Did Nero REALLY fiddle while Rome burned….?

Right, so has Nero been as hard-done-by through history as our Richard III?

After first pointing out that Richard was lied about and denounced by his enemies and killers, and that he still has supporters even now, this article certainly wonders about Nero’s legacy.

It’s said that Nero’s ambitious mother manipulated him on to the throne, which makes me wonder anew about Margaret Beaufort and Henry VII – did he ever really want the throne? He certainly never looked happy. Or maybe it was just that the wind changed one day when he was a petulant child.

Contrary to the claims of Tudor historians, Richard III didn’t want the throne. I should imagine that when he learned of the pre-contract, he felt the chains tightening around him. He was an honest man who would do what he believed to be right, and he believed it was his duty to become king. But all the time what he really wanted was to return to Yorkshire and lead his former contented life.

As for Nero….well, he certainly has a vile reputation. I’ve seen several documentaries about him, and there does indeed seem to be some doubt about his warranting such calumny. So, what was the truth? Maybe we’ll find out one day…or perhaps in hundreds of years time we’ll still be torn about him.

PS. Since writing the above, I have come upon this letter in the Financial Times:

“….It takes strong nerves to decry Martin Wolf. But, in his piece, “The fading light of liberal democracy” (Opinion, December 22), Mr Wolf states that “Nero was not very interested in governing . . . but he definitely was tyrannical”. It is true that Nero was a tyrant. However, it is a lapse on the part of our great economist to fall in with the propaganda of Suetonius that, like Shakespeare’s wonderful hatchet job on Richard III, wilfully distorts the true picture. The first part of Nero’s reign (famous as the Quinquennium Neronis) when the emperor listened to his brilliant special advisers, were years of good government . . . and he didn’t fiddle, but braved the flames when Rome burned….”

John Gerson, Visiting Professor, The Policy Institute, King’s College, London WC2, UK (from https://www.ft.com/content/9a9bc98d-95d2-4c7e-8a61-b97176aae1ad )

1 comment

  1. Amazing the comparisons that can be made between Richard and other historical figures. Obviously my views on Richard are known to many of you, but my views Nero are not so clearly defined.
    I think one of the possible problems was the in-breeding that occurred.
    I think there’s every possibility that Nero, and definitely Caligula, had certain mental heath problems that contributed to their behaviour, and consequently to how they’re remembered.
    As we know with Richard, it takes a long time of just chipping away to remove layers of historical prejudice.

    Liked by 1 person

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