since 58 AD. The war was over Armenia, a vital buffer state between the two realms. In spite of his young age and aversion to battles, Nero handled the situation bravely and was finally able to establish Armenia as a buffer state following a peace deal in 63 AD.
A great fire ravaged Rome in 64 AD, destroying a major portion of the city. The fire, which erupted on the night of 18 July 64, raged on for five days and destroyed three of the 14 Roman districts and severely damaged seven districts. Even though it could not be ascertained whether the fire was accidental or arson, people widely believed that it was Nero who started the fire.
In the wake of the fire, he set up large scale relief efforts in order to provide succor to the victims. He used his own funds and personally took part in the search and rescue operations. It was also said that he provided shelter to the homeless in his own palaces.
Despite his efforts, Nero was still unpopular among the masses and had several opponents. In 65 AD, Gaius Calpurnius Piso, a Roman statesman, plotted a conspiracy to kill Nero and take the crown for himself. However, Nero learned of the conspiracy and the leading conspirators, including Piso, Seneca, and Lucan were executed.
In March 68 AD, Governor Gaius Julius Vindex rebelled against Nero's tax policies. He was soon joined by another Governor Servius Sulpicius Galba. The revolt spread and people, who were already dissatisfied with Nero, started demanding that Galba be made the emperor. Nero was reportedly declared a public enemy by the Senate which condemned him to die a slave’s death; on a cross and under the whip.
Personal Life & Legacy
He married his stepsister Claudia Octavia in 53 AD. He was, however, unhappy with her and became romantically involved with Poppaea Sabina, the wife of his friend and future Emperor Otho. He divorced Octavia and married Poppaea in 62 AD. Poppaea died in 65 AD while she was pregnant with her second child. At that time, it was widely reported that Nero had kicked her to death. However, modern historians postulate that Poppaea may have died because of complications of miscarriage or childbirth.
He became involved with a married woman named Statilia Messalina in 65 AD. Nero drove her husband to commit suicide so that he could marry her. The marriage took place in 66 AD.
In 67, Nero ordered a young freeman named Sporus—who bore an uncanny resemblance to Poppaea Sabina—to be castrated so that he could marry him.
Following rebellions against him in 68 AD, Nero lost most of his supporters; even his bodyguards left him. When he heard that the Senate had condemned him to death by beating, he panicked and decided to commit suicide. His private secretary Epaphroditos assisted him in killing himself. He died on 9 June 68 AD.