Friday, October 29, 2010

Nero fiddled, Rome burned

Nero, born December 15, 37, died June 9, 68 by suicide, ending the reign of the Julio dynasty of Rome.

Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus, called Nero by friends and enemies alike, was known for fiddling while Rome burned. In truth, he was pleased with the clearing of the city so he could build his pleasure palace on a prime piece of Roman real estate otherwise occupied by the property’s owners.

Once obtaining the prized piece of ground, his Real Estate and building projects were completed by the salve class who were entertained by gladiatorial games. Unlike other times in the Empire, this period was particularly hard on the slaves with little to no compensation for their labor. They attended gladiatorial games regularly for the food dispensed to the crowds.

Nero’s ruthlessness and greed for money and power propelled him into abuse of the citizenry. Under his rule the decline of the Roman Empire became apparent. With the heavy taxation of the people, consolidation of wealth to a few, especially Nero’s treasury, Rome became troubled within the Empire and that was the good side.

Despite troubles both within and on the outskirts the Empire, Nero didn’t flinch at demanding his wealthy enemies, and perhaps a few friends, bequeath their lands and property to him. Often his royal request came just before charges of treason were delivered via the sword. Inheriting, rather than seizing the wealth gave him full power to use his ill-gotten gains as he chose.

Hardly a family man, he is suspected of being in on the plot his mother launched to kill his uncle Claudius, the previous Emperor. Once on the throne, he found his mother tedious and had her killed. He served his first wife’s head to his second wife, by request. Not too much later, he kicked his second wife to death while she was pregnant with his heir.

All this from a man who wasn’t much of a politician but inherited his position, wasn’t fiscally wise but obtained much his wealth through improper and illegal means, and wasn’t much of a looker either.

The Roman slaves entertained by the games were equally joyous at the death of the emperor. It’s recorded: there was dancing in the street.

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