The cruel Roman emperor Nero commits suicide (June 9, AD 68) - History Key

The cruel Roman emperor Nero commits suicide (June 9, AD 68)

Nero became the Roman emperor in 54, the same year when his adoptive father, Claudius, died (most likely poisoned). Nero is part of those emperors who have been severely judged in ancient literature. Only in Greece were voices preoccupied with a different image. For instance, Nero was an example of Plato’s affirmation that the “great injustice does not start from ordinary people, but from a corrupt noble soul with a wrong education”. On today’s article we will focus a bit on the facts about Nero that you probably didn’t know and we will describe his last day of his life.

 Nero and Agrippina
Nero and Agrippina © Carlos Delgado/ Image Source: Wikipedia

As a teenager he robbed for fun

It is certain that at only 17 years-old, Nero became the emperor of Rome. He is also known as the youngest emperor of Rome ever since. Strongly influenced by his mother Agrippina, Nero was preparing for the major role he would play at the forefront of the known world. However his role wasn’t taken too seriously because of his age. He left the palace often, disguised as a woman or a man to participate in the cruellest orgies. It is also said that when he left the “party” Nero attacked the passers-by, hitting and robbing them only for fun.

Nero and his mother were too close

During Nero’s reign everything was possible. It can be said that more infamous than Nero was his mother, Agrippina. She imagined that she was the true ruler of the empire, manipulating his son and considering him only a puppet. The Romans usually speculated about the sex lives of their emperors. In this case, Nero and his mother were carried through Rome with a portable couch concealed by curtains. Therefore the rumors started to appear that the Nero and Agrippina had been doing more than just reviewing legislation. However, this image of Nero comes from rumors, not from facts.

The picture below explains the influence of Nero’s mother. Take a look at their busts, Agrippina look like she was equal to Nero.

An Aureus of Nero and his mother, Agrippina, c. 54
An Aureus of Nero and his mother, Agrippina, c. 54 © Image Source: Wikipedia

He had his mother executed

Knowing that Agrippina was planning to remove him as an emperor and replace him with Britannicus, Claudius’ natural son, Nero took drastic measures. Britannicus died in February 55 under dubious circumstances, probably poisoned as well. After this event, Nero sends his mother on a sea trip with a trap ship that should have disintegrated. Somehow Agrippina survives, but she is killed by the Pretorians who are specially trained by the emperor. His hatred falls also upon his wife, Octavia, also killing her in short time.

He marries with a boy

His madness was already known by the Romans. Somehow the citizens knew about all of his “unpredictable” actions. Haunted by his mother’s vision and tortured by the dead of his wife Octavia, the emperor chooses a teenager boy, named Sporus, as a partner. It is said that Sporus’ appearance resembles with his ex-wife. Even more, Nero probably ordered that Sporus to be castrated. After this, Nero publicly announces the wedding between them.

He persecuted the Christians

Perhaps Nero’s most infamous act is the persecution of the sects of Christians. Rome was burned (Great Fire of Rome) and the citizens accused him for it. The fire lasted for six days which offered Nero the possibility to persecute the Christians.

Artwork depicting the Great Fire of Rome
Artwork depicting the Great Fire of Rome © Hubert Robert/ Image Source: Wikipedia

Even it was never been proven, the emperor earned the nickname “Nero, who set Rome on fire”. Fearing that such a reaction from his people could affect him, Nero was looking for a scapegoat: Christians. Thousands of innocent people are dragged into the arenas and tortured in grotesque manners. Children and women are thrown to the lions in a very large number. In order to complete his revenge, Nero illuminates the alleys from his palace with living torches. Christians were wrapped in oil-soaked cotton rolls and set on fire.

Nero's Torches
Nero’s Torches © Henryk Siemiradzki/PD-Art/ Image Source: Wikipedia


In 68, Nero faced financial difficulties. The rebuilding of Rome and the construction of his “golden palace” has ruined the empire, which made him to raise the taxes and confiscate valuable objects. Therefore his popularity was at the bottom. Even more, the governor Galba declared himself legate of the Senate and Roman people, and shortly after that he declared Nero an enemy of the people.

Nero knew that his people wanted him dead, but when politicians wanted the same, his death was just a matter of time. However, he tried to escape from Rome, but the Pretorians refused to help him and his servants left him. Therefore, he went out into the streets from his palace among with Sporus and met one of the liberals, Faon. They walked into one of Nero’s houses and went into a dark room, in the back of the house. In there, Nero called his personal assistent to help him stab himself in the throat. Just before the stabbing he exclaimed: “Oh, what an artist dies in me.”

The alleged Tomb of Nero
The alleged Tomb of Nero © Giovanni Battista Piranesi / Image Source: Wikipedia

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