Born Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus in 37 AD, Nero was the son of the notorious Julia Agrippina and Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus. After his father died and Agrippina married Emperor Claudius, he was officially adopted by his stepfather and renamed Nero Claudius Caesar Drusus.
In 54 AD Claudius died and Nero, who was older than the emperor’s own son Britannicus, was installed on the Roman throne at just seventeen years of age. By all accounts, the first years of Nero’s reign were considered to be very good, his administrative practices benefiting the poor by cutting taxes and restricting fines. One sore point was that the Emperor remained under the influence of his mother and that caused some trouble with his advisors. However Nero began to worry about his step-brother Britannicus, believing that the boy might be considered as Claudius’s rightful heir once the boy reached adulthood, and so had him assassinated.
Nero’s relationship with his mother Agrippina was a very sordid story. As Nero grew older he began to grow tired of his mother’s meddling, and Agrippina sensed that she was losing her son’s affections and resorted towards seducing him. Eventually Nero concluded that only death would free him from his mother, and so orchestrated a series of “accidents” for her to fall victim to. When those failed, he took a more direct approach and sent assassins to murder her outright.
The other woman who seemed to be cramping his style was his wife Octavia. He divorced her and sent her into exile, only to be faced with public protest. He was soon forced to allow her back into Rome and was being pressured into reuniting with her. However, Nero had already made plans to marry his mistress Poppaea, and so he arranged for Octavia to be murdered as well. Shortly after Octavia’s death the public grew very discontent with Nero and the Senate. As a response, Nero ordered many executions to silence anyone who dared speak against him. Later on in his reign, Nero developed a severe case of megalomania, which first amused and later terrified the Roman people. Considering himself to be the greatest patron of the arts, it soon became commonplace to see the Emperor performing in plays or singing to crowds of “admirers” who had often been bribed or intimidated into attending their performances.
Nero’s great claim to infamy was his persecutions of Christians, whom he accused of starting the Great Fire of Rome in July of 64 AD. It is widely rumored that Nero himself ordered the fire to be set, although it is known that he did rush back to Rome to begin relief efforts and that gained him a good amount of popularity with the common people. In need of a villain, Nero pointed at the Christians who were already considered to be a strange sect, and made sure that his public knew they were responsible for all the devastation. The mass executions of Christians were turned into public circus spectacles as victims were crucified, burned to death, and thrown into the arena with wild animals.
In 68 AD, the Senate had grown fearful of Nero and voted to replace him with Galba, who was then governor of Spain. Although still very popular with the public, Nero was then declared to be an enemy of Rome by the Senate and was condemned to be executed by literally being whipped to death. Horrified at his apparent fate, Nero decided to die rather by his own hand. Before he could be captured, he stabbed himself in the neck with a dagger. His last words were reported to have been “What an artist dies in me!”
ABOUT THE DOLL
Our version of the Emperor Nero is a very large reworked vinyl doll that is 30” tall and is able to stand upright without aid. A golden leaf crown sits atop his unruly blonde hair, and his eyes are glazed and teary.
Nero wears a white tunic with fancy gold accents over an authentically-wrapped toga of purple satin. In his right hand he holds a golden lyre, a tribute to the rumor that Nero played a ballad while Rome burned. (Contrary to popular belief, fiddles had not yet been invented.)
The gaping wound from the sword is clearly visible, and blood pours down his neck and stains his clothing. His beard is also matted with blood that he would presumably have spit up as a result of his injuries.