a Roman emperor, celebrated in the history of the world as a tyrant and a debauchee, figures in ecclesiastical annals chiefly because of the intolerant and persecuting spirit which he manifested towards the followers of Jesus in the Eternal City. His full name was Nero Claudius Caesar Drusus Germanicus (originally Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus). He was the son of Domitius Ahenobarbus and of Agrippina, daughter of Germanicus, and was born in 37 at Antium. After the marriage of his mother, in third nuptials, with her uncle, the emperor Claudius, Nero was adopted by that prince, and Nero's name changed as above given. His education was carefully looked after. He was placed under the tuition of the philosopher Seneca (q.v.), and appears to have improved his opportunities. He is said to have persevered in his studies, and to have made great progress especially in the Greek language, of which he exhibited a specimen in his sixteenth year by pleading in that tongue the rights or privileges of the Rhodians and of the inhabitants of Ilium; but he possessed little oratorical skill (Suetonius, Nero, c. 7; Tacitus, Annales, 12:58). Nero was so much trusted by Claudius that he finally married him to his daughter Octavia. When he was about seventeen years of age Nero's abandoned mother poisoned her husband, Claudius, and by means of her criminal favors succeeded in raising her son to the throne (A.D. 54), over whom she expected to exercise the most absolute control. Nero himself shortly after disposed of the rightful heir, Britannicus, by poison, and thus became sole and undisputed ruler. For the first few years his public conduct, under the control of Burrhus and Seneca, was unexceptionable; in private, however, he disgraced himself by the most odious vices, and his mother endeavored to retain her influence by shamefully complying with his inclinations. But after a time, even with all her efforts, she perceived her hold to slacken, and noticed how he disregarded her advice and refused her requests. Gradually the two became estranged from each other. Nero was accused of criminal love for AEtia, a woman of low birth, and of improper relations with Poppnea, the wife of Otho, who succeeded Nero on the throne. This maddened his mother, and she frequently abused him with the most contemptuous language; reminded him that he owed his elevation to her, and threatened that she would inform the soldiers of the manner in which Claudius had met his death. Nero was thus kept in constant dread of revolt and assassination, and finally, in A.D. 59, he caused this detestable woman to be murdered. Now, fearing no rival in power, he gave full scope to the darkest traits of his character. The low servility into which the Roman senate had sunk at this time may be estimated from the fact that it actually issued an address congratulating the hateful matricide on the death of Agrippina. Nero himself, on the other hand, confessed that he was ever haunted by the ghost of his murdered mother. The affairs of the empire were at this time far from tranquil. In A.D. 61 an insurrection broke out in Britain under queen Boadicea, which was, however, suppressed by Suetonius Paulinus. The following year saw an unsuccessful war against the Parthians in Armenia. At home matters were not much better. The emperor was lampooned in verse; the senate and priesthood, alike venal, were also satirized by audacious malcontents; his most valued friend Burrhus died; and Seneca, disgusted with the licentiousness of the court, had quitted the capital. And the worst was yet to come. In June, A.D. 64, a terrible conflagration broke out in Rome, and for six days and seven nights the fire raged with the greatest fury; even after it was supposed extinguished it broke forth again and continued for two days longer. A vast territory experienced the results of this conflagration. Out of the fourteen districts into which the city was divided, three were totally destroyed, and in seven of the others it left only a few half-ruined houses. Not only the temples and public buildings, as well as private houses, but also monuments of all kinds, masterpieces of art, and libraries were destroyed, and a great number of lives lost. Although the emperor remained at Antium during the early part of the conflagration, and only returned to Rome when the fire approached his palace, the people generally accused him of having purposely set fire to the city, and preventing its being put out, in order to build up a finer one on its ruins. In compliance with his orders the sufferers were relieved, and such as built again were aided by the state; but this did not allay the general suspicion, as he was said to have ascended the tower of Msecenas during the fire, and there recited verses on the downfall of Troy. All the processions and sacrifices which he commanded for the purpose of appeasing the gods, as well as the vast sums he squandered among the people, did not allay the suspicion. Indeed Dion and Suetonius expressly accuse him, but these writers, it is well known, were always inclined to favorably receive any scandal. Tacitus (Ann. 15:38) thinks the matter doubtful, or at least all his efforts to determine Nero's part in the case failed to convince of guilt. So doubtful was Nero's character that the belief of his guilt was general at the time, and ever since the world has been inclined to judge him the perpetrator of the crime. Church historians thus treat him. Even the liberal-minded Renan, who in his L'Antichrist (Paris, 1873) has furnished the latest, fullest, most spirited, and probably most accurate delineation of Nero and his time, believes this emperor to have caused the conflagration, in order to rebuild the city in greater splendor and more artistic form, and thus give renown to his reign. Says Renan: "Rome, above all things, preoccupied his [i.e., Nero's] thoughts. His project was to rebuild it from top to bottom, and to name it afresh — Neropolis. For a century past it had been one of the wonders of the world. In size it rivalled the ancient capitals of Asia, and its edifices were fine, strong, and solid. But its streets appeared mean to the taste of the day: for that taste tended more and more to vulgar and decorative construction, it aspired to broad effects such as rejoice the heart of gaping sightseers, and it condescended to a thousand tricks unknown to the ancient Greeks. At the head of the whole movement was Nero. The new Rome which he imagined was something like the Paris of our own day — one of those artificial cities, built to order, in planning which the great point aimed at is to catch the admiration of visitors from the country and of foreigners" (pages 136-143). To remove all suspicion from himself, Nero spread the report that the Romans should regard the Christians as the authors of the fire-that mysterious sect who like the Jews in the Middle Ages, were generally hit upon as the cause of all otherwise inexplicable calamities; and, as if Nero himself believed them guilty of this crime, he now inaugurated a series of persecutions which have made his name a byword for cruelty and inhumanity. SEE NERONIAN PERSECUTIONS. But while busy persecuting the Christians, Nero found time to carry forward his scheme for the embellishment of Rome. He rebuilt in great magnificence the burned districts, and reared for himself on the Palatine Hill a splendid palace, called, from the immense profusion of its golden ornaments, the Aurea Domus, or Golden House; and in order to provide for this expenditure, and for the gratification of the Roman populace by spectacles and distributions of corn, Italy and the provinces were unsparingly plundered. In A.D. 65 a powerful conspiracy was formed for the purpose of placing Piso upon the throne, but it was discovered by Nero, and the principal conspirators were put to death. Among others who suffered on this occasion were Lucan and Seneca; but the guilt of the latter is doubtful. In the same year Poppeea died, in consequence of a kick which she received from her husband while she was in an advanced state of pregnancy. On the death of Poppaea Nero wished to marry Antonia, daughter of the emperor Claudius, and his sister by adoption, but she refused, and was in consequence put to death. He however married Statilia Messalina, having first caused her husband Vestinus to be killed. Nero also executed or banished many persons highly distinguished for integrity and virtue. His vanity led him to seek distinction as a poet, a philosopher, an actor, a musician, and a charioteer, and he received sycophantic applauses, not only in Italy, but in Greece, to which, upon invitation of the Greek cities, he made a visit in 67. But in 68 the Gallic and Spanish legions, and after them the Prsetorian Guards, rose against him to make Galba emperor, and Nero was obliged to flee from the city and conceal himself in the house of a freedman, Phaon, about four miles distant. The senate, which had hitherto been most subservient, declared him an enemy of his country, and the tyrant ended his life by suicide, June 11, 68, just as the Roman soldiers were approaching his hiding-place (Dion. Cas. 61-63; Tacit. Ann. 13-15; Sueton. Nero). Nero was a lover of arts and letters. The Apollo Belvedere is supposed by Thiersch (Epochen der bildenden Kunst unter den Griechen, page 312) and some other writers to have been made for this emperor. He also possessed much taste as a poet and histrionic performer. But he was, notwithstanding these accomplishments, a licentious voluptuary, and scrupled not to commit any crime that would tend to gratify his lunt or strengthen his power. Yet, as Rnan has well observed, "one cannot absolutely say that the wretch was without a heart, nor deficient in a certain sentiment of the good and the beautiful. So far from being incapable of friendship, he often showed himself a good comrade; and it was precisely this that rendered him cruel. He was determined to be loved and admired for his own sake; and was irritated against those who did not manifest towards him these feelings" (pages 126-132). The words of Suetonius, "Elatus inflatusque tantis velut successibus, negavit quenquam Principum scisse quid sibi liceret" (Nero, § 37), we think, sum up in most admirable conciseness the character and work of this strange ruler. It was during Nero's reign that the war commenced between the Jews and Romans which terminated subsequently in the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, and the overthrow of the Jewish polity. According to the personnel given by Renan (L'Antechrist, page 173), "Nero had a bad face, lowering looks, blue eyes, chestnut hair dressed in rows of curls, a terrible lip, and the air (wicked and stupid at the same time) as of a great silly doll, supremely self-satisfied, puffed up with vanity." Although repeatedly alluded to, he is not expressly named in the text of the New Testament (see Ac 25:11, etc.; Php 1:12-13; Php 4:22); but in the subscription (probably spurious) to the Second Epistle to Timothy he is called Ccesar Nero (Καῖσαρ Νέρων). Many authors refer to Nero the prophecy by John (Re 13:11-18) of the beast with two horns, and interpret the 18th verse as referring to the Hebrew name of Nero, נֹרוֹן קֵסִר., which amounts numerically to 666, the number there given; since, written more nearly in Roman style, נֵרוֹ קֵסִר, it amounts to 616, which Irenaeus testifies was the number found in many manuscripts in his day (see Stuart, Apoc. 2:457 sq.; Benary, Zeitschrift fuir Speculative Theologie, 1836, volume 1, part 2; Bibliotheca Sacra, 1843, page 332 sq.; 1844, page 84 sq.). SEE REVELATION, BOOK OF. Nero was the emperor before whom Paul was brought on his first imprisonment at Rome, A.D. 56-58; and in the persecution of the Christians by Nero in the year A.D. 64 the apostles Peter and Paul are supposed to have suffered martyrdom. All the authorities furnishing facts in Nero's life are collected by Tillemont (Hist. des Empereurs, volume 1). See the monographs cited by Volbeding, Index Programmatum, pages 95, 97; and compare also Renan's L'Antechrist, and the original authorities quoted there; Merivale, Hist. of the Romans under the Empire; Diderot, Essai sur les Regnes de Claude et de Neron; and the Church historians quoted in the article on NERONIAN PERSECUTIONS. (J.H.W.)

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