What Made Emperor Nero The Most Evil Man

Fictional evil leaders have been a mainstay
of movies, novels, and tv shows. But when it comes to deeds of real life leaders,
fiction is often no competition for fact. For example, during his reign as leader of
the Mongol Hordes, it’s been speculated that Genghis Khan killed as much as 11% of
the world’s population. Tamerlane the Great, also known as Timur,
would actually build towers out of skulls. And Qin Shi Huang on his way to becoming the
first unified Chinese Empire destroyed every semblance of an education system by burning
books and burying scholars alive. But what about the famous Roman Empire? Were there any bad ones? The answer is simply, yes. And the one that first comes to mind is Nero. Emperor Nero. A leader who, ancient writers and historians
claim, not only started the great fire that destroyed Rome in A.D. 64, but also fiddled
as he watched his city burn to the ground. With this thought in mind, we’re going to
look at why Emperor Nero is the evil leader in human history… Or was he? Nero was born Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus
on December 15th, 37 A.D.. When he was only 2, his father Gnaius Domitius
Ahenobarbus died of edema and left a large chunk of his estate to his son, however the
inheritance was taken from him by the Emperor Caligula. Eventually Nero took the name we all know
and love to hate when he reached the tender age of 13. It was at that time that he was adopted by
his mother, Agrippina The Younger, and great uncle, the Emperor Claudius, who by that time
had succeeded Caligula following his assassination by his guards. Nero’s mother Agrippina was described as
vicious, violent, and unforgiving. I guess in this case you could say, like mother
like son. Agrippina even had her second husband killed. Eventually Nero would take the reigns as Emperor
at the age of 17 after his great uncle died unexpectedly. Some historical sources from the time claim
that people saw Nero’s mother feed her husband poisoned mushrooms, resulting in his sudden
death. Despite our perception of Nero today as an
evil and hated ruler, during the years of his reign he in fact did hold a strong amount
of support from the Roman Empire. He was young, new, and loved music and the
arts, traits the general public admired in their leader. Occasionally he was even claimed to be “kind”. The Roman Empire’s historian Suetonius wrote
“He let slip no opportunity for acts of generosity and mercy, or even displaying his
affability”. After only 2 years of his reign though, that
affability seems to have disappeared and Nero ordered that his mother be killed. A gradual falling out between the two had
began some time prior, eventually leading Nero to removing her face from Roman coins. By that time she had lost the respect of Nero’s
advisors as well. There’s multiple, contradicting, and often
fantastical, reasons for why Nero ordered his mother killed. But the most common and often agreed upon
is that she herself was actually plotting to kill Nero! So Nero said off with her head! So to speak. Nero actually ordered an accidental collision
of her boat, hoping she may perish with the sinking ships. Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on
how you look at it, she survived the initial attempt. Finally he ordered assassins to kill her and
make it resemble a suicide. This time she did not survive. Nero was relieved to find that he was actually
congratulated on the death of his mother. Many high ranking officials surrounding him,
along with some of the general public, suspected his life was in danger from her plans to kill
him and saw it as a fortuitous event. On June 9th, 53 A.D., Nero married Claudia
Octavia. Their marriage was not a pleasant one. Octavia was described by the Roman senator
and historian Tacitus as an “aristocratic and virtuous wife”, meaning she had moral
standards and wanted to honor her husband. Nero, on the other hand, was quite different. He was immediately bored and angered by his
new wife’s mindset, as it deviated strongly from what he wanted out of a wife. On occasion, a rage filled and frustrated
Nero would even attempt to strangle Octavia. But perhaps the biggest issue for Nero was
that Octavia was unable to bear a child for him. With no child, there would be no heir to his
throne. Eventually Nero began having affairs with
different women, one being a freedwoman named Poppaea Sabina. After she became pregnant with Nero’s child,
Nero decided to divorce his wife for Poppaea . Together Nero and Poppaea banished Octavia
from Nero’s empire. However, Nero did not expect the backlash
that came from his people. Many Roman citizens very much liked Octavia
and protested severely the banishment of her from the empire. They carried statues of her through the city
and the protests were so large that Nero briefly considered remarrying her to calm the people. Nero feared that the only reason the Romans
saw him as their leader was his association with Octavia and her connection to past royal
families. So after much deliberation, Nero did the next
best thing to remarrying his estranged wife – he had her killed. He hoped this would instill some fear and
prove his strong leadership to the people. Octavia was put to death in a traditional
Roman Suicide Ritual on June 8th, 62 A.D. Only 2 years later, Rome burned. The now infamous incident began on the evening
of July 18th, 64 A.D. The fire ignited on the Aventine Hill, one
of the seven slopes that Rome is built on, overlooking the Circus Maximus. The fire burned for nearly 6 days before it
could be somewhat controlled, only to reignite once again and burn uncontrolled for another
3 days. Over a total of nearly 9 days, two thirds
of Rome has burned to the ground. Just about 70% of the city was completely
destroyed. Homes, temples, markets, all burned to the
ground. Nero, at the time, was not himself actually
in Rome. He was at his villa in Antium which is about
35 miles away from Rome, though he rushed back immediately upon hearing the news. Once back in Rome, Nero immediately opened
his palace doors for the now homeless people of Rome and offered shelter and food. He was quick in his desire to begin rebuilding
the city…and conveniently, a new palace for himself called the Domus Aurea, which
in latin means Golden House. It was a massive palace complex that would
eventually take up nearly one third of Rome. The construction of the new palace is what
lead to many Roman citizens speculating that Nero had ordered the Great Fire of Rome himself,
a devious plan that would allow him to clear the land to build the palace of his dreams
while also allowing him to spin his public image by being the charitable ruler who opened
his doors to his people when they needed help. Although he got the palace he wanted, him
image was irrevocably tarnished as the rumors spread quickly and escalated. It was at this time that Nero’s decline
truly began. The rebuilding costs of Rome were high and
forced him to devalue the imperial currency by 10%. Revolts in the Roman provinces of Judea and
Britain were also escalating. Nero suspected that there were high level
conspiracies originating in the Senate to have him assassinated, which he decided he
could only prevent by having them killed first. With unrest growing in Rome, Nero took an
extended 15 month trip to Greece. There his passion for art grew and he gave
himself to music, sports, and theatrical performances. When he finally did return back to Rome in
68 A.D., he found even more unrest in the city. He had grown more distant from military decisions
and completely failed to respond to an urgent revolt in Gaul as well as growing tensions
in Africa and Spain. Finally at their wits end, the Senate made
a bold move and announced that Nero was an enemy of the people. Soon, everything Nero had done as emperor
seemed to finally come to a head and his world began closing in on him. Many people believed it was him that started
the Great Fire of Rome and that he had killed his Mother, his first wife, and now new rumors
popped up that he had killed his second wife too. Nero attempted to flee the city that by now
had completely turned on him. Learning that his arrest and execution were
imminent, Nero decided to fall back on his favorite move, killing, this time though he
took his own life on June 9th, 68 A.D.. He was 30 years old. Immediately following Nero’s death, the
Roman Empire went through one of its most tumultuous periods. It was pure and total chaos with multiple
Emperors taking control and getting killed before they could even do anything. It became known as the “Year of Four Emperors”. Tacitus described it as “ a period rich
in disasters. Even in peace, full of horrors”. If someone kills their own mother, their first
wife, possibly their second and pregnant wife, and maybe even burned down an entire city
they were ruling, you may look at them in a bad light too. It is true that Nero did some pretty bad things. But as time has moved far away from these
events and historians have continued to study the rise and fall of the Roman empire, and
even more specifically the rise and fall of Nero, many have found that he may have been
more misunderstood than downright evil. And maybe, just maybe, history should have
painted him in a different light. Let’s first start with the famous image of
Nero fiddling as Rome burned. First of all, the year was 64 A.D and the
viol family of instruments which includes fiddles, was not even invented until sometime
around the 11th century. So there is zero chance that he could have
been fiddling at the time. Second, as we talked about earlier, Nero wasn’t
even in Rome when it began burning. He was 35 miles away in his villa. Is it possible that Nero did order the burning
of Rome, even though he wasn’t there, and most likely not playing an instrument as it
happened? Yes that’s possible. But there is still no concrete evidence to
date to support it. And it seems more likely that the whole story
is folklore created after the events took place. But what about the terrible acts he committed
as a ruler? The murders, the scheming, and plots? Again, some of them probably yes. But as more and more historical data is uncovered,
we’re finding that Nero was actually liked by many of his people at the time. It’s clear that he was always more interested
in the Arts than actually governing, and certainly less interested in dealing with the military. Because of this, he did not have the advantage
of military victories and the fame, success, and adoration that came along with being a
military hero that many other Emperors and leaders of Rome have had, which probably meant
that many elite Romans in the Senate hated Nero, while the citizens celebrated his devotion
to local issues. Historian Rebecca Benefiel said “If it had
been up to him, he probably wouldn’t have chosen to be Emperor at all”. We have to remember that he was adopted into
this position and ultimately groomed to become an Emperor. Given the choice, he may have chosen the life
of an actor, or a musician, rather than be the leader of the world’s largest empire. This is even reinforced by his dying words
as he took his own life – “Oh, what an artist dies with me”. Ultimately, Nero’s reign was a confusing
one, with all sorts of ups and downs, and judging it is rather hard. He most certainly earned his reputation as
a paranoid murderous ruler, also probably deserves some revaluation by historians to
really see what happened while he was in power. Was Nero the hated, violent, and power hungry
leader we were told? Or was his a misunderstood, misplaced, and
art loving leader that the common people loved? Only further study and time will tell on this
one! What do you think is the truth about Nero? Tell us in the comments. Also, be sure to check out our other video
The Horrible Life of an Average Roman Empire Slave. Thanks for watching, and as always, don’t
forget to like, share and subscribe. See you next time. Do you love strange, unexpected, stories that
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