Monday, January 9, 7037

Italy - Roman Empire - Nero (AD 37-68)

Italy is located on the Italian Peninsula in Southern Europe, and on the two largest islands in the Mediterranean Sea, Sicily and Sardinia. Italy shares its northern Alpine boundary with France, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia. The independent states of San Marino and the Vatican City are enclaves within the Italian Peninsula, while Campione d'Italia is an Italian exclave in Switzerland.

Italy has been the home of many European cultures, such as the Etruscans and the Romans.

The Roman Empire is the phase of the ancient Roman civilization characterized by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and the Mediterranean. Usually, "Roman Empire" is the term used to describe the Roman state after the establishment of rule by emperors, but is sometimes in non-specialist contexts used more generally to refer to the expansionary Roman state both after and before the time of the first emperor, Augustus. The 500-year-old Roman Republic (510 BC – 1st century BC), which precedes it conceptually, had been weakened by the civil wars of the Late Republic.

Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus (December 15, 37 – June 9, 68), born Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus, also called Nero Claudius Caesar Germanicus, was the fifth and last Roman Emperor of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Nero was adopted by his great uncle Claudius to become heir to the throne. As Nero Claudius Caesar, he succeeded to the throne on October 13, 54, following Claudius' death.

[Tassin (c. 1170) - Dance Tune (c. 1200) (Gut Strung Harp)]

Nero ruled from 54 to 68, focusing much of his attention on diplomacy, trade, and increasing the cultural capital of the empire. He ordered the building of theatres and promoted athletic games. His reign included a successful war and negotiated peace with the Parthian Empire (58–63), the suppression of the British revolt (60–61) and improving relations with Greece. In 68 a military coup drove Nero into hiding. Facing execution, he reportedly committed forced suicide.

Nero's rule is often associated with tyranny and extravagance. He is known for a number of executions, including his mother and adoptive brother, as the emperor who "fiddled while Rome burned" (an impossible situation, since bowed string instruments were not present in the Empire -- Nero did play the lyre however, but probably not while the city was in flames) and an early persecutor of Christians. This view is based upon the main surviving sources for Nero's reign -- Tacitus, Suetonius and Cassius Dio. Few surviving sources paint Nero in a favorable light.

Some sources, though, portray him as an emperor who was popular with the Roman people, especially in the East.

The study of Nero is problematic as some modern historians question the reliability of ancient sources when reporting on Nero's alleged tyrannical acts.

It may be impossible to completely separate fact from fiction concerning Nero's reign.

Nero was an avid lover of arts and entertainment, building a number of gymnasiums and theaters and had performers dress in Greek clothing.

The Great Fire of Rome erupted on the night of July 18 to July 19, 64. The fire started at the southeastern end of the Circus Maximus in shops selling flammable goods.

How large the fire was is up for debate. According to Tacitus, who was nine at the time of the fire, it spread quickly and burnt for five days.

It completely destroyed four of fourteen Roman districts and severely damaged seven.

The only other historian who lived through the period and mentioned the fire is Pliny the Elder who wrote about it in passing.

Other historians who lived through the period (including Josephus, Dio Chrysostom, Plutarch, and Epictetus) make no mention of it.

It is uncertain who or what actually caused the fire -- whether accident or arson.

Suetonius and Cassius Dio favor Nero as the arsonist.

Tacitus mentions that Christians confessed to the crime, but it is not known whether these were confessions induced by torture.

However, accidentally started fires were common in ancient Rome.

In fact, Rome burned significantly again under Vitellius in 69 and under Titus in 80.

It was said by Suetonius and Cassius Dio that Nero sang the "Sack of Ilium" in stage costume while the city burned.

Popular legend claims that Nero played the fiddle at the time of the fire, an anachronism based merely on the concept of the lyre, a stringed instrument associated with Nero and his performances. (There were no fiddles in 1st-century Rome.) However, Tacitus's account has Nero in Antium at the time of the fire.

Tacitus also said that Nero playing his lyre and singing while the city burned was only rumor.

According to Tacitus, upon hearing news of the fire, Nero rushed back to Rome to organize a relief effort, which he paid for from his own funds.

After the fire, Nero opened his palaces to provide shelter for the homeless, and arranged for food supplies to be delivered in order to prevent starvation among the survivors.

In the wake of the fire, he made a new urban development plan. Houses after the fire were spaced out, built in brick, and faced by porticos on wide roads.

Nero also built a new palace complex known as the Domus Aurea in an area cleared by the fire. This included lush artificial landscapes and a 30 meter statue of himself, the Colossus of Nero.

The size of this complex is debated (from 100 to 300 acres).

To find the necessary funds for the reconstruction, tributes were imposed on the provinces of the empire.

According to Tacitus, the population searched for a scapegoat and rumors held Nero responsible.

To diffuse blame, Nero targeted a sect called the Christians.

He ordered Christians to be thrown to dogs, while others were crucified and burned.

Tacitus described the event:

“ Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired.”

Nero enjoyed driving a one-horse chariot, singing to the harp and poetry.

He even composed songs that were performed by other entertainers throughout the empire.

At first, Nero only performed for a private audience.

In 64, Nero began singing in public in Neapolis in order to improve his popularity.

He also sang at the second quinquennial Neronia in 65.

It was said that Nero craved the attention, but historians also write that Nero was encouraged to sing and perform in public by the Senate, his inner circle and the people.

Ancient historians strongly criticize his choice to perform, calling it shameful.

Nero was convinced to participate in the Olympic Games of 67 in order to improve relations with Greece and display Roman dominance.

As a competitor, Nero raced a ten-horse chariot and nearly died after being thrown from it.

He also performed as an actor and a singer.

Though Nero faltered in his racing (in one case, dropping out entirely before the end) and acting competitions, he won these crowns nevertheless and paraded them when he returned to Rome.

The victories are attributed to Nero bribing the judges and his status as emperor.

In late 67 or early 68, Vindex, the governor of Gallia Lugdunensis in Gaul, rebelled against the tax policies of Nero.

Virginius Rufus, the governor of superior Germany was sent to put down the rebellion.[105] To gain support, Vindex called on Galba, the governor of Hispania Citerior in Hispania, to become emperor.

Virginius Rufus defeated Vindex's forces and Vindex committed suicide.

Galba was declared a public enemy and his legion was confined in the city of Clunia.

Nero had regained the control of the empire militarily, but this opportunity was used by his enemies in Rome. By June of 68 the senate voted Galba the emperor and declared Nero a public enemy.

The Praetorian Guard was bribed to betray Nero by the praetorian prefect, Nymphidius Sabinus, who desired to become emperor himself.

According to Suetonius, Nero fled Rome on the Salaria road.

They urged him to flee, but he prepared himself for suicide.

Reportedly, the Praetorian Guard entered to capture Nero just as he stabbed himself with the help of his secretary, Epaphroditos.

Upon seeing the figure of a Roman soldier, he gasped "this is fidelity."

It was said by Cassius Dio that he uttered the last words "Jupiter, what an artist perishes in me!"

With his death, the Julio-Claudian dynasty came to an end. Chaos ensued in the Year of the four emperors.

Nero is the main character of some musical works, as the operas:

Claudio Monteverdi's L'incoronazione di Poppea (1642)

Anton Rubinstein's Nero (1879)

Arrigo Boito's Nerone (1924)

Pietro Mascagni's Nerone (1935)