Emperor Nero – Reign & Achievements
Here comes another infamous Roman ruler. After taking the reins of power as the 5th Emperor of Rome, Nero left behind a tarnished reputation. His reign effectively wrecked and ended the Julio-Claudian Dynasty. Nero’s wickedness was climaxed by his murder of the very woman that birthed him.
As a result of mounting pressure from a disgruntled senate, Emperor Nero took the easy and coward way out, he ended his life in 68 AD. Perhaps it was out of guilt or self-loathing. The following provides greater insight into Nero’s world. It delves right into Emperor Nero’s reign and some of the few achievements that he chalked up:
Birth and Family
His birth date was 15th December 37 AD. Born in Rome, as a kid Nero was called Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus. His parents were Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus (father) and Agrippina the Younger (mother). Nero was their first and only son; he had no other brothers.
Through Agrippina’s line, Nero descended from Emperor Augustus. She was also the sister of Emperor Caligula, the horrific emperor who bullied people and deified himself as a god. Around 40 AD, Nero’s father Domitius passed away.
A year before her husband’s death, Agrippina the Younger’s name was at the center of a marital scandal. It was also alleged that she was involved in a political plot to overthrow Caligula. Consequently, she was banished by Caligula. She went into exile to live on an isolated island, somewhere in the Mediterranean.
The purported criminal action of Nero’s mother affected his chance to ever rule; Nero was stripped of his inheritance rights and taken to Domitia Lepida (Nero’s aunt).
Nero’s Journey to the Throne
Caligula met a hot death in 41 AD; he was assassinated by his own people who rose up against his tyrannical rule. After the dictator’s death, Claudius succeeded him as emperor.
Determined to get close to power, Agrippina went ahead and married her uncle Claudius, the new emperor. The year was 49 AD, she became the emperor’s 4th wife. In her position as Claudius’ wife, she convinced the emperor to adopt Nero. By this adoption, Claudius was added to Nero’s name. His full name now read: Nero Claudius Drusus Germanicus.
Living in complete darkness, the emperor went further to distribute gold coins bearing Nero’s image, marking the ill-fated adoption and signaling that Nero would rule. The strange, but dangerous, thing about this adoption was that it lessened the succession chance of Claudius’ biological son, Britannicus. The deceitful and manipulative Agrippina was eyeing the throne together with her son. She used every least opportunity to promote her son’s future in the succession line.
Unfortunately, Claudius’s days were numbered by a mysterious death. He passed away in 54 AD, after about 13 years on the throne. Some scholars attribute his premature death to poisoning masterminded by Agrippina. Looking at her treacherous character, poisoning the emperor was something she could do with ease. Even during Claudius’ reign, Agrippina had already put all necessary measures to ensure her son inherits the throne. With all obstacles cleared, Nero came to power in 54 AD. He was still a teenager, aged 17. That said, he is considered as one of the youngest Roman emperors to solely rule Rome.
His Mother’s Interference
Agrippina, after masterminding her son’s rise to power, didn’t allow Nero to solely rule in peace. She domineered in every aspect of her son’s reign and even developed bitter feelings about Nero’s personal advisers.
As if her domineering habit wasn’t enough, she interfered in Nero’s relationship and romantic affairs. When her son expressed his love for Acte ( a freed slave), Agrippina showed her strong disapproval.
Refusing to be dictated to, Nero increasingly disobeyed his mother’s wishes and advice. This marred their good relationship. So Agrippina started to put her weight behind under-aged Britannicus, hoping that he would end up inheriting the throne from her son. Unfortunately, Britannicus lost his life in 55 AD, one day away from being recognized as an adult. Nero allegedly poisoned him.
Agrippina’s continuous interference led Nero to banish her from the royal residence. In 59 AD, Nero authorized the murder of his mother.
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Achievements of Nero
Nero started well as a good leader who cared for the welfare of his people. However, as his reign progressed, Nero became a blood-sucking monster who eliminated people. His family members were no exceptions; he ordered his mother to be beaten to death; he poisoned his step-brother; and he also killed his ex-wives (Octavia and Poppaea).
As weird as it may sound, we will be ignoring his bad side and all the evil acts of Nero. Here is a look at some of Nero’s greatest achievements:
By 51 AD, Nero was a 14-year-old boy whose presence in the political domain could be felt. At 16 years, he married Claudia Octavia (the emperor’s daughter). Around 51-53 AD, he represented communities and gave speeches. One of his earlier achievements was his role in requesting a 5-year tax postponement. His intervention came at a time when natural disasters (quakes) had struck the Ilian community.
Roman Fire Relief
In 64 AD, an unforgiving inferno blazed the Roman city for a period of 10 good days. The disaster razed down the city, up to 75% of its area. Without any proof, Nero was blamed for the fire. Even though natural fires were common in Rome, the Romans suspected that emperor Nero caused the fire so that he could get space to build his dream Villa known as the Domus Aurea.
His response to the disaster was a bit helpful. He provided relief to the victims and also develop plans to rebuild the city.
It must also be noted that Emperor Nero took his increased divisive rule to a different level by blaming Christians for the great fire. With this sinister accusation, he unleashed untold persecutions, torture and murder of Roman Christians.
Art and Olympics
Nero was a physically active ruler. His tyrannical reign was real but he also did a lot by starting organizations to promote Roman Art.
Appearing to be a master of all trades, Nero competed a number of times in the Olympics as well as other sport competitions. Apart from kingship, he also excelled in poetry, writing and singing. His love for music and the arts in general was so great that as Rome burned, he is believed to have partied and danced the night away.
Nero’s Demise and Death
In his last years, Nero faced a lot of resistance to his economic and social policies. His ill-timed devaluation of the Roman currency (Denarius) proved to be unpopular. When he uncovered secret plans to topple him, he executed all the culprits.
But the executions didn’t deter future plots against him. In 68 AD, when it turned out that there was no where to run to, Nero took the painful decision and ended his life. He was succeeded to the throne by Lucius Livius Ocella Sulpicius Galba, the then governor of Hispania.
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