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Who Is Nero?

Born Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus on 15 December 37 AD in Antium, Nero was Roman emperor from 54 to 68 AD. He was the first Christian persecutor his indecision caused confusion during the Great Fire of Rome of 64. Nero has come to be associated with tyranny and decadence but his reign increased Roman diplomatic success and cultural growth.

At his birth, Lucius’ uncle Caligula was emperor. Upon the death of Lucius’ father when he was three years old, Caligula exiled Agrippina, Lucius’ mother and sent Lucius to an aunt who raised him. Lucius was not considered a possible heir to the thrown until Caligula’s death which saw Claudius the next emperor adopt Lucius in 50 AD and change his name to Nero. Upon proclamation to adulthood, Nero was appointed to the Senate and groomed for the thrown because he was older than Claudius’ only natural son.

Nero became the youngest Roman emperor at 16 when Claudius died. As a young emperor, he allowed his mother Agrippina, Seneca the Younger his tutor and Praetorian Prefect Brutus to guide and influence him. But from 55 AD, he was his own person. He executed his mother in 59, poisoned Burrus in 62, and forced Seneca to retire after an embezzlement charge. Many of his rivals and detractors were executed and he restricted the Senate’s powers. He also divorced and exiled his wife Octavia in 62 to marry another woman.

In 68, the governors rebelled against his taxes and declared Nero a public enemy. Nero committed suicide. Civil war and political chaos followed his death.

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