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200px|thumb|left| Bust of Nero]]
Roman history was noted for having very many ‘bad’ emperors. One of the most notorious was Nero. He was the last of the Julian-Claudian dynasty and became infamous for his artistic pretensions, hedonism, and great cruelty. There are many myths about Nero, and this often obscured the reality of his reign.
She persuaded Claudius to make her son Nero his heir and married the daughter of Claudius from his first marriage. It is widely believed that Agrippina, probably with the help of Nero, poisoned Claudius. Nero became Emperor in 54 AD at the age of seventeen.<ref> Suetonius. <i>Life of Claudius</i>. 62</ref> His mother was a domineering woman, and it is believed that she manipulated her young son to advance her own interests.
The first five years of Nero’s reign were seen as generally positive. The government was in the hands of two experienced ministers, one of whom was the writer Seneca the Younger and the Burrus.<ref>Tacitus, <i>The Annals of Imperial Rome</i>, 45</ref> Agrippina the Younger vied for control of the empire with Seneca and his colleague, but they remained in control. In 55 B.C, Nero wanted to control the Empire, and he had Seneca and Burrus dismissed. Later, he killed his mother as he grew tired of her constant efforts to dominate him and control the Empire.<ref>Griffin, p 123</ref> Nero’s changed after he murdered his
the ancient sources. He morphed into a grotesque tyrant.
Nero murdered any senator who opposed him. His personal life was bizarre, and he married one of his male slaves. Nero was passionate about the games, and he personally participated in the Olympic games in Greece.<ref>Suetonius, Life of Nero. 34</ref> The Emperor also considered himself to be first and foremost an artist. He at first performed his work in private but then publicly performed his work in Greece. Nero also acted on the stage. This scandalized the Roman elite, who considered actors to be a little better than prostitutes. The sight of Nero acting was appalling to them.
By 68 AD, Nero had begun to raise taxes, and there were many reports of growing discontent among the elite. While in the east, a major Jewish Revolt and the Romans were expelled from much of Judea. In 68 AD, Vindex in Gaul revolted but was later put down by the Roman legions.<ref>Tacitus. <i>The Histories</i>. 45</ref> Finally, the Roman army grew weary of Nero even though he was a member of the House of Julius Caesar and Augustus.<ref> Holland, Richard. Nero (The Man Behind the Myth. Stroud: Sutton Publishing, 2000), p 145 </ref>
In Spain, Galba and the Spanish legions revolted. This revolted was welcomed by the elites in Rome.<ref> Suetonius. <i>Life of Galba</i>, 7</ref> Galba set sail for Rome and Nero attempted to rally his forces. However, he had alienated the elite, and he was quickly abandoned. Nero was forced to flee with some of the slaves but later committed suicide. He ordered
on of his slaves to cut his throat.<ref>Suetonius, <i>Life of Nero</i>, 54</ref> Nero remained popular with the poor, and after his death, Rome became incredibly unstable because three separate pretenders who claimed to be the Roman Emperor.
The Julian-Claudian family had killed many of their relatives, and after the death of Nero, who had no sons, there was no legitimate claimant to the throne. This left the army as the power broker, and in the year after Nero's deaths, legions fought each other for control of the Empire.<ref> Holland, p. 349</ref> The year 69 AD is often known as the year of the ‘Four Emperors.’ In that year, four men, Galba, Otho, Vitellius, and Vespasian, declared themselves emperor. Vespasian emerged as the victor and established the Flavian dynasty. <ref> Holland, p. 406</ref>
Nero ended the Julian-Claudian dynasty. His death left a power vacuum that destabilized the Empire and led to competing generals
to fight a series of civil wars. Nero’s reign forced the Roman army's re-emergence into state politics for the first time in a century. The year 69 AD was important as it showed that the army could both make and unmake an emperor.<ref> Holland, p. 412</ref>
====Nero and the Christians====
Nero was the first Roman Emperor to persecute the small sect of Christians actively. They had grown greatly since the crucifixion of Jesus. They had established themselves in Rome and attracted many adherents. They were not popular with other groups, and their beliefs were treated with suspicion. After all confessed followers of Jesus, they were lawfully executed by the Roman governor of Judea.<ref> Tacitus. <i>Annals of Imperial Rome.</i>Holland, 67</ref> In 69 AD, a great fire swept through Rome and caused general unrest in the city. Nero accused Christians of starting the fire to shift blame away from himself. <ref> Holland, p. 334</ref>
According to Tacitus, he was very eager to quell rumors that he was responsible for the fire ‘ consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called "Christians" by the populace.’<ref>Tacitus. <i>The Annals of Imperial Rome.</i>Holland, 15, 44</ref> Nero established a precedent whereby an Emperor could declare the Christians to be public enemies. Nero’s and later persecutions were to shape Christianity's nature, but it did not stop its spread. The many martyrs created by the persecutions only strengthened the faith, and it eventually became the state religion of the Empire in the later 4th century AD.
====Nero’s policies in the East====
[[File:Vespasianus02 pushkin.jpg|200px|thumb|left|Bust of the Emperor Vespasian]]
Nero was a far more active Emperor than many gave him credit for at the time and since. He was particularly interested in the East. Still, his record -was mixed. Nero attempted to permanently annex the Bosphoran Kingdom in
the Crimea but his successors reversed this and were content to have it as a client kingdom. Nero fought a war with Parthia. He appointed a commoner to lead the Roman armies and he managed to inflict several defeats on the Parthians.<ref> Suetonius. Life of Nero. 43</ref>
Nero turned the strategic kingdom of Armenia into a client kingdom, which allowed him to secure the borders with Parthia. He also obliged the Parthians to hand over some legion ‘eagles’ or standards that had been captured. Nero’s success against the Parthians meant that the Eastern frontier was at peace for several decades.<ref> Tacitus. The Annals of Imperial Rome, 56</ref>
However, during his reign, Judea's administration was poor and contributed to the great Jewish Revolt (66-71 AD). The Jews believed Nero was a ‘tyrant.’<ref>, Josephus. <i>History of the Jewish War</i>, ii</ref> Perhaps his most lasting legacy was his generally pro-Greek policies in the Eastern half of the Empire. He granted ‘liberties’ to many Greek cities in the eastern portion of his empire. This led them to become economically successful and culturally vibrant. <ref> Holland, p. 324</ref> This partly explains why unlike the west that the east did not succumb to Romanization but remained very much influenced by Hellenic culture. Later emperors such as Hadrian imitated Nero’s policies towards the Greek cities.
He was the last of the Julian-Claudian dynasty, and his death led to a series of bloody civil wars. This period of instability led to the army determining who should be emperor. This was one of the most important legacies of Nero, the re-emergence of the legions as a political force, something that Augustus and his heirs had prevented for several decades.