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by Wayne Blank
Nero was born at Antium (Anzio), Italy, on December 15 37 A.D. His father was Gnaeus Domitius Anenobarbus, a great-grandson of Caesar Augustus - the Roman emperor at the time of the birth of Jesus Christ (Luke 2:1). Nero's mother, Agrippina II, was the great-granddaughter of Caesar Augustus, and brother of Caligula, the third Roman emperor.
Nero's father died when he was about 3 years old. After Caligula confiscated their family wealth, he and his mother found themselves quite poor for a time. Things changed dramatically when Agrippina married her uncle, the emperor Claudius. That marriage was the means of Nero's rise to power. Agrippina managed to get Nero adopted not only as a son of Claudius, but the heir to the throne before Claudius' actual sons. With the line of succession taken care of, Agrippina took the final step on October 13 54 A.D. by murdering her husband/uncle with poisoned mushrooms. Nero became the emperor of the mighty Roman empire at the age of 17.
Agrippina was very influential with the young Nero at first, but as might be expected from the example that she had set, he gradually became estranged with her. He had her removed from the palace in 55 A.D., and then ordered his mother's murder 4 years later. From then on, Nero became increasing brutal and depraved.
Nero is perhaps most famous for the great fire of Rome in 64 A.D. It started in the Circus Maximus before raging through the city for 9 days. It is unlikely that Nero himself started the fire, as is popularly believed, because he was in Antium at the time. Whether he ordered it started is another matter - he had long wanted to make room for a grand new city that he had designed.
To divert suspicion away from himself, Nero blamed the great fire on the Christians, thereby beginning a persecution of innocent people that has never been surpassed. Many were killed by wild animals before crowds of spectators in the arena, while others were tied to posts, covered with flammable material, and used as human street lamps for Nero's gardens. It is difficult to imagine a more evil man.
As was nearly always the case with the Roman emperors, plots were continuously in the making to overthrow Nero, including the Pisonian Conspiracy in 65 A.D. However, Nero was sly enough to avoid all the traps for a number of years. Every failed plot just made him more vicious.
Nero's reign ended June 9 68 A.D. when he committed suicide. He was 31 years old.
Fact Finder: Who was the Roman emperor at the time of the beginning of the ministry of Jesus Christ?