Did Nero really play the fiddle while Rome burned?

One day, a man named John had a vision. The book of Revelation is John's record of that vision. You see, John was a Christian leader of Jewish origin who was in exile on the Roman Prison Island of Patmos.

Revelation was written as a letter to be circulated among the Christian churches at seven important cities in Asia Minor: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.

"Apocalypse" means The Revealing of Divine Mysteries; John wrote down what he felt was revealed (what he sees in his vision) and sent it to the seven churches. The entire book constitutes the letter – the letters to the seven individual churches are introductions to the rest of the book, which is also addressed to all seven. The book is considered by many to be a prophecy: Revelation uses the word “prophecy” – in some way, shape or form, twenty-one times, more than any other New Testament book.

Modern scholars agree (well, most of them), that although John may have written a first version under Emperor Vespasian (69-79 CE), it appears to have been updated under Emperor Domitian (reigned 81-96 CE). The beast with seven heads and the number 666 seem to refer or suggest, quite directly, to the emperor Nero (reigned from 54 to 68 CE), but this doesn't necessarily mean that Revelation was written in the 60s. At THAT time, pretty much everyone thought that Nero would return at some point in the future.

I wonder if it was out of hope or fear …

nero-1For six days and seven nights in the year 64 …
Rome burned

The people of Rome were pretty much helpless.  At the end of the week, over 70 percent of the city was completely destroyed. 

Rome was broken into 14 districts – when the fire was done – only 4 districts were left standing.

Over half a million people were left homeless. Best guess from thie history books – that was basically half of the population.

People without shelter, living in the streets – people began to congregate and share stories – and in some cases – rumors. Some of these rumors even suggested that men were seen fanning the flames, and claimed they were under orders. It wasn't too terribly long before the finger pointing began and they blamed Nero.

Hell, some of the rumors claim that Nero set the fire himself. Or that he ordered others to do it for him.

When Nero started to rebuild Rome – even more rumors came into play. Some speculated that he started the fire and used that as an excuse for New Construction. (hmmm – history does repeat itself)

nero-2Nero and Rome's Burning

One of the most longstanding, quotable rumors from this event was that Nero had played his fiddle, while Rome Burned.

Well, the rumors got 'ole Nero's knickers in a twist and he searched to find a scapegoat. (funny how that works)

Nero decided on the Christians and persecuted them ruthlessly.
(interesting … and oddly familiar sounding)

Now, despite all this torture and execution and public spectacle – Nero was STILL, in the public eye, blamed for the fire.

It is TRUE that Nero really did love music. He preferred to play music rather than offer any kind of help to his people. But, the fiddle wasn't invented for another 1500 years – AFTER the fire. He played this thing called a Cithara — kinda like a harp.

I gotta admit though, the mental image of this geezer sitting in the window of his palace, churning out some Devil Went Down to Georgia – kinda gives me the chuckles.

One account from a historian named Tacitus actually says that Nero left his palace – which was actually NOT in the city but in the area called Antium, just on the outskirts – to come into town and help coordinate efforts to fight the fire. He even opened up all of the public buildings – as well as the gardens surrounding the palace, for the homeless.

Now – When ya hear that.. It makes ya wonder WHY did this idea that "Nero Fiddled while Rome Burned" – why has it persisted for SO many centuries??

roman-sam-8Nero's Fall

Bottom line, well, in the opinions of historians – this is simply a Metaphor for his ineffectiveness. If the things he did after the fire were thought to be misdirected or inadequate – then it makes a lot of sense. Any way you slice it – it is a propaganda bomb that has survived 2000 years.

With that in mind – maybe, in regards to "The Fire" – maybe Nero has been looked at in an unfair light.

Regardless of that – Nero became Emperor after His Mother Killed His Uncle — oh, and shortly after he got the throne – Nero had his mother killed. A true DICK-tater …

In the wake the fire, his misguided construction spending, his persecution of the Christians AND the executions of the apostles Peter and Paul – his armies threatened mutiny — and he was declared a Public Enemy by the Senate. Facing execution – Nero shoved a knife into his own throat.

Or did he?
Maybe this was the Revelation of John … (a divine mystery indeed!)

Salty …

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