The Musical Tyrant: 5 Facts about Emperor Nero
The Musical Tyrant: 5 Facts about Emperor Nero

The Musical Tyrant: 5 Facts about Emperor Nero

Patrick Lynch - December 25, 2016

The Musical Tyrant: 5 Facts about Emperor Nero
Heritage History – Nero Fiddles While Rome Burns

5 – His Death Led To Civil Wars

The people of Rome were fed up with Nero’s tyrannical rule. Although he had provided assistance in the aftermath of the Great Fire of Rome, he built a decadent palace on some of the ruins and in 68 AD, he increased taxation to pay for it. Tales of his depravity and cruelty were well known and his extraordinary ego ruined the Olympic Games of 67 AD. He fell in the chariot race and offered poor performances as an actor and singer. Nonetheless, he was awarded victories because of his status and paraded around Rome wearing the crowns he had ‘won.’

The Pisonian Conspiracy was the first sign of open revolt against the emperor, but it wouldn’t be the last. In April 68 AD, Gaius Iulius Vindex, a Roman Governor in Gaul, renounced the emperor and declared his support for Galba. Nero failed to respond decisively to this rebellion, and support for Galba quickly grew, Galba declared himself legate of the Senate and the Roman People. Soon, the Praetorian Guard announced their allegiance to Galba and the Senate followed suit while also declaring Nero as an enemy of the people.

Nero ordered Lucius Verginius Rufus to quell the rebellion in Gaul and in May, he defeated Vindex who committed suicide. The legions of Verginius wanted him to become emperor, but he refused to act against Nero. Nonetheless, it was clear that the tyrant’s days were numbered. After a failed attempt to flee Rome, he returned to the city and woke up to find his palace guard had left.

Nero went to his villa and asked four freedmen to dig a grave for him. A courier arrived and provided a false report that the Senate had sentenced the emperor to die and he would be beaten to death. In reality, Senate members wanted to reach a compromise to ensure the royal bloodline remained intact. On June 9, 68 AD, Nero ordered Epaphroditos to help him commit suicide.

Cassius Dio and Suetonius wrote that the people of Rome celebrated the death of Nero. However, his death was to lead to a bloody civil war and instability as 69 AD became known as the year of the Four Emperors. Galba became emperor upon Nero’s death but was killed by the Praetorian Guard. Otho was emperor for only three months before Vitellius assumed the throne. Finally, Vespasian was recognized as the leader of Rome, and he reigned relatively peacefully for ten years.

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