As an expression of his absolute power, Caligula planned to appoint the horse to the high office of consul, but he was assassinated before he could do so.
What was the name of Caligula’s horse?
- According to the ancient historian Suetonius, the Roman emperor known as Caligula loved one of his horses, Incitatus, so much that he gave the steed a marble stall, an ivory manger, a jeweled collar and even a house.
Which Roman emperor made his horse a consul?
According to the ancient historian Suetonius, the Roman emperor known as Caligula loved one of his horses, Incitatus, so much that he gave the steed a marble stall, an ivory manger, a jeweled collar and even a house.
Did Caligula really make his horse a consul?
On the subject of Caligula’s horse, the ancient sources are unambiguous in their testimony: he was not made a consul. The biographer Suetonius does, however, report that the emperor lavished gifts upon Incitatus, equipping him with a marble stall, ivory manger, purple blankets, luxurious furniture, and his own slaves.
What was emperor Caligula known for?
He set in motion the conquest of Britain. Caligula is often remembered as a selfish and capricious ruler whose ineptitude weakened the Roman empire during his four-year reign.
What was emperor Claudius known for?
Claudius (full name Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus) was the fourth Roman emperor from 41 to 54 A.D. Best know for the successful expansion of Rome into Britain and parts of Africa and the Middle East, Claudius was an accomplished leader who brought forth improvements to the empire’s judicial system,
What was the name of Caesar’s horse?
They say that Julio Cesar took that foal and called him Genitor. The horse with “human fingers” would be his main mount and, in order to preserve his safety, they say that on some occasion he came to unload in the middle of the battle so as not to compromise his horse.
What is meant by the Pax Romana?
Pax Romana, (Latin: “Roman Peace” ) a state of comparative tranquillity throughout the Mediterranean world from the reign of Augustus (27 bce–14 ce) to the reign of Marcus Aurelius (161 –180 ce). Augustus laid the foundation for this period of concord, which also extended to North Africa and Persia.
What did Caligula promoted his horse to?
Legend. According to Suetonius, in the Lives of the Twelve Caesars (121 AD), Caligula planned to make Incitatus a consul, and the horse would “invite” dignitaries to dine with him in a house outfitted with servants there to entertain such events.
What kind of horses did the Romans ride?
In the Roman world there were three classes of horses: Noble horse – for riding, for the circus and sacred games. Mules – valued as highly as the noble horse and the best were bred in Italy. Common stock – used as working animals.
What was Caligula’s horse called?
Caligula had a favourite racehorse named Incitatus (The Swift). He gave the animal regular treats and a stable made from marble. Soldiers were ordered to hush the neighbourhood when the horse was sleeping. “It is even said he planned to make the horse a consul.” All the above comes from Suetonius.
Who became emperor after Caligula?
In January 41, four months after his return to Rome from Gaul, Caligula was murdered at the Palatine Games by Cassius Chaerea, tribune of the Praetorian guard, Cornelius Sabinus, and others. Caligula’s wife Caesonia and his daughter were also put to death. He was succeeded as emperor by his uncle Claudius.
Who was emperor after Claudius?
Roman tradition is unanimous: Claudius was poisoned by Agrippina on October 13, 54 CE, though the details differ. Nero succeeded him as emperor.
Who was emperor after Nero?
Marching on Rome Fearing for his life, Galba recruited troops and marched on Rome. By this time, Nero was already dead. With no heir to succeed him, the Senate named Galba as the new emperor.
Was Claudius disabled?
Claudius suffered from physical disabilities, including a limp and a speech impediment and was therefore treated with disdain by his family, and not considered as a future emperor. Although he lacked a military reputation, the essential attribute of an emperor, in 43 AD Claudius undertook the conquest of Britain.
Who was the 5th Roman emperor?
Nero, in full Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, also called (50–54 ce) Nero Claudius Drusus Germanicus, original name Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus, (born December 15, 37 ce, Antium, Latium—died June 9, 68, Rome), fifth Roman emperor (54–68 ce), stepson and heir of the emperor Claudius.
Caligula the Mad Emperor: The Horse That Almost Became a Senator and Other Strange Tales
Stories The 27th of September, 2019 In the summer of my adolescent years, I worked construction for a heinous party animal named Caligula. It was a great experience for me. He went by the name of Phil, just for fun. The majority of the work consisted of sanding and plugging bung holes (google it up, it’s a real thing). I don’t recall much about the actual work. What I do remember, though, is the day Phil told me he’d done enough cocaine in his life to fill a tool shed, which I thought was pretty cool.
What do you think?
No way in hell.
- Gaius Caesar Germanicus, better known as the infamous emperor Caligula, was only in power at Rome for a brief period of time, from 37 AD to 41 AD.
- Despite this, Caligula has a chariot-load of outrageous stories to his credit, which you can read about here.
- In the spirit of his legacy, I’m not going to hold back: the man was a true sick f*ck who did a lot of weird sh*t during his time on this planet.
- But, well, that’s pretty much how most of history has gone.
Caligula’s Best Friend was a Horse
Except for the fact that Caligula adored his horse almost as much as he despised other people, this appears to be a quite charming description (more on that later). Incitatus was Caligula’s favored racehorse, and as a result, he received preferential treatment. If you lived near his stable, your entire neighborhood was required to remain silent the day before each race in order to allow Incitatus to concentrate on his work. Count Caligula was so taken with Incitatus that he would call him to supper, toast his well-being with golden cups, and feed him oats cut with gold flakes—Oatschläger, if you will—to keep him well.
2 The most well-known narrative concerning Incitatus is that he was elevated to the position of consul in the Roman Senate by Caligula.
Unfortunately, this is not the case. According to historical records, Caligula wished to nominate his equestrian friends to the Senate, but he was slain before he could complete the appointment process. Incitatus’ political program was also lacking in terms of economic policy. 3
Caligula Drank Pearls and Swam in Gold
Caligula was supposed to have possessed a legendary thirst for jewels. His favorite thing to do was to swim in gold. It wasn’t molten gold, mind you, because it would have saved his assassins a lot of time and energy. Additionally, he wasn’t swimming in Oatschläger (which had been designated as Incitatus’ particular reserve). Instead, he went about it in the manner of Scrooge McDuck, spilling money on the ground and letting them soak in them for hours at a time. Furthermore, he like to go barefoot over them.
While he did consume pearls, he did not gargle them like a gumball hopper, which would have been insane in his opinion.
Caligula Decided He Was Jupiter, Talked to the Gods, and Tried to F*ck the Moon
Okay, this one will require some deciphering. For starters, Caligula didn’t care for his given name, Gaius. He also disliked his nickname, Caligula, which was given to him by troops he encountered while he was a child, during his father’s battles in Germania, and which he later came to regret. Caligula is Latin for “little boots,” and the name was a play on the adorable tiny soldier’s attire that he wore. It stayed with him throughout adulthood, and he naturally despised the s**t that happened to him.
- As you can see, the new term didn’t stay because this page is about Caligula, not “Jupiter,” as the title suggests.
- He attempted to make it work, though.
- He also ordered the relocation of the huge statue of Zeus (Jupiter’s counterpart in Greece) from Olympia to Rome so that he may have his own head replaced with that of the statue.
- Caligula also felt that he had a direct line of communication with the gods and considered himself to be one of their number.
- Aside from talking to the moon at night, he’d also try to persuade her (the moon is a lady, by the way) into descending down to his bed for a little celestial-meets-terrestrial liaison.
Caligula Once Made the Senate Watch Him Dance
Let’s pretend for a second that you’re a Roman consular, a high-ranking politician who, though he or she has little actual authority under an emperor, has significant influence. Consider the possibility that your ruler is mad and ruthlessly cruel. In the middle of the night, you get a summons: the emperor has requested your presence. It appears as though you are about to be tortured and executed. That’s undoubtedly what Caligula’s consulars were thinking when something like this occurred to them.
I’m not sure about you, but the opening Buffalo Bill sequence fromSilence of the Lambs is playing in my head right now. Caligula ended his speech and then departed. Strange, isn’t it? 6
Caligula Passed Laws to Prevent People from Seeing His Bald Spot
If you were a Roman consular, for the sake of argument, you’d be a high-ranking politician with limited practical authority under an emperor. Suppose your monarch is mad and ruthless to the point of being inhumane. It’s the middle of the night and you receive a summons: the emperor has requested your presence. Your torture and execution appear to be on the horizon. As a result, when anything like this happened to them, Caligula’s consulars presumably thought the same thing. When a robed Caligula appeared and began to dance for them, they must have been relieved (albeit it must have been really painful).
I’m not sure why.
Isn’t that odd?
Caligula Was an Asshole, Generally Speaking
Even if items one through five depict Caligula’s narcissism rather effectively, they don’t really give you a sense of how evil the man was on an emotional and psychological level. Caligula had great pleasure in seeing other people suffer for his own gain. Of course, there’s the standard interest with torturing and murdering individuals in this category. However, he was also a troubled, antisocial trickster who played with others. In order to prevent people from reading the new laws, he would have them inscribed in tiny letters and then hung them up extremely high.
On particularly hot days in the arena, he’d order the awnings to be drawn back and spectators barred from leaving, all so he could watch them sweat in front of him.
As you can see, Caligula enjoyed punching people in the face, most likely to conceal his bald area from his victims.
What Was Caligula’s Problem?
It’s difficult to say, although he may have lost his mind as a result of an illness. During the first six months of Caligula’s rule, everything appeared to be quite stable, or at the very least, status quo. He even released political prisoners who had been wrongfully imprisoned, which was in stark contrast to his subsequent policy. Caligula fell terminally ill after just six months in power, signaling the beginning of the end of his reign. He was on the verge of death for a month, yet he was able to recover physically.
- It appears that he has experienced some type of brain damage as a result of his protracted illness—possibly as a result of a prolonged high temperature, but that is just a conjecture.
- 9 That he had changed so drastically was unpleasant for Caligula, as well as for everyone else in his immediate vicinity.
- Instead, he was insensitive to human emotion and tormented his people until they banded together to assassinate him.
- Chaerea was a notable warrior and a member of the Praetorian guard who served under Emperor Hadrian.
- According to the historian Suetonius, when Caligula wanted Chaerea to kiss his ring, he would move his hand about in a “obscene manner” and force him to say demeaning watch-words, such as “priapus,” which means “erection,” according to the chronicler.
The stabbing was carried out by Chaerea. Interestingly, Chaerea was joined by a number of other groups of conspirators who had a desire to see Caligula killed as well. As a result, you don’t treat people any worse than you treat racehorses. 10
- TheFamousPeople.com. (Retrieved on May 18, 2018). Caligula’s Life and Times. Lewis provided the information. (On the 17th of December, 2016). 10 Weird Things Caligula Did That You Didn’t Know About. Buffed was used to obtain this information. (3rd of June, 2017). Incitatus was Caligula’s horse, and he wanted to be a senator. Lewis provided the information. (On the 17th of December, 2016). 10 Weird Things Caligula Did That You Didn’t Know About. Lewis provided the information. (On the 17th of December, 2016). 10 Weird Things Caligula Did That You Didn’t Know About. Lewis provided the information. (On the 17th of December, 2016). 10 Weird Things Caligula Did That You Didn’t Know About. Lewis provided the information. (On the 17th of December, 2016). 10 Weird Things Caligula Did That You Didn’t Know About. Lewis provided the information. (On the 17th of December, 2016). 10 Weird Things Caligula Did That You Didn’t Know About. It was retrieved from (Accessed May 18, 2018). Caligula’s Life and Times. It was retrieved from (Accessed May 18, 2018). Cassius Chaerea is a fictional character created by author Cassius Chaerea. This information was obtained from
The Roman Emperor Who Tried to Make His Horse Consul
In most people’s minds when they think of Roman Emperors, they think of either the heroic generals and clever thinkers such as Caesar Augustus and Marcus Aurelius, or the mad and corrupt despots such as Nero and Commodus, or some combination of the two. The latter two are well-known for their numerous misadventures; for a video on Nero’s famous violin incident and the truth behind it all, see the link in the description section below. The Emperor Commodus, who reigned in Rome for three years and ten months before Nero, was known for acting in a weird and eventually insane way during his three years and ten months as ruler of the city.
Born Gaius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, he became the third person to hold the title of Roman Emperor.
The troops found great amusement in this and gave him the moniker Caligula, which translates as ‘little boot.’ At the age of seven, his father died in Syria, allegedly as a result of poisoning carried out by an agent of his great-uncle, the Emperor Tiberius, who viewed his nephew as a possible political competitor.
- For the next many years, he resided with his Great-Grandmother Livia, who happened to be the wife of Emperor Augustus, and afterwards with his grandmother, Antonia Minor.
- As a result, Caligula harbored a great deal of anger towards Tiberius, which was not surprising given the circumstances.
- He was in this situation under the careful eye of his great-uncle, but he was able to avoid being banished or executed thanks to some cunning and acting ability.
- In the end, he was awarded an honorary Quaestorship, which was a significant political position.
- Approximately two years later, in A.D.
- Two years later, in March of 37 A.D., Emperor Tiberius died, and it was thought that Caligula or maybe the aforementioned Macro had had a role in hastening his death, which was probably unexpected.
- It doesn’t matter what the reality is about that; following the Emperor’s death, Caligula and Macro were successful in having Gemellus removed from Tiberius’ testament, and he became the only heir to the Principate.
According to all accounts, the first seven months of his reign were a time of great happiness.
His personal efforts included retrieving the ashes of his mother and brothers and ensuring that they were given a befitting burial in an appropriate location.
In the event that Caligula became unwell, some historians speculate that he may have been poisoned, while others maintain that he was simply suffering from a normal ailment.
A short time later, he began to execute members of his own family, including his cousin Gemellus and his in-laws, as well as his own father and brother-in-law.
As a result, Caligula proceeded to defame the memory of Emperor Augustus, claiming that his own mother was the product of an incestuous liaison between Augustus and his own daughter.
To begin with, he fought for tax changes to help an overwhelmed people, and he promoted a number of Plebeians to the more prestigious Equestrian position, which was afterwards abolished.
In addition to this, he was involved at a number of construction projects, including the enlargement of ports at the tip of Italy and in Syracuse to accommodate increased grain imports.
The building of two huge aqueducts to improve the distribution of water across the city began under his watch.
At the beginning of his reign, he also built what is arguably the most ridiculous of his construction projects: a massive pontoon bridge over the gulf of Baiae in southern Italy.
Speaking of his horse, it appears that he intended to elevate the animal to the position of consul by constructing a marble stable, an ivory manger, and lavishly furnishing the horse’s not-so-humble house with the best purple furnishings and trappings.
Unfortunately for the sake of the overall hilarity, he was unsuccessful in his attempt to make Incitatus a consul.
Caligula, according to Roman historians, went on to refer to himself as Pater exercituum, or “father of the army,” and Optimus Maximus Caesar, or “the finest and greatest Caesar” as a result of this.
As soon as she died, he ordered a period of public morning mourning over her body.
Continuing his pattern of bizarre and potentially deadly conduct, he would sell seats to Plebeians in order to ensure that when Equestrians arrived to performances, all of the seats were already taken.
This, of course, did not sit well with the audience.
On occasion, he would even close the granaries to allow the people to go hungry for a short period of time.
One man who claimed to be ill and unable to attend a public execution was greeted by Caligula’s personal litter, which was dispatched to bring him to safety.
He also fed prisoners to the wild beasts he kept for his games, and it didn’t seem to matter whether or not they were actually guilty of whatever crime they were being held accountable for.
“I hoped to the gods that Tiberius would die and that you would be appointed Emperor,” the man said cautiously, fearing for his own fate.
However, Caligula’s mistreatment of others did not stop with the poor or with his political opponents; it extended to everyone.
In one specific instance, it is also stated that the veteran gladiator with whom Caligula practiced his martial skills deliberately threw himself at the Emperor’s feet in defeat while they were training together.
Reversing his earlier efforts to ingratiate the populace, he eventually began taxing the Romans harshly, even arresting and taking the property of affluent inhabitants.
Then, once he’d gotten his gifts, he appeared to be having a good time by rolling about in a big mound of gold coins he’d gathered as a result of his haul.
His reign as Emperor was marked by the participation in only one military campaign.
He would order the army to move with such haste that his Elite personal guard would have to stow their standard in order to keep up, and at other times he would order the army to move slowly enough that he could order the towns ahead to sweep the roads and wet them down to settle the dust.
In the middle of his evening meal, he summoned a messenger to warn him that the enemy was on the march.
After reaching the northern coast of Gaul (modern France), he declared war on Neptune himself when he reached the city of Troy.
Afterwards, he gathered the best and tallest Gaulish men he could find and ordered them to color their hair blonde and adopt German names so that they might be portrayed as prisoners of war when he returned to Rome.
He is also described as growing a golden beard on his face, wearing women’s shoes, and dressing in the manner of Venus, among other things.
At one point, he even ordered that all sculptures of Greek deities be carried to the United States so that he might replace their heads with his own, which was eventually accomplished.
As you might expect, the governor of Syria put the order on hold for nearly a year, fearing that it would spark a revolt.
As you might guess from all of this, piling on virtually everyone in his empire, as well as more than a few people outside of it, couldn’t last indefinitely.
Three individuals, led by a man named Cassius Chaerea, began scheming to murder him shortly after his arrival.
The bird has been given to individuals for thousands of years, with the original connotation appearing to symbolize the penis, as we’ve already discussed the origin of gifting people the bird in another article.
Gaius would give him “Priapus” or “Venus” as a watchword, and whenever Chaerea had an opportunity to thank him for anything, he would extend his hand to kiss her, forming and moving his hand in an obscene manner.” In any case, the conspirators’ plans were put into motion when Caligula announced that he intended to relocate to the Egyptian city of Alexandria in order to be worshipped as a living god there.
- As a result, they, along with a large number of other conspirators, were able to corner the Emperor in an underground tunnel beneath the palace and administer the traditional Caesarian treatment.
- He is believed to have made no sound when they struck.
- An hurriedly constructed pyre was used to partially burn the Emperor’s remains, which was then buried on the site.
- According to legend, the garden in which the Emperor was cremated and buried remained plagued by spiritual apparitions until Caligula’s sisters, who had returned from exile, completed the cremation and laid him to rest in a fitting grave in the nearby cemetery.
- What caused him to behave in such a bizarre manner during his reign is still up for debate.
This may have driven him to become so consumed with putting on military spectacles, marketing himself as the exact embodiment of multiple deities, and the relentless self-promotion by trying to stamp his image onto every statue in the empire- obsessed with being remembered as his forbears were.
If you enjoyed this article, you might also enjoy our new popular podcast, The BrainFood Show (available on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play Music, and Feed), as well as the following other articles and resources:
- How to Tell the Truth About Gladiators and Getting a Thumbs Up
- Maximinus Thrax, the Giant Who Pretended to Be a Roman Emperor But Never Set Foot in the City of Rome
- Damnatio Memoriae is the term used to describe when the Romans purposefully erased people from history. Sections about Julius Caesar and “Caesarean” sections
- The Truth About Julius Caesar and “Caesarean” Sections
Frequently Asked Questions
Where did Tiberius grow up?
Known by his formal title of Tiberius Julius Caesar Augustus (or Tiberius Claudius Nero), emperor of Rome from 14 to 37 CE, Tiberius was the adopted son of Augustus, whose imperial institutions and imperial boundaries he sought to preserve. Tiberius was born on November 16, 42 BC, and died on March 16, 37 CE, in Capreae, near Naples, and was the second Roman Emperor (14–37CE). In his latter years, he turned into a despotic hermit, unleashing a reign of terror on the most important figures in Rome.
Background and youth
A high priest and magistrate by the name ofTiberius Claudius Nero, Tiberius’ father was a former naval captain forJulius Caesar and was also known as Tiberius Claudius Nero. When Tiberius was born, his mother, the lovely Livia Drusilla, was only 13 years old. She was her husband’s cousin, and she may have been just 13 when Tiberius was born. During the civil wars that followed Julius Caesar’s death, the older Tiberius pledged his loyalty to Mark Antony, who had been Caesar’s protégé. Tiberius the elder and his family were forced to flee after his nephew and heir, Augustus, had a falling out with Antony and beat him in the subsequent power struggle.
- Tiberius as a young man, a marble bust discovered in Egypt in 1896 and now on display at the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen.
- In 39 BCE, Augustus possessed the authority, though not the official title, of emperor.
- As a result, when Tiberius’ younger brother Drusus was born a few months after his older brother, he was sent to live with his father and sibling.
- Despite the age difference between them, the two boys and the emperor’s daughter, Julia, studied together, played together, and took part in the necessary ceremonies of temple dedication and victory celebrations that were held every year.
- All three boys were given the proper training because there was no clear statute naming Augustus’s successor as emperor at the time.
- Tiberius was the first to do so since he was the oldest.
- Despite the fact that he was not a particularly attractive individual, he handled himself admirably.
- His greatest strength was his ability to apply himself.
By the age of 14, Tiberius was accustomed to dining with the emperors of the empire, leading religious ceremonies over the heads of strong men five times his own age, and even having his own likeness carved into marble figures.
Years in the shadow of Augustus
Tiberius was not a particularly attractive man. At the time of his birth, he was tall and broad-shouldered, but his complexion was unattractive. His nose featured a prominent hook, although that was typical of a Roman man’s appearance. His demeanor was a little off-putting. He spoke in a slow, deliberate manner that appeared to be meant to conceal rather than communicate his point. He was, on the other hand, conscientious. It is possible that he had no idea that he would grow up to be emperor, but he could not have imagined that he would become at the very least a general and then a prominent official in the Roman government at a young age.
- They did not engage in combat, but they did gain a tremendous lot of knowledge on how to manage the marches, maintain fortifications intact, and keep garrisons on the alert.
- Then there was Tiberius himself, who got married.
- She was the daughter of Marcus Agrippa, Augustus’ son-in-law and lieutenant, and the daughter of Augustus.
- After his first military command, at the age of 22, which resulted in the recovery of the standards of certain Romanlegions that had been lost in Parthia decades previously, he received widespread acclaim.
- Tiberius not only defeated his adversary, but he also distinguished himself by showing genuine concern for his soldiers, earning him widespread popularity and even affection.
- Tiberius’s prosperous years, on the other hand, were drawing to a close.
- Tiberius was 400 miles distant in Ticinum (Pavia), which was located on the Po River south of what is now Milan.
Tiberius led the body all the way back to Rome, walking in front of it the entire time on foot.
Julia, Augustus’ daughter, had become a widow for the second time in her life.
Agrippa was Tiberius’s father-in-law, and Vipsania was Tiberius’ daughter.
He picked Tiberius to be her third husband.
Tiberius was just as deferential to his father as he was to his mother.
Tiberius’ new bride has earned a reputation for being a licentious heiress in the annals of history.
Where it came to gossip, Roman historians were notorious for fabricating controversy when there was none; nevertheless, in Julia’s case, they had a valid basis for their point of view.
She was 27 years old, had been widowed twice, and was the mother of five children (not all surviving).
She did not get along with her mother-in-law (who also happened to be her stepmother), Livia, and she became bored of Tiberius after a few months of living with him.
A regulation enacted by Augustus himself mandated that a husband denounce his wife if she committed adultery.
Tiberius requested and obtained battle orders away from Rome after determining that there was no good course of action to take.
In accordance with Augustus’ wishes, she had remarried to a senator.
As soon as Augustus learned of it, he ordered Tiberius to never visit her again.
In 6 BCE, Tiberius was awarded the powers of atribune and, shortly after, he withdrew into self-imposed exile on the island of Rhodes, leaving Julia in charge of the city of Rome.
A barbarian province was no match for his abilities, which included administering an empire, leading a major war, and governing a province of barbarians.
There can be little doubt that a shift occurred in Tiberius during this period, despite the fact that the history of his reign, written either by flatterers like his old army comradeVelleius Paterculus or by opponents, are not entirely trustworthy.
Once he arrived to Rhodes, Tiberius became a hermit, at first humble and friendly, but ultimately bitter and hostile.
For the greater part of a decade, Augustus refused to provide that authorization.
In accordance with his own rule, she should have been executed; but, he did not have the heart to do so, and instead banished her for the rest of her life to the little island of Pandateria.
There were three young men whom the emperor appeared to favor as heirs, all of whom were sons of Julia, whom the emperor appeared to like asheirs.
The other two, Lucius and Gaius, were unquestionably strong contenders for the position.
Tiberius was summoned back to Rome by him.
Tiberius had ascended to the position of second in command at Rome.
He didn’t have a choice, and he was getting older.
Tiberius grew in confidence and awe-inspiring power.
They had now been reconstructed.
He was achieving success in everything at this point, and on August 19, 14CE, Augustus died.
Tiberius, now supreme, played political games with the Senate, preventing it from naming him emperor for about a month. However, on September 17, he was elevated to the position of principate. He was 54 years old at the time.
Who was Nero?
Nero’s bust is made of marble. Italy, about the year AD 55. Francesco Piras captured this image. With the consent of the Ministero della Cultura – Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Cagliari, this photograph was taken. Nero was the fifth and final emperor of Rome, and the last of the Julio-Claudians, the first dynasty of the city created by Augustus (the adopted son of Julius Caesar). Nero is regarded as one of Rome’s most infamous rulers, notable for his brutality and depravity as well as his ruthlessness.
- He reigned at a period of significant social and political development, presided over historic events such as the Great Fire of Rome and Boudica’s uprising in Britain, among others.
- Nero after the destruction of Rome, courtesy of Le Monde Illustré.
- Following in the footsteps of Carl Theodor von Piloty.
- Is it possible to distinguish between the scandalous stories reported by subsequent authors and the actuality of his reign?
- All of these narratives were published decades after Nero’s death, yet they have had a long-lasting impact on our understanding of the emperor’s reign.
- After Nero’s death, a period of turmoil and civil conflict erupted, which was only brought to an end when a new dynasty, the Flavians, gained control.
- Following the death of Nero, these narratives became the ‘historical’ sources that following historians relied on, thereby creating a constructed picture of the emperor that has remained to the current day.
Birth and early years
Nero’s mother, Agrippina, is shown in a bust portrait as a younger woman. The years 37–39 AD. On the 15th of December in the year AD 37, Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus was born. He was the son of Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus and Agrippina the Younger, and the grandson of Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus. The fact that both Gnaeus and Agrippina were descendants of Augustus means that Nero Augustus is the great, great grandson of Augustus, and so has a strong claim to power. The Emperor Nero was only two years old when his mother was banished, and he was three years old when his father passed away.
His inheritance was taken away from him, and he was forced to move in with his aunt to live with her. However, when Claudius became emperor, Nero’s fortunes altered once more, as the boy’s property was restored and his mother Agrippina was brought back from exile.
Aged 13 – adoption
Nero the Younger, a marble statue erected between AD 50 and AD 54. The photograph is courtesy of the RMN-Grand Palais (Musée du Louvre) / Hervé Lewandowski. Claudius married Agrippina in AD 49, and the next year, Nero was adopted by the emperor as his son. It was at this moment that Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus changed his name to Nero Claudius Caesar Drusus Germanicus, which means “Nero Claudius Caesar Drusus Germanicus.” Adoption was common practice in ancient Rome, and it was customary to give up your family name in favor of your adoptive father’s name when you were adopted.
Claudius benefited from Nero and Agrippina’s political assistance in establishing a connection back to Augustus, which helped to consolidate his position.
Aged 16 – emperor
Soldiers of the Praetorian Guard, who acted as the emperor’s personal bodyguards, are depicted in this marble relief. Rome, Italy, around the year 51–2. The photograph is courtesy of the RMN-Grand Palais (Musée du Louvre) / Hervé Lewandowski. When Claudius died in AD 54, Nero ascended to the throne barely two months before his 17th birthday. Because he had the support of both the army and the senate, his ascent to power was relatively simple. A large amount of influence was exerted by his mother Agrippina, particularly during the early years of his reign.
Aged 21 – Agrippina’s murder
Agrippina was allegedly killed by Nero when he became enraged by her interfering with his affairs, according to the Roman writers Tacitus, Suetonius, and Cassius Dio. We will never know if or how this occurred because there are no eyewitnesses to provide us with information. The fact that Nero failed in his attempt to kill Agrippina did not prevent historians from constructing spectacular myths about her death, such as the one in which Nero attempted (and failed) to drown her before dispatching his troops to do the task.
A power battle shown on a gold coin from Italy, depicting Nero and Agrippina around 54 AD.
Aged 23 – Boudica’s revolt
Bowyer’s edition of Hume’sHistory of England contains an illustration that depicts Boudica speaking to a group of men. Drawing and engraving, around 1795; An uprising in the newly gained province of Britain forced Nero to deal with a rebellion during the early years of his reign. In the years AD 60–61, Queen Boudica of the Iceni tribe led a revolt against the Romans, assaulting and destroying significant Roman fortifications in the process. Numerous factors could have triggered the revolt, including the Romans’ greed for profiteering from their recently captured territories, the recalling of loans made to local leaders, the continuation of a conflict in Wales and, above all, violence against the family of Prasutagus, Boudica’s husband and king of the Iceni.
The owners of these artefacts, a Roman veteran and his wife, were never able to recover them from their location.
In their final stand against Roman forces, Boudica and the rebels demolished Colchester, London, and St Albans before being routed.
Soon after, Suetonius Paulinus, the governor of Britain, imposed tougher regulations against the Britons, until Nero replaced him with the more conciliatory governor, Publius Petronius Turpilianus, who remained in office until Nero’s death.
Aged 24 – execution of Octavia
Claudia Octavia’s marble portrait, which may or may not be authentic. Italians call him Julio-Claudian. With the consent of the Ministero della Cultura and the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli, this work is shown. It was the parents of Nero and Octavia that planned their marriage, which took place when they were 15 and 13/14 years old, respectively, in order to strengthen Nero’s claim to the throne. Because Octavia was the emperor Claudius’s daughter from a previous marriage, when Claudius married Agrippina and adopted her son Nero, Nero and Octavia were considered to be brothers.
Their marriage did not end up being a joyful one.
Octavia was initially banished, and subsequently killed in AD 62 on the grounds of adultery.
We will likely never know what transpired at the trial because no other explanations were presented other than Octavia’s love for Poppaea, and we will likely never know what happened at the trial.
Aged 26 – Great Fire of Rome
In the 1951 film Quo Vadis, Peter Ustinov portrays Nero. While Rome is on fire, the character of Nero plays the lyre. The Everett Collection provided permission to use this image. Fire broke out at the Circus Maximus on the 19th of July in the year AD 64. The flames quickly engulfed the entire city of Rome, and the conflagration continued for nine days. Only four of of the capital’s fourteen districts were saved, with three of them entirely destroyed by the fires. It was not the first time that the city of Rome had been destroyed by fire – and it would happen again in its long history – but this incident was so devastating that it became known as the Great Fire of Rome.
According to Suetonius and Cassius Dio, Nero sat in the imperial mansion and watched the city burn while playing the lyre and sang about the fall of Troy, as the city was engulfed in flames.
Fragment of a wall painting from Nero’s palace, the Domus Aurea, which was painted between AD 64 and 68.
Aged 27 – death of Poppaea
Italian marble portrait, perhaps of Poppaea Sabina, from the middle of the first century AD. With permission from the Ministero della Cultura and the Museo Nazionale Romano (Roma National Museum). Tacitus, Suetonius, and Cassius Dio all characterize Nero as being blinded by his devotion for his wife Poppaea, yet they also accuse him of murdering her, supposedly by kicking her in the stomach during an outburst of wrath when she was expecting their first child. Strangely enough, pregnant women being stomped to death by furious husbands is a frequent motif in ancient literature, and it has been employed as a means of exploring the (self) destructive impulses of autocratic rulers.
Periander, the tyrant of Corinth, is said to have had a similar experience.
Poppaea most likely died as a result of difficulties related to her pregnancy, rather than at the hands of Nero. She was given a grandiose burial and was elevated to the status of a goddess.
Aged 28 – the Golden Day
The gates of the temple of Janus in Rome were symbolically closed during times of peace and opened during times of conflict. The temple of Janus was dedicated to the god Janus. In AD 66, Nero closed the temple’s gates, signaling the end of the Roman campaign over Parthia. To commemorate this occasion, a commemorative coin was issued, depicting the temple with its doors closed on the reverse. France was the site of the first minting in 66 AD. The Parthian empire, which was centered in greater Iran, was a major political and cultural power and a long-standing adversary of the Roman Empire.
The Parthian War began in AD 58 and came to a conclusion in AD 63 when a diplomatic settlement was achieved between Nero and the Parthian monarch Vologases I.
In accordance with this agreement, Tiridates, the brother of the Parthian monarch, would govern over Armenia, but only after having traveled all the way to Rome to be crowned by Nero, as had been agreed upon.
The coronation ceremony took place in the summer of AD 66, and the occasion was marked by great pomp and circumstance: the entire population of Rome witnessed the new king of Armenia bowing in front of Nero, who was awestruck.
Aged 30 – death
When Vindex, the governor of Gaul (France), revolted against Nero in AD 68, he professed his support for Galba, the governor of Spain, and declared himself the victor. Despite the fact that Vindex was beaten in combat by forces loyal to Nero, Galba began to garner greater military backing. It was at this moment that Nero’s popularity with the people of Rome began to wane, owing to a grain scarcity created by a rebellious commander who shut off the vital food supply from Egypt to Rome. Nero, who had been abandoned by the people and had been labeled an enemy of the state by the senate, attempted to depart Rome before committing suicide.
The Roman Empire reigned from 70 to 80 AD.
Nero, on the other hand, was nevertheless given a lavish burial, and for a long time after his death, people continued to adorn his grave with flowers, some of whom believed he was still alive.
At the conclusion of the so-called ‘Year of the Four Emperors’ (AD 69), Vespasian was crowned emperor and the Flavians were established as a new dynasty.
Was Nero a tyrant?
During his reign, Nero was a youthful ruler attempting to negotiate his position within a political system that was both new and unstable, one in which monarchical (the emperor) and republican (the senate) components coexisted side by side. While the emperor excelled everyone in terms of power and authority, it was necessary to avoid the impression of monarchy on the outside. As a result, the role of the senate had to be acknowledged, at the very least nominally, by the Emperors. This ancient council, to which only members of the nobility were admitted, had long played a significant part in the administration of the city of Rome’s affairs.
- The bronze skull of the Roman emperor Nero was discovered in England between AD 54 and AD 61.
- Ancient historians who belonged to the senatorial class painted Nero as a maniacal tyrant, but it is important to remember that they were far from objective in their portrayal.
- When we look at the lower classes, however, a completely different image emerges.
- It is believed that this is a copy of a doodle scratched into the wall of a store or tavern on the Palatine Hill in Rome, which depicts the emperor Nero.
- As well as splendid public baths, Nero ensured that his people had access to food by constructing a great covered market and improving links between Rome and the city’s harbor.
- Additionally, the new construction standards he instituted following the Great Fire significantly improved the living circumstances of the citizens of Rome.
The opinions of regular people on Nero are difficult to ascertain since they left so little signs of their thoughts. The political ideologies of the Roman aristocracy ended up influencing our perception of the ancient world.
‘Bad’ emperors in Roman history
We would have a difficult time determining who was the worst Roman emperor based on the testimony of ancient historians. Could this have been Caligula, who reputedly desired to make his horse a consul and considered himself to be a god? or Domitian, the despotic emperor who was paranoid about plots against him and murdered or deported many prominent individuals of his time? Or perhaps Commodus, who saw himself to be a new Hercules and competed in gladiatorial combat in the arena? Caracalla is another excellent contender since he murdered his own brother in order to be able to govern alone, and he annihilated all of his opponents.
Between the years 37 and 41 A.D.
When you realize that all of these complaints were made by unsatisfied senators in order to smear their political adversaries, the similarity of these claims should come as no surprise.
His ascent to power was a violent one, as evidenced by the proscription list he signed alongside Mark Antony and Lepidus, with whom he shared control of Rome at the time of the proscription list’s signing.
Is indiscriminate brutality more heinous than deliberate ruthlessness?
Choose for yourself whether Nero was a dictator or the victim of malicious propaganda in the exhibitionNero: the man behind the myth (on display from May 27 to October 24, 2021).
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