Nero                    54 - 68 A.D.


One of ancient history's most infamous characters, Nero rose to power in his mid-teens following the death of Claudius, his adoptive father. To speed things along he had Britannicus poisoned and in league with his mother Agrippina had had Claudius poisoned as well. His next few years were fairly unremarkable one way or the other largely in part because of Agrippina's overbearing influence. He corrected the problem, however, by having her executed on the pretext that she had a unfavorable view of Poppaea, his new mistress. Because he was already married to a certain Octavia he had her exiled and murdered as well. He would later kick Poppaea to death while she was pregnant. To round things out he had his teacher Seneca, another influential man of his age, commit suicide on suspicions of him and others plotting against him.

Popular legend holds that he set fire to Rome. Modern historians dismiss this account as an exaggeration but his decision to hold a poetry recital with the conflagration as his background was a crass political blunder that would hurt his popularity immensely. Needing to find a scapegoat, he chose to point the finger at Christians who up until then had been but a fledgling cult. For the next 300 years Christians would be vilified for every ailment within the empire and used regularly as cannon fodder in the Coliseum. In one of the more bizarre spectacles imaginable, Nero would set Christians on fire and held in position to act as torches during his parties.

Becoming ever more hated for his cruelty and the demoralizing effect of the execution of countless innocent individuals, one by one far-flung provinces seceded and named emperors among their own. When Nero was unable to deal with the insurgencies he lost hope and fled to the countryside. The Senate then issued a warrant for his arrest and, on hearing of this, decided to commit suicide... but not before asking one of his slaves to commit suicide first just to see what it would be like!


AE As 54--68 A.D.

Lugdunum ca. 67 A.D.

28 mm.

Obv. IMP NERO CAESAR AVG P MAX TR P PP: Bare-headed bust right

Rev. S C: Victory flying left, holding shield inscribed with SPQR

RIC 605, Sear 590, Van Meter 32c

AR Denarius 54--68 A.D.


16 mm.

Obv. NERO CAESAR AVGVSTVS: Laureate head right

Rev. IVPPITER CVSTOS: Jupiter seated left

Possibly issued after the Pisonian conspiracy to publicize Jupiter's role in safeguarding Nero

C. 118, SR 673, Van Meter 8