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N.S. Gill

Why He Couldn't Have Fiddled While Rome Burned

By July 18, 2013

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On This Day in Ancient History - July 18/19:

Emperor Nero
Nero Clipart.com

When people think of Nero they often conjure up the anachronistic image of Nero playing a violin while the city of Rome burned. There were no violins at the time, but there was a fire, which started on the night of July 18 (or 19) in A.D. 64, by the Circus Maximus.

Nero is also associated with the persecution of Christians whom he blamed for the devastating fire in Rome. As a result of the fire, Nero was able to rebuild Rome, including his golden palace, the Domus Aurea.



July 20, 2007 at 9:06 pm
(1) Alex L. says:

Where does the myth about the violin playing come from?

July 19, 2008 at 5:26 pm
(2) Daniel says:

The rumor actually started as him playing a lyre while the city burned, but over the years people who didn’t know what a lyre was put a violin in its place in their telling of the story.

July 18, 2009 at 8:23 am
(3) Patricia says:

How many original resources for this period are there? Two? Twenty? I’ve just recently developed an interest in ancient history, and I wonder how many accurate accounts of any given event actually exist.

July 19, 2009 at 3:36 pm
(4) ancienthistory says:

Patricia – You may wish to look at Accounts of Nero. Main historical sources on Nero are Tacitus, Dio Cassius, and Suetonius. Josephus is another. Pliny lived at the same time, as did Plutarch, but we don’t have more than fragments of his bio of Nero. Contemporaries had access to materials we lack, but all writers have their biases that affect accuracy.

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