Was Nero murdered

To this day, the well-known and notorious emperor Nero has to struggle with a rather dubious reputation. Mostly he is associated with the fact that he set Rome on fire and then clothed the fire with his lyre. In addition, he is often viewed as a tyrant who even murdered his own mother and carried out a cruel persecution of Christians. He owes his negative image above all to the historians and the fact that he was considered the antichrist par excellence in the Christian Middle Ages. The truth, however, doesn't look quite as black and white.

Nero was born on December 15, 37 under the name Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus in Antium. His mother Julia Agrippina was the sister of the emperor Caligula, who also has a very negative image in the ancient sources and is considered a ruler. Nero's father Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus died just two years after his birth.
After Caligula was murdered and Emperor Claudius had ascended the throne, Nero's mother Agrippina's hunger for power was revealed. She married the new emperor (who was her own uncle) and had her son, who was only named Nero, adopted by him. She even managed Claudius, who had probably succumbed to her beauty, to move Nero to first place in the line of succession, even though he actually had a biological son.

When Claudius suddenly envisaged his son's participation in power in 54 AD, a violent argument broke out between him and Agrippina. In order to secure Nero's sole throne, Agrippina is said to have even poisoned her husband with mushrooms. One thing is certain: Claudius died on October 13, 54 and Nero became the new emperor.

Nero, who was initially still under the control of his mother, was seen as a thoroughly positive ruler in the first few years. He had grain prices lowered, organized games and refused imperial interference in senatorial affairs.
Gradually, however, Agrippina lost control of Nero and therefore threatened to overthrow him. Nero then turned against his own mother and had her murdered in her villa on March 23, 59. A heinous crime, which he justified with an alleged attempted attack. Years earlier, Nero is said to have poisoned his younger stepbrother, but this is not considered proven.

From AD 60 onwards, Nero's real destiny came more and more to the fore. He saw himself as an artist who vied for recognition. For example, in Naples he founded competitions based on the Greek model, in which the competitors had to compete in singing, poetry, but also horse racing and other sports. At the Neronia games named after him, he appeared for the first time in front of a large number of spectators and was celebrated. For the Roman aristocracy this was outrageous and condemnable behavior.

To this day, however, Nero became famous primarily because of the terrible event that took place in Rome on the night of July 18-19, 64. A fire kindled in the streets of the city, which raged for nine days and completely destroyed several parts of the city. In addition to the much too dense development, strong winds were also to blame for the great destruction.
Soon after the fire, rumors were spread that Nero himself had started the fire to make room for his new palace, the Golden House. In fact, when the fire broke out, Nero was in Antium, 50 kilometers away, his summer residence. So the most possible is an order to start the fire, but that is also highly controversial. The second rumor, which says Nero sang about the fall of Troy during the fire with the lyre, is also more than dubious. In fact, Nero's multiple appearances as an artist is responsible for the fact that large circles of higher society viewed it as very skeptical. In addition, he had himself depicted on the Roman ace coin with the lyre in hand at that time, which could well have fueled such a rumor.

After the fire in Rome, Nero himself reacted sensibly by lowering the price of grain and building emergency shelters for the homeless in his own park. Nevertheless, the rumor of Nero's alleged outrage soon made the rounds, which finally moved him to look for a culprit to distract from himself. Nero found this scapegoat in Christianity. Its members were the perfect sacrifice, especially since the then still small and young sect of Christ followers were not very popular among the general population.

The following persecution of followers of Christianity, which went down in history under the name "Neronian Persecution of Christians", was probably the first of its kind - by the year 311 AD, numerous more were to follow.

Nero ordered the arrest of numerous Christians and sentenced many to the bestial death sentences. The executions were staged in front of the people and there were gruesome spectacles.
Women are said to have been tied to the horns of bulls and dragged to death, others expected a fate as human torches or they were torn apart by dogs. Overall, this first persecution of Christians was limited to the city of Rome, so that, according to current estimates, around 200 victims are assumed. Sources from late antiquity, on the other hand, speak of almost five times the number.

The persecution of Christians certainly contributed significantly to the fact that Nero got the image of the evil tyrant in the later Christian world of the West. Today you should see your role in a more nuanced way. The fact that Nero saw himself as an artist and showed little political interest led to the fact that only negative sources emerged about him during his lifetime. A singing and dancing emperor, to whom the judgment of the singing jury seemed more important than the Roman Empire, was a thorn in the side of many contemporaries. In truth, Nero just had the wrong job and was not suitable as a ruler.

So it was not surprising that the rejection of Nero was soon expressed in attempts to overthrow. In 66 AD the Pisonian conspiracy and a short time later the Vinician conspiracy took place. Both coup attempts, named after their authors, ultimately failed and led to the death of everyone involved, including their descendants. As a result, Nero was no longer moderate and brought about a wave of arrests and convictions that were only intended to accelerate his departure.

In 68 AD the Roman governor Gaius Iulius Vindex called for an uprising against Nero. When two other governors (Galba and Otho) joined him and Nero found out about it, he is said to have fainted. Since the Senate and the Roman upper class had long since turned away from the ruler and other armies had defected to the rebels, Nero decided to flee to Egypt.
On the way to the port, Nero stopped in one of his country estates to rest. When he woke up again he found that he had been abandoned by his bodyguards and his most loyal advisers. Nero recognized the seriousness of the situation and fled with only four companions to find shelter. During his escape he is said to keep repeating the famous words "What an artist perishes with me!" ("Qualis artifex pereo!"). Only when he finally heard the approaching horses of the soldiers did Nero commit suicide with the help of his secretary Epaphroditus by having a dagger stuck in his throat.

After his death (on June 9 or 11, 68) the body was cremated and buried in the tomb of Domitii. Nero, who had been declared an "enemy of the people" shortly before his death, was now punished with the so-called "Damnatio memoriae" (The damnation of memory). For this purpose, for example, busts and statues were destroyed or processed. The Roman Empire, however, fell into the turmoil of the Four Emperor's Year (69 AD) when Galba, Otho, Vitellius and finally Vespasian alternated on the throne in quick succession.