On this day in AD 37 the Roman Emperor Nero Claudius Caesar was born. The last of the Julio Claudian emperors, a dynasty that mainly received a negative press at the hands of contemporary historians Suetonius and Tacitus, Nero is famous for fiddling while Rome burned and then blaming the fire on the Christians. He also had his mother executed and is said to have poisoned his stepbrother.
But perhaps he wasn’t all bad. Certainly he was popular with the common people, and during his reign the empire increased in size and strength. When Galba, the governor of the Spanish province, was said to be making a bid for the throne, Nero committed suicide, wrongly thinking that he was about to be deposed and assassinated. Perhaps a fitting end for a man that early Christians at the time considered to be ‘The Antichrist’.
Here is a poem on Nero’s death by CF Cavafy, Nero’s Dilemma:
Nero wasn’t worried at all when he heard
The utterance of the Delphic Oracle:
“Beware the age of seventy-three.”
Plenty of time to enjoy himself still.
He’s thirty. The deadline
The god has given him is quite enough
To cope with future dangers.
Now, a little tired, he’ll return to Rome –
But wonderfully tired from that journey
Devoted entirely to pleasure:
Theatres, garden-parties, stadiums . . .
Evenings in the cities of Achaia . . .
And, above all, the sensual delight of naked bodies . . .
So much for Nero. And in Spain Galba
Secretly musters and drills his army –
Galba, the old man in his seventy-third year.
Today I ask that I will never give in to despair and to see setbacks as opportunities.