Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, became Rome’s Emperor at the age of 17, following the death of his great uncle Claudius who had adopted him. Nero had a stepbrother – Claudius’ son – Britannicus. But at the death of Claudius, Britannicus was a minor thus making Nero the heir to the throne. In 64 AD, most of Rome was destroyed in a fire, which many Romans believed Nero himself had started in order to clear land for his planned palatial complex, the Domus Aurea, which is Latin for Golden House.
In 53, Nero married his stepsister Claudia Octavia, but if you think that’s outrageous, below are some of the other despicable things that Nero did:
- He was a persecutor of Christians. He had them captured, dipped in oil, and set on fire in his garden at night to serve as a source of light.
- He killed his stepbrother. Here’s what instigated it. In 55, Nero was dissatisfied in his marriage to Claudia Octavia, so he entered into an affair with a former slave Claudia Acte. This did not sit well with Nero’s mother Agrippina but her intervention in Nero’s personal affairs was unsuccessful. Agrippina reportedly began pushing for Britannicus to become emperor in the hope that he would be seen as the true heir to the throne by the state over Nero, since Britannicus was the blood son of Claudius. Of course Nero wasn’t going to just sit and watch himself get dethroned, he enlisted the services of a woman (Locusta) who specialized in the manufacture of poisons. She devised a mixture to kill Britannicus, but after testing it unsuccessfully on a slave, Nero angrily threatened to have her put to death if she did not come up with something usable. Locusta then devised a new concoction that she promised would “kill swifter than a viper”.
- Nero became romantically involved with his friend’s wife. His friend would have been the future emperor, Otho. Because a marriage to his new lover and a divorce from his current wife did not seem politically feasible with Agrippina alive, Nero ordered the murder of his mother.
- Nero divorced and banished his wife Octavia, on grounds of infertility, leaving him free to marry his pregnant lover Poppaea. After public protests, Nero was forced to allow Octavia to return from exile, but she was executed shortly after her return.
- Nero also was reported to have kicked Poppaea to death before she could have his second child.
- After the death of his wife Poppaea, Nero married Statilia Messalina. Before they (Nero and Statilia) got married, Statilia was Nero’s mistress. Nero had Statilia’s husband be driven to suicide so he could marry her.
- Nero ordered a young freedman, Sporus, to be castrated and then married him. All this was simply because, Sporus bore an uncanny resemblance to Nero’s deceased wife Poppaea. Nero even called him by his dead wife’s name.
- He held parties/orgies that lasted for days behind closed doors. His guests were not allowed to leave until the orgies were over.
Nero died on 9 June 68, following numerous political woes. It was dramatic. He wanted to commit suicide, but he could not bring himself to take his own life. So he compelled his private secretary to perform the task.