The New Student's Reference Work/Nero

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Ne′ro, the last of the Cæsars and emperor of Rome from 54 to 68 A. D., was born at Antium, Dec. 15, 37. His mother became the wife of the Emperor Claudius, who adopted him, and on the emperor's death he was declared emperor by the Prætorian Guards instead of Claudius' own son, and this choice was ratified by the senate and provinces in 54. His reign, although opening well and moderately, soon became one of crime, debauchery and tyranny. He caused Britannicus, Claudius' son, to be poisoned, brought about the murder of his own mother, and finally divorced and murdered his wife. All this was accompanied by wars and insurrections,—in 61 A. D. an uprising in Britain, which was suppressed, and in 62 the war with the Parthians and Armenia. In 64 a great fire destroyed nearly two thirds of Rome, and historians say that Nero applied the torch and sat far away admiring the scene. Nero used the Christians as scapegoats, and had many of them put to death. Through the high-handed imposition of taxes he rebuilt Rome and erected the “golden house” for himself on the Palatine. A conspiracy against him in 65 failed and caused the death of Seneca and others. He kicked his second wife to death and afterward offered his hand to Antonia, the daughter of Claudius, who, upon refusing him, was put to death, as was also the husband of Statilia Messalina, whom he thereupon married. His inordinate vanity caused him to believe that he was everything brilliant, as is witnessed by his last words: “What an artist is lost in me!” In 68 the Prætorian Guards rose against him and, in conjunction with the Gallic and Spanish legions, proclaimed Galba emperor. Nero fled from Rome, was declared an enemy of his country, and to save himself from execution committed suicide. See W. Wolfe Capes' Early Roman Empire and Merivale's History of the Romans under the Empire.