Did Nero really play a fiddle while Ancient Rome burned to the ground?

Nero didn’t literally play a fiddle, they didn’t have fiddles or even violins in ancient Rome.

They did, however, have lyres. Nero played and composed on one regularly. He didn’t consider himself a mere politician but a richly talented artist and musician as well.

When fire swept through Rome in 64 A.D , many believed Nero was behind the blaze as a way of clearing out land for a lavish palace he had designed for himself. Rumors began to flourish that, as the fires blazed,

Nero used them as inspiration for his compositions and gleefully played music while the whole of Rome burnt to the ground. There’s no evidence he did either of these things.

However, he did get his land, and he built an incredible home for himself. Nero—not unlike other early Roman emperors—was reckless with public funds and indifferent to the citizens of Rome.

In 68 A.D. he was proclaimed a public enemy by the Roman Senate for his ruthlessness and lack of concern about state matters. Nero committed suicide before he could be captured by the Roman guard.

With his dying breath he declared, “What a great artist dies in me!”

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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