“What an artist dies in me?” The famous last words of Emperor Nero: an individual so convinced of his talents that he thought his death was a tragedy for mankind – not a man known for his modesty.
He may have been convinced of his own worth but historians have crowned him the dubious honour of “worst emperor of all time”. His dramatic last words befit an individual who led an extraordinary life – whether he was causing fires, ordering his mother’s demise (which he managed on the third attempt), kicking his pregnant wife to death or winning chariot competitions he didn’t even participate in – it quickly becomes apparent how Nero earned his bad reputation.
Probably one of the more humorous elements of Nero’s personality was the fact that he fancied himself as a singer. As he became more and more interested in music he became convinced that he himself had musical qualities of genius. So blinded by his own narcissism, he was sure he was Rome’s answer to Pavarotti. And (unfortunately for Rome) Nero’s attitude was if you’ve got it flaunt it, and boy did he flaunt it! The saying “the show must go on” springs to mind when thinking of Nero’s performances, he continued through, what he considered minor interruptions, such as
Nero was a regular on the competition circuit, despite his performances often resembing something close to a bad X-factor audition. Some audience members even pretended to die so they could be carried out without offending the delicate Nero.
The term “hot tempered” is an understatement to say the least, he was alleged to have burned down parts of Rome and blamed it on the Christians – a fiery temperament indeed.
This temper is evident in his personal life: murdering both his mother and mistress. He seemed determined to live a life of excess but it seems necessary to ask was he really a genuinely bad creature or a simply victim of circumstance and blood line?
Although mainly remembered for his cruelty, it ought not to be forgotten that Nero inspired architects and writers during his reign. Nero was very much a supporter of culture and artists – his last words suggest he considered himself one of them. Certainly, Nero’s involvement in architecture within Ancient Rome was one of his few triumphs.
The people of the Roman Empire could only deal with Nero’s cruelty for so long and in the year 68 Nero faced a rebellion caused by his tax policies. In the face of a rebellion he could not defeat Nero committed suicide. Emperor Nero will always be remembered for his egotistical nature and scandalous personal life. In the end it is his vices and scandal which makes him