Nero Becomes The Fifth Emperor of the Roman Empire

Today on October 13, 54, Nero was proclaimed Emperor of Rome, commencing thirteen years of tyranny and chaos.

Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, simply known as Nero, was the fifth emperor of the newly established Roman Empire. As a young boy, he was adopted by his great-uncle, Emperor Claudius and eventually named his sole successor to the throne. Nero’s mother, Agrippina the Younger, was an influential and dominating force throughout his life. It’s widely believed she orchestrated Claudius’s death and masterminded her son’s ascension to power. As time passed, he grew tired of his mother’s constant interference and eventually banished her from his court. Only five years into his reign, he had his own mother murdered.

Nero’s reign was a drastic departure from the previous Roman emperors. Rome’s elite viewed his actions as disgraceful and inappropriate. He was very passionate about the arts and athletics and often made public appearances as an actor, poet, and charioteer - all of which were very unusual for an emperor. In many ways, Nero viewed himself more as an artist than a politician. His popularity quickly declined after raising taxes on the upper classes to fund major public and private works. It didn’t take long before the young emperor was surrounded by new enemies. Contemporary historians describe Nero as a ruthless man who showed the utmost cruelty towards any that opposed him. He often blamed Christian groups for any wrongdoing and was known to burn his enemies alive.

Several major events in Roman history occurred during his reign, including a major revolt in Britain from the famous Iceni Queen, Boudica, the Great Fire of Rome, the First Jewish-Roman War, and the successful conquest of the Parthian Empire. Nero is perhaps most widely remembered for igniting the Great Fire of Rome and playing a fiddle as the city burned to the ground. However, there is no concrete evidence to suggest this ever happened. In 68 CE, Nero declared an enemy of the state and condemned to death. Rather than being captured, he became the first emperor to commit suicide. Nero served as the last ruling member of the Julio-Claudian dynasty.

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