Today in history: Emperor Nero torches Rome to make room for new bachelor pads, plays fiddle while city burns alive
The Mad King of Rome was a spoiled 16-year-old trust-funder
People bitch about Donald Trump, Vladamir Putin, and Kim Jong Un like they’re the pinnacle of poor leadership. But let me tell you a story, which happened 1,955 years ago today, of a man who was so goddamnedd hell-bent on renovating the city he ruled over, that he decided to burn it to the ground with everyone still inside it.
The year was 64 A.D. and a man named Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, was in charge of things.
And this guy was a fucking trip, let me tell you. His mother poisoned his father so he could take the throne of Rome, which he did at the age of 16. Shortly thereafter he had his own mother poisoned (as any 16-year-old in a position of power might), so he could do whatever he damn-well pleased.
This mad young lad had a vision, too. He wanted to tear down a third of the entire city of Rome (population ~4.5 million), simply because he had a fabulous fantasy: he wanted to build a huge and elaborate series of palaces, which he would call, cleverly, the “Neropolis…”
Yeah. Well, naturally, the city’s Senate said hell nah. That idea was whack as fuck. No way they were going to allow this new emperor, a 16-year-old kid who’d been in charge for less than two decades, destroy three quarters of a city that had already been around for 817 years, just so he could build a dope ass bachelor pad and name it after himself.
They denied Nero his demands, and, just like any spoiled, entitled, trust-fund kiddo might, he threw a temper tantrum.
What happened next has remained a mystery for thousands of years. But the story goes something like this: Nero, upset because the Senate wouldn’t grant his insane wish, set fire to his own city. On the night of July 19th (hey that’s today!), 64 A.D. Nero torched Rome (according to Tacitus, a Roman historian and aristocrat of the era).
Gangs of thugs were reportedly preventing people from fighting the fire, so it would spread; women were raped, businesses and homes were ransacked and looted, destroyed in the fire, which burned for a total of nine days, and laid ruin to 10 of Rome’s 14 districts, and destroyed the 800-year-old temple of Jupiter Stator.
And the kicker? Nero watched the whole thing, from his beach-side retreat palace miles away, and according to Tacitus, this crazy fuck “merrily played the fiddle” while his people and his city burned alive. He danced and celebrated his victory, just like the Mad King from Game of Thrones.
So, while it might be hot, humid and kind of uncomfortable outside today; and, while our world leaders might suck in a whole lot of ways, at least we can be grateful that we aren’t melting in a city our Emperor set fire to so he could build some sick-ass palaces for himself.
That was today, in history.