Nero: The End of a Dynasty

Nero: The End of a Dynasty

Nero: The End of a Dynasty

Nero: The End of a Dynasty

Synopsis

Nero's personality and crimes have always intrigued historians and writers of fiction. However, his reign also illuminates the nature of the Julio-Claudian Principate. Nero's suicide brought to an end the dynasty Augustus had founded, and placed in jeopardy the political system he had devised.Miriam T. Griffin's authoratitive survey of Nero's reign incorporates both a chronological account, as well as an analysis of the reasons for Nero's collapse under the pressure of his role as emperor.

Excerpt

In excusing the monotony of his narrative, with its concentration on imperial crime and cruelty, the historian Tacitus argued that to be wise in politics is to understand those who wield power according to the constitution of the time: in his own day, he claimed, that meant studying the character of the Princeps. As if in confirmation of his judgement, the genre of imperial biography was about to be inaugurated in Latin by his younger contemporary Suetonius and was thereafter to remain long in fashion.

This ancient defence of imperial biography is difficult to impugn. Yet it imposes no obligation to rewrite the works of the ancient historians and biographers which are accessible in excellent translations even to the general reader. Indeed recent scholarship tends to frown on the composition of imperial lives, favouring instead works that illuminate the general structure of the imperial system and the long processes that explain the development of the Empire. Yet even from this point of view, it sometimes matters that a particular man became Princeps at a particular time. It can be argued that, as Princeps, Nero affected cultural processes, namely the history of the visual arts and of Latin literature, and that, by failing as Princeps, he made manifest both the structural weaknesses and the practical necessity of the Augustan system.

This study is intended to be a hybrid, biographical in its concentration on the Emperor's personality and problems, historical in its analysis of his fall in terms of the interaction of that personality with the political system. Nero's reign is here examined from two standpoints: first, his own inclinations and the way his expression of them was affected by his particular circumstances and the advice of others; then the pressures inherent in the Principate, pressures which were bound to condition any ruler's conduct even if he was not continuously aware of them. In accordance with the latter focus, the excellent beginning of his reign is examined for signs of stress such as appear in his dealings with the Senate and his handling of his freedmen secretaries (chapter 6), while the latter disastrous phase leads to an extended post-mortem (chapters 11-15) covering the problem of the succession, the financial responsibilities of the Emperor, and two questions bearing on the appropriate image of the Princeps: the temptation of philhellenism and the need for military glory.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.