Nero

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Harvard University Press, 2009 - Biography & Autobiography - 360 pages
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The Roman emperor Nero is remembered by history as the vain and immoral monster who fiddled while Rome burned. Edward Champlin reinterprets Nero's enormities on their own terms, as the self-conscious performances of an imperial actor with a formidable grasp of Roman history and mythology and a canny sense of his audience.

Nero murdered his younger brother and rival to the throne, probably at his mother's prompting. He then murdered his mother, with whom he may have slept. He killed his pregnant wife in a fit of rage, then castrated and married a young freedman because he resembled her. He mounted the public stage to act a hero driven mad or a woman giving birth, and raced a ten-horse chariot in the Olympic games. He probably instigated the burning of Rome, for which he then ordered the spectacular punishment of Christians, many of whom were burned as human torches to light up his gardens at night. Without seeking to rehabilitate the historical monster, Champlin renders Nero more vividly intelligible by illuminating the motives behind his theatrical gestures, and revealing the artist who thought of himself as a heroic figure.

"Nero" is a brilliant reconception of a historical account that extends back to Tacitus, Suetonius, and Cassius Dio. The effortless style and artful construction of the book will engage any reader drawn to its intrinsically fascinating subject.

 

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User Review  - PensiveCat - LibraryThing

I've never read any Nero biographies before this one, so it's the best one so far. It felt like a collection of themed essays on Nero's life and ways. I can say for a certainty he was a colorful ... Read full review

Contents

The Once and Future King
1
Stories and Histories
36
Portrait of the Artist
53
The Power of Myth
84
Shining Apollo
112
Saturnalia
145
One House
178
Triumph
210
Epilogue
235
Note on Sources
241
Bibliography
243
Notes
271
Acknowledgments
335
Illustration Credits
337
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About the author (2009)

Edward Champlin is Professor of Classics and Cotsen Professor of Humanities, Princeton University.

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