54-68 CE: The Reign of the Roman Emperor NERO (Claudius-Caesar-Drusus-Germanicus)
Ah, the Roman Empire. The largest Empire of the ancient world, once thought too big to FAIL (too big, in fact, to govern). The good old days… when real men killed each other in arenas for sport, and life-long rulers were assassinated by the dozen. Now don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of good things that came out of Rome’s rule: it was the first Republic, the concept of modern law came about during this period, road systems throughout Europe, leap year, Roman numerals, the alphabet, the invention of concrete, and the story behind one of the best movies of all time! (Ridley Scott’s masterpiece starring Russel Crowe)
But it wasn’t all peaches and cream, especially for the early Christians: Rome’s national scapegoats until it subsequently became the state religion (but that’s another story entirely). Considering early Christianity was almost wiped out entirely, it’s kind of odd that Christians of today don’t have more sympathy for other persecuted minorities when they used to be one (especially ironic when they’re doing the persecuting, but I’ll get to into more detail about that later with the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, and the Salem Witch ‘Trials’). A lot of Americans today like to complain about our often two-faced politicians, but hey at least our Elected leaders don’t put our heads on spikes when we don’t agree with them. From Tiberius to Diocletian, the Roman Emperors were known to do that and sooo much worse.
The Roman Emperors ruled Rome with an iron fist, and answered to no one. (The title ‘Caesar’ by the way was later adapted by the German ‘Kaizers’ and the Russian ‘Czars’) There were a few good rulers like Marcus Aurelius, the Philosopher-King (think JFK meets Gandalf), but the majority of them were just plain bad. Interesting fact about the Emperors of Rome: over the course of five centuries (27 BC – AD 476), and 147 emperors, only 2 of them died of natural causes, almost all the others were assassinated!
But none of them deserved it more than Nero (37-68 CE), arguably the worst Emperor of all time (Caligula is a runner up for the title, but Elagabalus may have been the most annoying).
It all started with this one dude by the handle of Julius Caesar. At the time Rome was a Republic with a Senate and the like, but during a time of crisis the people gave temporary, unlimited, power to a single ruler (Pontifex Maximus), who decided he liked running things all by himself, so promoted himself to the newly created position of Dictator-for-Life (which is kind of like asking a Genie for unlimited wishes).
It took 60 old guys in togas to take Caesar down, in a slow motion montage of epic Shakespearian back-stabbing betrayal, no less.
The Romans didn’t learn their lesson though and appointed Augustus Octavian, Caesar’s nephew, as his Imperium replacement, but it didn’t exactly end there either. Octavian declared himself Emperor, and was seen as a descendant of the gods, ensuring his family’s right to rule. Following Augustus’s demise, his sole surviving heir, Tiberius, seized control. The Roman Empire has a thick directory of bad rulers, but the descendants of Julius Caesar were right at the top of the shit list. The Julio-Claudian Dynasty (or crime family) continued for generations with the likes of horrible bastards like Augustus and Tiberius, but none were quite as horrifying as the notorious Nero… however Caligula could give him a run for his money.
Most people have at least heard of Caligula, a name synonymous with excess debauchery. This sex-crazed lunatic took abuse of power to a new and disturbing level. Caligula was certifiably nuts. Among his many crazy en-devours he once appointed his horse to the political position of proconsul.
Like many a Roman Emperor, Caligula applied for the job by attempting to have the previous guy killed. He was a paranoid schizophrenic who thought himself a literal god, had a tendency to bathe in blood, and was known for draining the budget on massive orgies. He publicly tortured and killed people for his own amusement. One of his worst atrocities took place at the Circus Maximus where they’d run out of prisoners to kill, so he ordered the first five rows of those in attendance slaughtered.
Eventually his own Praetorian Guards got sick of his bull and fucking killed him, they left him the street to rot where dogs eventually ate his corpse. Claudius, Caligula’s laid back uncle, was the guy who next took up this cursed position actually did a decent job… that is until his niece / wife (Agrippina, Nero’s mother) poisoned him. Agrippina was one of the most ruthless women in the history of Rome, and single-handedly managed to orchestrate her son’s rise to power. Unfortunately for everyone her plan backfired with disastrous results…
Christians and Jews got a bad rep during the brutal reign of the Roman Empire and were often persecuted to the point of near-extinction (which is somewhat ironic considering what went down at the Council of Nicaea in 325 CE, when the tables were turned). Jesus himself was crucified under Augustus’s rule. Emperor Titus-Domitianus was bad enough that many historians believe St. John’s biblical book of Revelations was written as a metaphor for his rule, following the eruption of Mount Versailles that obliterated Pompeii (75 CE); many did believe it was the end of the world after all. But it was Nero himself who earned the honorable title of Anti-Christ and with good reason…
Now if you thought Caligula was bad just wait, it gets so much worse. (Barf bags at the ready?)
Nero Claudius Caesar Drusus Germanicus was born in 37 CE, and became emperor at the ripe age of 17 when his conspiring mother, Agrippina, poisoned Claudius and manipulated her son’s rise to power. Nero was a self-proclaimed poet, athlete, singer/actor/playwright, and a total psychopathic bastard of the highest order.
Emperor Nero would go down in history as one of the worst rulers of history. This ruthless asshole ruled from AD 54 till he committed suicide in 68 after he was declared Enemy of the State, while everyone in the empire grabbed their torches and pitchforks. How does one accrue such blatant hatred over the course of a 14 year period?
No other ruler could hope to match Nero’s level of self indulgence, cruelty, and sheer douchebagary.
Like I mentioned before, Nero was quite possibly the worst of the notorious Roman Emperors, which is really saying something. He was malicious and sadistic, and just like his cuckoo predecessor Caligula he had a Hit-List longer than Santa’s Naughty List, which consisted mostly of people who didn’t even realize they had accidentally insulted him. Nero enjoyed sawing people in half, and routinely had those close to him executed for fear of betrayal, killing any and everyone who dissented. When he was accused of treason, he had the accusers executed.
This selfish douchebag even had his own mother, Agrippina, murdered. After a few unsuccessful attempts to off his overbearing mom, including a sabotaged boat, he eventually stopped trying to be sneaky about it, and just had her stabbed. He then had his nagging wife assassinated so he could marry his mistress, Sabina, whom he later kicked to death while she was pregnant. His third fling was with an adolescent boy whom he had castrated.
What’s perhaps worse than his tendency to kill off everyone in his family tree though is his cruel and unusual form of insanity: Nero fancied himself a patron of the arts.
He wrote and performed in his own plays and concerts to which he forced his subjects to attend …or else. Nero’s wretched ‘performances’ lasted for HOURS… Those that attempted to leave were either escorted back to their seats or stabbed to death by Praetorian Guards. As a result several women gave birth during these atrocious displays of self-indulgence.
As you can imagine, Nero didn’t take constructive criticism too kindly. With no American Idol judges to kick him off the stage, many a Roman citizen chose death over the slow and painful torture of hearing Nero’s dreaded singing voice. Nero followed in his Uncle Caligula’s crazy footsteps, and spent more time causing problems than fixing them. Most of Rome was forced to play along in fear of the consequences. This one time Nero even competed in the Olympic Games and (to everyone’s ‘surprise’) he won every last event that he participated in.
In 64′, The Great Fire of Rome swept through the Roman capitol and decimated acres of homes, costing countless lives and an absurd amount of property damage. It is said that while the raging fire burned the city to the ground, Emperor Nero played the lyre and watched the fireworks from atop a hill, fiddling to his own lyrics while the capitol was engulfed in flames. There’s evidence to suggest that the Roman Emperor had in fact committed the grand arson himself. The next day, to add insult to injury, he immediately ordered a new palace, the Domus Aurea, constructed on the ashes of the fallen city. This palatial garden estate was somewhere between 100 and 300 acres: Nero’s thoughtful gift …to himself.
What could be worse than burning down your own city to make way for a mansion the size of a shopping mall while you rejoice in the suffering of thousands?
Blaming it on someone else.
Nero not only did just that, but he decided to pin the blame on the entire religion of Christianity itself!
Emperor Nero often used the ‘Christian cult’ as an excuse for his own incompetence, singling them out as a scapegoat to distract the masses from the city’s problems. Nero nearly managed to exterminate Christians entirely, usually by feeding them to his pet lions. He may have chosen Christianity because they were an easily targeted minority, and the ‘peace-loving hipppies’ of the Roman Empire boycotted his notoriously bloody public executions. It is believed that both the disciple Peter and the Apostle Paul were both victims of these completely horrific persecutions.
There’s no denying, this dude was straight up EVIL!
He was even known for having captured Christians burned at night for a source of illumination in his gardens. He reveled in the smell of burning flesh, and even wrote poetry about death and mutilation. It’s really no surprise that the heavily persecuted Christians in hiding came up with a code word referring to their mad ruler, the mark of the beast, also known as 666 (his numerical name in the Hebrew alphabet), a direct reference to Emperor Nero himself.
That’s right, believe it or not, Nero was in fact the original Anti-Christ. That’s pretty bad, if an entire religion considers you to be the pure embodiment of evil. Regardless of how he is remembered, Nero considered himself an artist above all else, perhaps he was an ironic artist who painted with blood and suffering.
Hmm, reminds me of another sadistic bastard…
The pompous bastard even had the nerve to construct a huge-ass, 60 foot-tall, gold statue built of him as Apollo, the Sun God of both Greek and Roman mythology… If that wasn’t enough, after murdering his family, burning Rome to the ground, killing thousands of innocent people, and blaming Christianity, this matricidal tyrant then went on to heavily tax the citizens of the Empire to pay for his ginormous gold-plated statue to go in front of his ridonkulous gold-plated palace.
Seriously, both Dr. Doom and Mr. Freeze would be like, “Damn son! That’s cold.”
Nero was a monster in every sense. I have no doubt the Roman deities would have been appalled by such a lack of morality and human compassion. Very few sources paint Nero in an even marginally favorable light. The people of Rome despised him by the end of his tyrannical reign of terror.
Suffice it to say, Nero was nuttier than an industrial sized tub of extra crunchy peanut butter.
Eventually, his absurd taxation sufficiently caused the populations of the numerous provinces to turn against him. Each year he murdered more and more conspirators and distrusting Senators. An army of thousands was raised against him. Several Legions joined the revolt and proclaimed General Galba as his successor. Even his guards abandoned him when the Senate declared him a public enemy. He fled like a bitch to his private villa where he dug his own grave and took his own life. He was the last of the Julio-Claudian line.
After his death, the people of Rome destroyed his palace and in its ruins constructed a monumental amphitheater that held 50,000 people with 80 entrances and exits. This massive arena became known as the Coliseum, named after the colossal golden statue of Nero at its entrance. The gladiator games that were fought within its walls for centuries after echoed the bloody legacies of Caligula and NERO!!!
Now I need a shower… (preferably not in blood)
Hope you enjoyed this edition of “Epik Fails!”, if you have any comments, questions, concerns, or suggestions let me know in the comments below! Also, be sure to ‘Like’ EPiK FAILs on Facebook! (www.Facebook.com/EpikFails), and SHARE IT with your friends!
—–Other awesome articles you may enjoy:
“The Book of Ancient Bastards” by: Brian Thornton”
“Nero: The End of a Dynasty” by: Miriam T. Griffin
“The Great Fire of Rome” by Stephen Dando-Collins
“The Annals: The Reigns of Tiberius, Claudius, and Nero” by Cornelius Tacitus
“The Most Evil Men in History: Nero” (documentary)