Roman Empire, Nero Caesar, 50-54, AR Denarius
Minted under Claudius
Dr. bust, bare-headed r.
Rv. Four lines of text on shield with vertical spear behind
Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus (* 37 in Antium; † 68 near Rome).
He was emperor of the Roman Empire from 54 to 68. Nero considered himself an artist and was the last emperor of the Julio-Claudian dynasty.
Nero was born in Antium to Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus and Iulia Agrippina, a sister of the Emperor Caligula. He was a great-great-grandson of the Emperor Augustus through the female line. Like most of the male members of his family, Nero was blond or red-haired and blue-eyed (so Suetonius, Nero 51,1). He is said, as Pliny the Elder reports, to have been born feet first, that is, in the breech position (Pliny, Naturalis Historia 7, 46).
Because his mother had been exiled by Caligula, he spent part of his infancy with his aunt Domitia Lepida. Nero enjoyed an excellent education in literature, Latin and mathematics. From the age of twelve, Nero was taught by the well-known philosopher and influential politician Seneca, who had a decisive influence on the life of the later Nero.
The Great Fire of Rome and the Persecution of Christians
On the night of 18-19 July 64, a fire broke out in Rome.
Within nine days, ten of the city's 14 districts were attacked and three were completely destroyed. Rumours abounded that Nero himself had the fire set in order to rebuild the city and, in particular, to make room for a huge palace, the "Golden House" (Domus Aurea) (Tacitus, Annals 15.42.). Allegedly, he watched and sang about the fire from the tower of Maecenas, while accompanying himself on the lyre and declaiming verses of the fall of Troy. According to Tacitus, he did this at home (Suetonius, Nero 38; Tacitus, Annals 15, 39; compare Cassius Dio, Historiae Romanae 62, 29, 1.).
In fact, however, Nero was in his birthplace, his summer residence Antium, 50 kilometres away, while the Palatine was in flames. He travelled back to Rome, opened his buildings to the homeless and lowered the price of grain. (Tacitus, Annals, 15,39.).
Probably the fire, like many others, broke out in a market place through carelessness. Nevertheless, Nero has gone down in history as the arsonist of Rome. (Waldherr, p. 214 f.) That he himself set fire to the city can be ruled out, but a commissioning of others cannot, especially since after the initial extinguishing work other fires broke out near the house of the Praetorian prefect Tigellinus. (Tacitus, Annals 15,38-40)
Because of the rumours that he had set the fire or at least profited from it, Nero needed another culprit for the fire. The sect of the Christiani (Greek for "Christians"), who, according to Tacitus, were hated by the population, offered itself for this purpose. (Waldherr, pp. 215-217.)