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The Roman Emperor Nero and Ancient Rome

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The Wicked Reign of the Roman Emperor Nero

Nero, one of the Roman emperors, has become famous for the wickedness of his reign. His mother Agrippina, an ambitious woman who was related to the emperors, was determined that Nero should become emperor. She married the Emperor Claudius in 49 A.D. and persuaded him to adopt her son as his successor, in spite of the fact that Claudius had a son of his own, Britannicus. To make Nero's position even more secure his mother arranged for him to marry Octavia, Claudius' daughter.

In 54 A.D. Agrippina had her husband poisoned and Nero succeeded him. For the first five years of his reign all went well. He ruled with the advice and help of his old tutor Seneca. His advisers did their best to keep him away from his mother's evil infuence, but when Agrippina discovered that she was not as powerful as she had hoped to be, she threatened to support Britannicus' claim to the throne. Nero retaliated by having Britannicus poisoned and his mother killed by soldiers.

From then on his rule became evil. He fell under the infuence of another ambitious and ruthless woman, Poppaea Sabina, and so that he could marry her had his wife murdered. He let Seneca retire and quarrelled with the Senate (the Roman parliament). Disasters began to overtake the Empire. In Britain Queen Boadicea and her tribe the Iceni revolted and wiped out the ninth legion of the Roman army. In 64 A.D. a great fire destroyed more than half of Rome and Nero was accused of having started it. In turn he accused the Christians and had many of them massacred. He then set to work to re-build the city and did this on a grand scale, widening the streets and using stone instead of wood for the dwelling houses. He had a great new palace built for himself, with beautiful grounds. To pay for all this he had to tax the people so heavily that they became more and more discontented.

The discontent came to a head in 65 A.D., when he discovered a conspiracy against him. He put it down with frightful bloodshed, killing among others his old tutor Seneca and the poet Lucan. Three years later, in 68 A.D., the generals in Gaul and Spain revolted and declared that a nobleman called Galba should be emperor. The Senate proclaimed Galba as emperor and passed sentence of death on Nero. Left without a friend, and as soldiers approached to carry him off to execution, Nero committed suicide.

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