Emperor Nero: The 3 Reasons Nero Was Bad For Rome

Born15th of December, 37 AD
Died9th of June, 68 AD
Famous Quote“What an artist the world loses in me.”
Known ForPublicly appearing as an entertainer, burning Rome for his palace, financially ruining Rome from a series of games and races.
Region of WorldRome, Italy, 1st century AD
Further ReadingEmperor Claudius: 3 Reasons Why He Was A Good Emperor

After the death of Roman Emperor Claudius the next Emperor would almost cause the Roman Empire to fall apart. Nero would become Emperor on October 13th 54 AD and over the course of his life he would become one of the most bad emperors to have ever lived.

Today there are 3 reasons that Nero was considered a bad emperor for the Roman Empire. First, Nero would destroy the gravitas and dignitas of the position of elite of Roman society. Second, Nero is reported to have burned Rome to make room for his new palace. Third, Over the course of Nero’s reign he would increase taxation and begin the process of devaluing the Roman currency.

Nero marks the end of what historians today call the Julio Claudian Line. This was the first Imperial family that stemmed from Augustus. Of these emperors there were only 2 real good ones; Augustus and Claudius. One half ok half bad one: Tiberius. And two absolutely insane ones that were bad for the whole of Rome: Caligula and Nero.

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Without further ado, here are the 3 reasons why Nero was a bad emperor for Rome.

Nero Destroyed The Dignitas and Gravitas Of The Imperial Household

One of the main reasons why Nero was a bad emperor was because he destroyed the Roman social hierarchy system.

For nearly 800 years Roman society had been created to give the elite of society Gravitas (importance within society). Once the elite demonstrated they held gravitas they were given dignitas (honor/dignity) within Roman society. This increase in dignitas would in turn lead to everyone listening to them through the emulation of auctoritas (authority).

What this means is that the elite of Roman society were expected to behave in accordance with their position. A Roman senator could not engage in certain past times or affiliate with other people to preserve his status.

This was how Roman society functioned. It formed the backbone of the Roman constitution; the Mos Maiorum.

However, Nero was insane. Even though he was born into Roman society and taught from an early age how a Roman emperor should act he completely ignored societal norms.

The lowest members of Roman society were those who worked. Of this servile class it was the actors, athletes, and entertainers that were seen as the lowest. Nero loved art and poetry. He would appear before both the Senate and people of Rome as an actor and poet.

The people of Rome loved him as it demonstrated he was one of them. However, this would tell the people of Rome that it was no longer important for the elite of Roman society to behave in accordance with tradition. This really upset the Roman Senate.

Nero had successfully undone nearly two generations of Imperial dignity and auctoritas in a matter of a couple years. While Caligula had been mad he still displayed dignitas and gravitas in his actions. Nero, displayed neither and was just as bad.

This undermining of Imperial Dignity would greatly affect the next couple Emperors and the overall stability of the Roman Empire.

As such the fact that Nero destroyed the dignitas and gravitas of Roman society forever cements him as a bad emperor of Rome.

Nero Reportedly Burned Rome To Make Way For His New Palace

One of the main reasons that Nero is considered a bad emperor was because ancient sources claim that he started a fire in Rome to make room for a new palace.

Around the end of Nero’s reign in July of 64 AD a massive fire broke out in Rome. This fire started on the Aventine hill which strategically overlooked the Circus Maximus where chariot races were held.

Ancient reports state that Nero loved chariot races. He would often take part in them and he always won.

Coincidentally, this Aventine hill where the fire started was where Nero had planned to eventually build his grand palace, the Domus Aurea. The only problem was that this Aventine hill was already inhabited by the Roman People who had built homes and shops on these slopes.

This fire burned down around 35% of the total city of Rome. It spread across Rome in the hot summer heat and quickly overwhelmed what little firefighters the ancient city had. For 10 days the fire ravaged the city of Rome destroying the homes of many Romans.

30 years later the Roman historian Tacitus was tasked with finding out if Nero had started the fire. He found that Nero was away from Rome in the coastal town of Antium when the fire broke out but was in some degree responsible for the blaze.

As such the fact that Nero more than likely started this massive fire remains one of the main reasons why Nero was a bad emperor for the city of Rome.

Nero Would Increase Taxation and Devalue the Roman Currency

One of the main reasons that Nero is considered a bad emperor for Rome today was because of his massive increase in taxation and devaluing of the Roman currency.

After the great fire of Rome Nero promised to rebuild Rome to his specification. In order to do this he had to begin a massive campaign of razing taxes to help rebuild the city.

Nero would increase the amount of taxations on the people of Rome. This led to his fame being quickly destroyed among the Roman people.

While the Roman people had to pay a fine to rebuild their city Nero also levied massive taxes upon the provinces of the Empire. This caused massive discontent across the Empire and resulted in the civil wars over the coming centuries.

However, when Nero did not raise enough taxes he would devalue the Roman currency. All Roman coins were minted by the Imperial faction of Rome. There was a finite amount of silver, bronze, or gold in each coin.

Nero discovered that if he devalued the currency he could get more of it to help pay for the destruction of Rome. However, this came at a massive price.

Across the Empire people began to lose faith in the currency which now had begun the process of being devalued. This was the major reason why Nero was a bad emperor for Rome.

This devaluing of the Roman currency was one of the main reasons that Rome collapsed several centuries later. All because of Nero’s palace.

As such because Nero heavily taxed the Roman People and devalued the currency he will forever remain a bad emperor for the Roman Empire.

Conclusion

There you have it; an entire article dedicated towards the 3 main reasons why Nero was considered a bad emperor for Rome.

The study of Nero remains a fascinating subject of historical debate. For most of history Nero’s influences and personal history was rewritten because of the massive amount of bad things he did for the empire. Potential graduate students will find substantial amounts of research to be done surrounding the last decade of Nero’s reign.

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Sincerely,

Nick