Biography

Early Years

Emperor Nero was born Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus in 37 near Rome to Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus and Agrippina the Younger. In 50, he was adopted by then Emperor Claudius as his son and heir taking the name Nero Claudius Caesar Drursus Germanicus. After Claudius died in 54, Nero became emperor and took the name Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus. His mother as well as his advisors Seneca and Burrus heavily influenced his rule for the first couple years of his reign.

Consolidation of Power

Agrippina made her disapproval of Nero’s mistress Poppaea Sabina known. This disapproval led Nero to break away from his mother’s influence and come into his own as emperor. Their relationship soured so much that Nero had her killed in 59. First in a shipwreck and then, that not succeeding, her executed her under the pretense that she was conspiring against him, and thus all of Rome. Nero then divorced his wife, Octavia, in 62 to marry Poppaea Sabina. Already a fan of the games, he embraced them with a new passion after the death of his mother.

Nero was always popular with the ordinary people of Rome. He was very generous with his charity as well as the games. He built gymnasiums, bath houses, and many other buildings that existed for the betterment of the public across the empire. The real threat came from the upper classes whose discontent came to a peak after a fire devastated Rome in 64.

The Fire

In June of 64, a fire broke out that destroyed or significantly damaged large portions of Rome. After the fire, Nero revealed that he was going to seize the land that was originally home to many members of the senate in order to make his Golden Palace, sparking rumors that he was the one to actually start the blaze. The seizure of land did not significantly affect ordinary Romans, but Nero had essentially seized the homes as well as a great deal of wealth from the upper class, specifically the senate. The cost of reconstruction was so great that Nero was forced to debase the coinage.

The Revolt and Death of Nero

In 68, Gaius Julius Vindex, provincial governor of Gallia Lugdunensis, rebelled against Nero. The revolt was quickly put down, but the seeds of unrest were planted and others soon started. Galba, a provincial governor in Hispania, declared himself “Legate of Senate and Roman People” (Oxford Classical Dictionary) and headed towards Rome with his army. Furthermore, the senate declared Nero a public enemy. Upon hearing about these developments, Nero decided to commit suicide.