The coinage of Nero is nearly as interesting as the history of his reign. Since his first coins were struck while he was still a minor, and his last came off the dies when he was a 31-year-old man, we can observe on them Nero’s physical maturation. Nero’s earliest coins were struck when he held the title Caesar as the adopted son of the reigning emperor Claudius (41 to 54 CE).
Nero is among the best-known of all Roman emperors – but not for good reasons. During his eventful reign, from 54 to 68 CE, Nero had relatively few accomplishments, yet is credited with a long list of failures. The fact that he ruled so long is no testament to his competency but rather to the strength of the dynastic formula of the Julio-Claudians, who under five emperors ruled the Roman world for nearly a century.
During his unstable reign, Nero lost popularity due to his desire to indulge his artistic side by performing publicly as an actor, poet and singer. He also took an expensive tour of Greece in 67 to satisfy his interests in Greek culture – he even participated in the four famous athletic contests: the Isthmian, Pythian, Nemean and Olympic Games. Not surprisingly, he won many of the contests in which he entered. In the Olympic Games he even won the chariot race, despite his falling from the chariot in mid-course.
He also was credited (rightly or wrongly) with causing a great fire in which much of the city of Rome was burned to the ground. The prevailing belief was that he had done so to clear prime land to build his ‘golden palace’.
Eventually, in 68, a rebellion was launched in the provinces of Gaul, Spain, Germany and North Africa. These gained momentum, and Nero was unable to oppose it. With his rivals’ armies marching on the capital, on June 9, 68, Nero tried to commit suicide before execution at the hand of soldiers who had forced their way into his villa outside Rome.
Laureate head of Nero, right
NERO CAESAR AVGVSTVS
Temple of Vesta, of circular hexastyle construction, with a doomed roof, within statue of Vesta
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