What were the characteristics of the emperor Nero

Nero - How crazy was the Roman emperor?

To this day, the name Nero is synonymous with the type of cruel and insane dictator. The emperor, who ruled over ancient Rome from 54 to 68 AD, is often mentioned in the same breath as the most terrible criminals in world history. For example, the "Nero Order" is named after him - Hitler's instruction to destroy the infrastructure of his own country so that it does not fall into the hands of the Allies.

The way to the throne

But how did it come about that Nero fell into such disrepute? It all started on December 15th in the year 37 AD. At that time, the future ruler was born to his mother Julia Agrippina. From the beginning she had big plans for her son: he should become emperor. To this end, she made sure that Nero received a comprehensive education and was tutored, among others, by the famous thinker Seneca.

It also got the competition out of the way, as wicked tongues at least claim. Agrippina is said to have poisoned her own uncle and fourth husband, Emperor Claudius, in order to free the ruler's seat for Nero. Perhaps it was she who made sure that his stepbrother Britannicus was simply passed over in the succession to the throne.

At least one murder

The first years of Nero's reign were still inconspicuous: he acted as a careful ruler who respected the Senate and its decisions and often consulted his mother on political issues. But personal intrigues soon began to rule his rule. When Nero fell in love with a woman at the end of 58, he had his wife Octavia sealed an affair with a slave, banished her and married his mistress a few days later.

Nero quarreled so violently with his mother that he wanted to get her out of the way - and finally had her murdered. Even with the death of his second wife, Nero is said to have had a hand in it: But did he really kill the pregnant wife in a moment of annoyance by kicking the abdomen? Or did she simply die of prenatal complications?

When Rome was on fire

Beyond his "women's stories", Nero was also becoming less and less fame. Instead of governing, he did what he wanted: he disempowered the Senate, devoted himself to pleasure and staged himself again and again with great pomp. Meanwhile, his empire piled up more and more debts and headed for economic ruin.

But the greatest crime that is said of the emperor is arson: Nero, many believe today, set Rome on fire in 64 - and thus caused one of the most catastrophic fires in the history of the city. Two thirds of Rome were destroyed in the fire. According to the allegation, Nero initiated the fire to make way for his megalomaniac architectural visions.

Persecuted Christians

In the meantime, however, most experts agree that the emperor is being wronged here. Rather, the fire probably broke out by accident. Nero himself is said not to have been in Rome at the time, but returned immediately and helped with the extinguishing work when he found out about the accident. What also speaks in favor of this interpretation: The rumor of Nero as an arsonist was only started long after his death.

During his lifetime, not even his greatest enemies thought of blaming the emperor for the catastrophe. Nero himself made sure that completely others came under suspicion: the Christians. This automatically leads to another point on the list of the emperor's atrocities. Nero had many of the first Christians executed after the fire in Rome. Yes, he is said to have even crucified the apostles Paul and Peter.

Mentally normal?

At the age of 30, Nero had caused so much disaster to the state that the Senate declared him an enemy of the state and Nero finally killed himself on June 9, 68 out of fear of his persecutors. But how bad, crazy and bad was the controversial host really? One thing is clear: even if not all rumors about Nero are true, there are still enough shameful facts.

The emperor not only drove the Roman Empire to economic ruin, but also murdered, instigated intrigues and fell in love with himself. Can someone like that be sane? The Viennese psychotherapist Harald Aschauer dealt with this question a few years ago on the occasion of an exhibition. His conclusion: Although Nero was impulsive and narcissistic, there was no evidence of a clinically relevant disorder in him.

The good sides

Considered in the context of his time, he may not have been any worse than other rulers before him. At that time, for example, it was not uncommon to get unloved troublemakers out of the way in order to maintain political power - be it the rival or one's own mother.

It should also be remembered that not everything about Nero's reign was bad: the emperor promoted the arts, science and the theater. The first five years of his reign are also now considered to be the best for the Roman people. They are known as the "quinquenium Neronis", the happy five-year-old.