A striking, nuanced biography of Nero--the controversial populist ruler and last of the Caesars--and a fascinating, street-level portrait of ancient Rome itself, from an acclaimed biographer and historian.
The Roman emperor Nero has long been the very image of a bad ruler--cruel, vain, and incompetent. He committed incest with his mother, who had schemed and killed to place him on the throne, and later murdered her. He supposedly set fire to Rome and thrummed his lyre as it burned. Afterward he cleared the charred ruins of the city center and, in their place, built a vast palace. Historians of his day despised him, and it's their recollections that have been passed down through the ages.
But, in all of the horror, there is a mystery. For a long time after his deposition and suicide, anonymous hands laid flowers on his grave. The monster was loved. In this nuanced biography, Anthony Everitt, the celebrated biographer of classical Greece and Rome, reveals the contradictions inherent in the reign of Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus and offers a reappraisal of his life. Everitt also brings ancient Rome to life, showing the crowded streets that made the city prone to fires, political intrigues that could turn deadly in an instant, and vast building projects that continuously remade the Roman landscape. In this teeming and politically unstable world, Nero did terrible things, but the larger empire was also well managed under his rule. He presided over a diplomatic triumph with the rival Parthian empire, and Everitt teams up with investigative journalist Roddy Ashworth to tell the epic story of Rome’s conquest of Britain and British queen Boudica’s doomed revolt against Nero’s legions. Nero was also a champion of arts and culture whose own great love was music, and he won the loyalty of the lower classes with great spectacles. In many ways he was ahead of his time, particularly in the way he looked to Greece and the eastern half of the empire as crucial to Rome's future. Nero had a vision for Rome, but, wracked by insecurity and guilt-ridden over assassinations he ordered, perhaps he never really had the stomach to rule it.
This is the bloodstained story of one of Rome's most notorious emperors. Nero's rule has become a byword for cruelty, decadence, and despotism, but in Everitt's hands, his life is a cautionary tale about the mettle it takes to rule.