Nero was the Roman Emperor from 54-69.

Taking the throne at the young age of 16, Nero became emperor after his mother had poisoned her husband, the emperor Claudius. With his mother, the wicked Agrippina to guide him and an empire to spoil him, he grew up to be the worst ruler in the history of Rome. His old tutor, the philosopher Seneca, took charge of the government and its officials.

Nero was certain that he was a great artist. And if he was not, no man in Rome dare say so. Nero added his own touch to dramas, when the story called for a character to die, he put a prisoner on the stage and actually killed him. Nero had opened his grounds for the display, and was putting on a show in the circus, where he mingled with the people in the dress of a charioteer or drove about in his chariot. In the 13 years of Nero's reign all the worst elements of life which had long mingled with the sap of ancient civilization seems to have rushed at once into their scarlet flower. The Christians of that epoch saw the dominance of such an emperor presenting itself in the aspect of wickedness raised to superhuman exaltation, engaged in an impious struggle against the Lord and against His saints. The emperor was entirely under the influence of his wife, Poppaea, who was Jewish proselyte, and it is quite possible that his attention was called to the Christians by her. Nero was to later murder his mother, his wife and brother as well the philosopher Seneca.

Nero, in his short reign had the most ambitious schemes for the building of Rome. He contemplated an enormous Golden House spanning the southern end of the Forum, extending from the Palatine to the Viminal Hill. The easterly end of this house would have come in contact with the Suburra, or slums of Rome below the Viminal Hill and the Esquiline, a most noisome locality which he promptly destroyed by fire. The Golden House was short lived, and the Coliseum is upon the site of Nero's proposed artificial lake.

The first instance of Roman persecution of Christians is that of Nero in the 10th year of his reign in AD 64. On the hot summer night of July 18th, a fire broke out in the wooden bleachers and among the wooden buildings at the northern end of the Circus Maximus in Rome. Within minutes, all of the tinder-dry stadium was ablaze. The shops surrounding, which lined the valley between the Palatine and Caelian Hills were full of inflammable materials. Of the cities 14 districts, four alone escaped untouched. Fed by the flimsy wares in the surrounding shops and fanned by a strong wind, the flames spread. Besides the noble pile, called the Circus, many other palaces and houses were consumed, several thousand perished in the flames, were smothered in the smoke, or buried beneath the ruins. The fire raged for a week before finally burning itself out, leaving a large part of the city a mass of charred and smoking ruins. It is said that from the roof of his palace Nero had enjoyed the spectacle and amused himself by singing a poem of his own composition entitled the Sack of Troy.

The great fire had levelled most of Rome to the ground, and the voice of rumor accused the emperor as the incendiary of his own capital. Nero, when he learned that the homeless people blamed him and threatened to rise against him, Nero placed the blame on the Christians in order to divert the suspicion from himself as the one who had ordered the city set on fire. A "multitude" of the fictitious criminals were convicted. Nero accused the Christians of having conspired to burn the city in order to help out their prophecies. The doctrine which was taught by some of the new sect respecting the second coming of Christ and the destruction of the world by fire lent color to the charge. The "incendiaries" were arrested and thrown into prison, to the cry of "Christians to the lions".

Nero slaughtered Christians by the hundreds. Fastened to crosses, Christians were set on fire to illuminate a circus which Nero staged for the crowds in his own gardens. The historian Tacitus writes: "Besides being put to death they were made to serve as objects of amusement; they were covered with wild beasts' skins and torn to death by dogs. Some were crucified, others set on fire to serve to illuminate the night when daylight failed, fastened on crosses, and, when daylight failed, covered by inflammable matter, were set on fire to serve as torches during the night. Or tied to stakes in Nero's gardens while he drove around in his chariot, naked, indulging himself in his midnight revels, gloating over the dying agonies of his victims. The Roman Christians, accused by Nero of setting the city on fire, were massacred in a spectacular fashion on the Vatican Hill." Up to then only a few people here and there had even heard of Jesus but now his name was sent ringing through the empire and everyone was curious to know what it stood for. The attempt to destroy it had proved the grand advertisement of the new religion to acquaint the world's capital with Paul's religion was to his mind a triumph well worth martyrdom.

Contrary to the popular belief in Rome, Nero probably did not start the fires but there is a grain of truth in the old saying that Nero fiddled while Rome burned. That the Christians were entirely innocent of the crime was well known, then and now. The majority of the Christians were not punished for the actual crime of incendiarism, which Tacitus says could not be proved against them, but were put to death as enemies of society and as dangerous characters, whose principles and practices were such as to imperil the welfare of the people and of the state.

Foxe writes in his book of Martyrs that the first persecution of the church took place under Nero, the sixth emperor of Rome and reigned for 5 years. According to Foxe, Nero ordered that the city of Rome should be set on fire, which order was executed by he officers, guards, and servants. While the imperial city was in flames, he went up to the tower of Macaenas, played upon his harp, sung the song of the burning of Troy, and openly declared that 'he wished the ruin of all things before his death'.. Finding that his conduct was greatly blamed, and a sever odium cast upon him, determined to lay the whole upon the Christians, at once to excuse himself, and have an opportunity of glutting his sight with new cruelties.

It was in order to build a new and grander Rome that he set fire to the city, and fiddled in glee at the sight of it. Nero was responsible because he wanted to redevelop a large area in the center of the city as his palatial residence. The own people suspected him. His head had been full for years of the image of flaming cities; that he used to say that Priam was to be congratulated on having seen the ruin of Troy. Gaius used to quote the phrase of Euripides 'when I am dead, sink the whole earth in flames.', Nero replied 'Nay, but while I live.' He was accused of the ambition of destroying Rome, that he might replace its tortuous and narrow streets with broad, regular streets and uniform Hellenic edifices, and so have an excuse for changing its name from Rome to Neropolis.

The Neronian persecution was general about the whole Roman empire, but it rather increased than diminished the spirit of Christianity. At length the brutality of these measures filled every breast with pity, the peoples' hatred against the Christians were turned. Humanity relented in favor of the Christians. In the course of it, Paul and Peter were martyred. Among his victims was his old preceptor Seneca who was very rich. On the charge of treason, Nero condemned Seneca to death and confiscated his estate. Nero being absent from Rome in the East, at last the Senate declared him a public enemy and condemned him to death by scourging. To avoid his fate and aided by a servant, he took his own life at night in his gardens on the Janiculum.
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