Nero

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Nero

Nero (Nero Claudius Caesar) (nēr´ō), AD 37–AD 68, Roman emperor (AD 54–AD 68). He was originally named Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus and was the son of Cnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus (consul in AD 32) and of Agrippina the Younger, who was the great-granddaughter of Augustus. Agrippina married (AD 49) Claudius I and persuaded him to adopt Nero. In AD 55, Agrippina saw the bonds of her domination of Nero loosening and intrigued in favor of Claudius' son, Britannicus, but Nero poisoned the boy. Poppaea Sabina, the wife of his friend Otho, became his mistress; according to rumor she was to blame for the worst of Nero's behavior. In AD 59 he murdered his mother and in AD 62, his wife Octavia. He later married Poppaea. When half of Rome was burned in a fire (AD 64), Nero accused the Christians of starting it and began the first Roman persecution. In AD 65 there was a plot to make Caius Calpurnius Piso emperor. The detection of this plot began a string of violent deaths, e.g., of Seneca, Lucan, and Thrasea Paetus. Nero had ambitions to be a poet and artist. In AD 68 a series of revolts, including one by his own Praetorian Guard, caused him to commit suicide. Among his last words were, "What an artist the world is losing in me!" His memory was publicly execrated.

See biography by M. Griffin, Nero: The End of a Dynasty (1985).

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