Nero playing his fiddle while Rome burned is an often repeated bit of trivia. It's most often quoted during times of chaos or unrest, especially when a leading figure is absent from their duties. But is there any truth to it? The short answer, like many bits of trivia related to Ancient Rome, is that we simply don't know. But it's very unlikely to be true.
Nero was not as careless and cruel as history often makes him out to be. Many of the more immoral stories about Nero are fabricated or at the very least embellished by later emperors or dynasties as a way of discrediting him, which is something that happened to many emperors throughout Roman history.
The aforementioned Great Fire of Rome occurred in the year 64, possibly starting in the Circus Maximus and spreading from there. The fire raged for 9 days total and contrary to popular belief, Nero actually returned to the city immediately upon hearing of what had happened. In response to the fire and devastation it caused he used his own personal fortune to contain the spread and help those affected. Nero allegedly helped search for survivors and even allowed those found to take refuge in the imperial palace.
What is not clear is how the fire started. Some blamed Nero as he was quick to use some of the cleared space to build a new palatial complex that was complete with a 30ft statue of Nero himself. However he also commissioned a number of public buildings and even designed the affected areas to reduce spread of further fires in the future by adding things like wider roads.
Nero clearly benefited from the fire on a personal level, but that is not enough to assume he actually caused the fire himself. Nero blamed the Christians for the fire and some even admitted to starting it, however this may have been confessed to under duress. Regardless of who is to blame for the fire, Nero did in fact play a key role in organised a relief effort for the affected areas of the city.
Although the story regarding Nero's absence and prioritisation of music over mayhem is compelling, it is likely to be untrue – besides, the fiddle did not even exist until the 11th century. Alas, Nero was a cruel emperor, but in this one instance he has probably been judged unfairly.
Julius Caesar is arguably one of the most famous Romans to have ever lived. But how exactly did he die? The short answer is that Julius Caesar was stabbed to death in the Roman Senate by a number of conspirators, including his friends Brutus and Cassius.
The long answer is a bit more complicated, and first we must explore the path to his assassination. Julius Caesar had spent much of his life gradually obtaining more power, all the while avoiding more powerful enemies such as Sulla, whose ire he gained along the way. Eventually Caesar formed the Triumvirate with his contemporaries Pompey and Marcus Crassus. This was when he truly experienced power like no other as together they virtually controlled the Roman Republic. But eventually the Triumvirate began to fracture and the three lost their hold on Rome.
Caesar sought power still, and in 49 BC he entered a civil war with a rival faction in Rome headed up by his old accomplice, Pompey. Caesar emerged from the civil war victorious and returned to Rome to consolidate power. He was bestowed with consecutive years as a consul, which while not unheard of over the last few decades, was still a breach of political protocol. Consuls were only meant to serve for one year in order to prevent corruption.
Not only this, but Caesar was also appointed as Dictator for 10 years. Dictator was an actual political position in Rome, meant to be used in times of great need for a single person to lead Rome out of whatever chaos had befallen the republic. However this was not the time for a dictator, and there was certainly no need for one for such a long period of time. Many grew wary of Caesar's attempts to seize power and style himself like a king. Rome had not had a king for over 500 years and many never wished to see another.
A group of senators and wealthy individuals from Rome's upper echelons of society formed a conspiracy to end Caesar's rule, by murdering him. Caesar had been generous to many of his former enemies, sparing them and giving them high ranking positions in Rome. Many of these now joined the conspiracy against him.
Julius Caesar was appointed as Dictator for life in 44 BC, now making him Rome's king in all but name. This action only cemented his fate at the hands on the conspirators, who now knew they had no choice but to kill Caesar if they were to save the republic. While in the Senate on the Ides (15th) of March, 44 BC, Caesar was attacked by the group of conspirators – some 60 people in total. Caesar was 55 years old when he died, and supposedly his last words were 'Kai su, teknon?' or 'You too, child?', referring to his disbelief at the betrayal by Brutus.
His death plunged Rome into another civil war, one from which his great-nephew Octavian would emerge victorious and become Rome's first emperor under the name Augustus, ultimately realising Caesar's lifelong goal.
The Roman Empire certainly had its ups and downs when it comes to emperors. Some lasted mere months and others for decades. During times of peace emperors would often rule for longer periods of time, even more so when serving as part of a greater dynasty of emperors. One of the most prosperous and stable periods of the Roman Empire was a time during the Five Good Emperors, also known as the Nerva-Antonine dynasty. This dynasty lasted almost a century, from 96-180. What's most curious is that this incredibly successful line of emperors always adopted prospective heirs rather than choosing their own children, the peace and prosperity only came to an end when the last Good Emperor, Marcus Aurelius, chose his son Commodus as his heir.
This is a look at the top 10 longest reigning Roman Emperors. It should be noted that this is for the emperors of the unified Roman Empire (27 BC – 476 AD). Following this date the empire broke up into separate western and eastern halves.
10. Marcus Aurelius - 19 years, 10 days
The last of the Five Good Emperors. Marcus Aurelius was the adoptive heir of Antoninus Pius. He was chosen to rule alongside his adoptive brother Lucius Verus. The two complimented each other well. Marcus was an excellent administrator and perfect emperor to govern the empire, whereas Verus was better suited to commanding Rome's forces in various campaigns.
Their joint ruled was successful until Verus died in 169, leaving Marcus alone as the sole emperor. Following the loss, Marcus appointed his son Commodus as his heir. He tried to tutor Commodus in statecraft and philosophy in an attempt to mould him into a capable heir, but it was no use, Commodus had no interest in these things.
Much of Marcus' reign was marred with the Marcomannic Wars on the northern frontier. Despite devoting much of his attention and resources to these wars they were never resolved. After Marcus' death in 180 Commodus became sole emperor (after co-ruling since 177). Marcus would be remembered for his Stoic philosophical outlook and thoughts, much of which were compiled and can be read in his Meditations. Marcus Aurelius reigned for just over 19 years.
9. Caracalla - 19 years, 2 months
Caracalla was the son of Septimius Severus, and thus part of the Severan dynasty of emperors which ruled from 193 and 235 (although not throughout that entire period). Caracalla was appointed as his father's co-Augustus, or co-emperor, in 198 at the age of 10. During his early reign he served in a number of official roles alongside his younger brother Geta, whom he despised – although it is unclear exactly why. This division only worsened when Severus died and Caracalla and Geta inherited the entire Roman Empire. They even considered splitting the empire in two to make their lives easier. Eventually their hatred of one another boiled over and in 211 Geta was murdered by Praetorian Guards, likely on the orders of Caracalla, leaving the him as the sole ruling emperor.
Some time later in 217 Caracalla met his end due to a self-fulfilling prophecy. It came about as a result of the Praetorian Prefect Macrinus hearing that he was destined to kill Caracalla and take the throne. Fearing that Caracalla would hear this and have him killed, Macrinus persuaded a soldier who had been refused promotion to kill him, thus ending over 19 years of rule. Macrinus did in fact become the next emperor.
8. Trajan - 19 years, 7 months
Trajan was the second of the five good emperors, having been adopted by Nerva and chosen as his successor. Prior to his accession to the throne Trajan had proved himself a capable military commander. Indeed, when he took power he expanded the empire to its greatest extent in 117. Trajan devoted much time to improving public works, such as roads and buildings, as well as commissioning a host of new projects. The peace across the empire allowed Trajan to even introduce the alimenta, a scheme by which poor and orphaned children could get a good education, cheaper food and monetary handouts by the government. It is said Trajan could walk the streets of Rome without a bodyguard as he was so loved by the people.
In 117, upon returning from a campaign in the east Trajan fell ill and died shortly after, ending a rule of 19 years and 7 months. He named his adoptive son Hadrian as his successor.
7. Diocletian - 20 years, 5 months
Diocletian is best known today for forming the Tetrarchy, or rule of four. He is responsible for bringing order to the Roman Empire following the chaos of the Crisis of the Third Century. He realised that one emperor could not rule such a vast expanse of territory with varying cultures and enemies on all sides. He appointed another co-emperor and then two junior Caesars who would then eventually replace the emperors upon death or retirement.
Diocletian did indeed see a long and relatively stable rule of over 20 years, before he retired in 305. Unfortunately those who succeeded him were not as committed to the Tetrarchy, and Diocletian lived to see Rome descend into civil war once more as the new emperors fought for dominion over the entire Roman Empire. Diocletian would eventually die at his retirement palace in Dalmatia.
6. Hadrian - 20 years, 11 months
Hadrian was another member of the Five Good Emperors. He was adopted as the heir to Trajan and ascended to the throne in 117. During his reign he undertook many provincial tours across the empire. While in Britain he commissioned the eponymous Hadrian's Wall to be built in order to clearly mark the territories of Roman Britain and the barbarian controlled Caledonia to the north.
While touring the east he became particularly fond of Greece and returned there many times. While in Greece he formed the Panhellenion, a league that united the Greek states. He remained here until he was called off to war in Judaea in 132 as a result of the Jewish people not wanted to have their monotheistic religion absorbed into the Roman pantheon.
Hadrian returned to Rome following the war, which he regretted greatly as he had wanted to avoid bloodshed throughout his reign. In 138 Hadrian died after naming Antoninus Pius as his successor. Hadrian's rule was just one month short of 21 years.
5. Tiberius - 22 years, 6 months
Tiberius hails from the early days of the Roman Empire, being appointed as the successor to Augustus himself. Initially Tiberius ruled carefully and wisely, steadily expanding Rome's frontier and filling up the city's treasury.
In his later years he became uninterested in the politics of Rome and retired to the island of Capri, rarely making trips back to the city despite still being emperor. During this time, much of the running of Rome fell to the Praetorian Prefect Sejanus. His influence grew the longer Tiberius was absent, and he even started to erect statues of himself across the city, and he started to rule with an iron fist. When reports of this reached Tiberius, he had Sejanus executed.
Tiberius was largely disliked by the populace now, and as a result he became bitter and ruthless. After returning to Capri, Tiberius pondered on his choice of successor, now a very old man by the standards of the ancient world, he had outlived most of his family. He eventually settled on Caligula, who was still young had not yet displayed the full extent of his madness. Tiberius died at the age of 78 in the year 37 after 22 years and 6 months of rule.
4. Antoninus Pius - 22 years, 6 months, 28 days
Antoninus Pius was yet another member of the Five Good Emperors, who all had lengthy reigns. Antoninus was appointed as the successor to Hadrian after displaying the qualities of a great and fair administrator. Indeed he was, introducing a number of legal and financial reforms, while also greatly expanding and improving the infrastructure across the empire. One of his many projects was to build the Antonine Wall, just north of Hadrian's Wall.
The reign of Antoninus saw virtually no conflict at all, rather than looking to conquer new lands he instead focused on raising up existing provinces and territories. This truly was a time of Pax Romana, or 'Roman Peace'.
Towards the end of his life his health started to fail, and he had given most of his duties over to Marcus Aurelius, his successor – who would prove to be an incredibly capable one at that. In 138 Antoninus died at his Villa Lorium at the age of 74. His reign beats that of Tiberius by 28 days.
3. Constantius II - 24 years, 5 months, 12 days
The third-born son of Constantine the Great, Constantius II inherited the Roman Empire alongside his two brothers when his father died. Constantius ruled the eastern half of the empire, while his brothers took the West and Southern sections.
Constantius saw much conflict during his reign, with many usurpers and pretenders to the throne. By 350 both of his brothers were dead, and he now had to put down rebellions across the western half of the empire, which he succeeded in doing by 353. This left Constantius as the sole ruler of the entire Roman Empire.
The stability was short-lived, and by 355 more usurps had sprung up across the empire. While journeying to battle one of these usurpers, Julian, Constantius fell ill with a fever and died. His reign of over 24 years was ended, and so was the Constantinian dynasty.
2. Constantine - 30 years, 9 months, 27 days
Constantine I, or Constantine the Great, had to fight off many foes before eventually becoming the sole Emperor of Rome. He was born during the Crisis of the Third Century and lived through Diocletian's Tetrarchy, which his father was part of. His main rivals during his quest to become sole Emperor were Maximian, Maxentius, Galerius and Licinius, all of which were eventually defeated.
However, he will always be remembered for one thing in particular – his role in forever changing religion in Ancient Rome. Before Constantine the Roman Empire had persecuted Christianity, seeing it as an affront to the traditional Gods and beliefs. Monotheism had no place in Rome, or so most of Constantine's predecessors had thought.
Some argue Constantine was never a Christian, instead just using the opportunity of religious unrest to win support and seize power. Regardless of his personal views, Constantine legalised Christianity across the Roman Empire and ended all persecution, as stated in the Edict of Milan in 313. Following this, Christianity would forever be the dominant religion in the Roman Empire.
Constantine eventually died in 337 after over 30 years of rule. He left the Roman Empire to his three sons, Constantine II, Constantius II and Constans.
1. Augustus - 40 years, 7 months
Augustus, originally known as Octavian, was the first Roman Emperor. The great-nephew of Julius Caesar, Augustus fought for dominion over Rome in the final years of the republic against Mark Antony. Emerging victorious he ended over a century of civil war and unrest declaring himself 'Princeps', or 'First Person'. He never actually took the title of emperor, instead acting as a reluctant chief administrator for the Roman Empire only acting for the good of Rome.
Upon taking the mantle of leadership Augustus used his own vast personal fortune to fund many public works such as restoration of temples and public buildings as well as the construction of roads that webbed their way across the empire. Augustus slowly obtained more power over his rule until eventually reaching the level of control and authority that his successors would hold – all the while feigning reluctance.
In his later years the elderly Augustus was troubled by thoughts over who would succeed him. Many of his chosen relatives had passed away in unsuspecting circumstances, leaving him few choices left. Eventually he settled on Tiberius, the son of his wife, Livia.
Augustus died at the age of 75 in the year 14 ending a staggering 40 years of rule. He had successfully ended the civil wars and turmoil of the Roman Republic and founded what would later be known as the Julio-Claudian dynasty of emperors who would rule long after him. In his own words, Augustus had found Rome made of clay and left her made of marble.
The Roman Empire was well known for its brutality. The reigns of the Emperors were often cut short, whether by war, assassination or unknown illnesses, very few lived to be old enough to die of natural causes or even retire in some rare cases. While the early Roman Empire saw long periods of stability with lasting dynasties there were periods of civil unrest where the mantle of leadership changed frequently. Two notable occasions were the Year of the Four Emperors in 69, and the Year of the Five Emperors in 193. As expected, the reigning Emperors of those years did not last long (save for the final ones of each year).
Eventually the Roman Empire would enter a period known as the Crisis of the Third Century. This era lasted roughly from 235 to 284, from the rule of Barracks-Emperor Maximinus Thrax to Emperor Diocletian, a master politician and administrator who brought the empire back from the brink. This was yet another time marred with short-lived emperors and constant warfare, both from inside and outside of the empire.
Here's a look at the top 10 shortest reigning emperors in the Roman Empire.
10. Herennius Etruscus - 6 months
Herennius Etruscus owes his rise to power to his father, the Emperor Decius. When he was appointed as his father's co-ruler he immediately left Rome to join his father on the northern frontier of the empire to fight the Goths. The two scored a number of decisive victories against their ancient foe.
Cniva, the Gothic ruler was cunning however. He managed to lure Herennius and Decius into a swamp and ambushed them. The fight would be known as the Battle of Abrittus, and was a catastrophic loss for Rome. Both Herennius and his father died in the battle. Herennius had only reigned for 6 short months by this point.
9. Hostilian - 5 months
Hostilian was the son of the Emperor Decius. He remained in Rome living a life of luxury while his father and older brother, Herennius Etruscus, campaigned against the Goths on the northern frontier. When the two died in battle against the Goths, Hostilian was declared Emperor in 251. The legions on the frontier had proclaimed Trebonianus Gallus as the new emperor. Gallus decided to respect Rome's decision and offered to co-rule with Hostilian.
In a rare twist of fate, Hostilian's reign was not cut short by betrayal or war, but instead by disease. In late 251 he contracted the Plague of Cyprian to which he succumbed. His reign lasted roughly 5 months.
8. Pupienus & Balbinus - 3 months, 7 days
Both Pupienus and Balbinus were veteran statesmen in the Roman Empire during the early period of the Crisis of the Third Century. Following the demise of Gordian I and Gordian II in their struggle against Maximinus Thrax, the Senate voted to elect them as the two new emperors in Rome. They had both served as consuls prior to this and so they were the logical choice. To solidify their rule they appointed Gordian III as their caesar, to serve as a prince of Rome.
The two emperors were successful in dispatching Maximinus Thrax, but their attention then turned toward each other. The two became ever suspicious of one another, both believing the other was plotting against them. They split up the Imperial Palace into two halves, neither venturing into the other's section. Eventually they were both killed by their own Praetorian Guard, thus ending their reign of just over 3 months. Gordian III succeeded them as the sole Roman Emperor.
7. Florianus - 3 months
Florianus is yet another victim of the Crisis of the Third Century. Starting his reign in June 276 after succeeding the Emperor Tacticus, who may have been his half-brother. Unfortunately for Florian, mere months into his reign the east rose up against him proclaiming Probus as their emperor.
Despite Florian having a numerical advantage, when the two battled it was Probus who emerged the victor. Florian did not die in the battle but his troops were not keen on a second battle with Probus, and so they mutinied and killed Florian, ending his short reign.
6. Otho - 3 months
Otho was a childhood friend of the Emperor Nero. The two would eventually fall out over a woman, and Otho was sent to an unofficial exile in Lusitania (modern day Portugal). Nero became increasingly unpopular and in 68 Otho joined a rebellion led by Galba against his former friend, thus sparking the Year of the Four Emperors.
Galba became Emperor of Rome in the wake of Nero's death in 69 , but named another as his successor. Otho was infuriated and paid off the Praetorian Guard to murder Galba. The plan worked, and Otho replaced Galba as the new emperor. However, Vitellius, a military commander in Germania marched on Rome to declare himself emperor. The two clashed in a number of skirmishes and battles but Vitellius looked to be the eventual victor. Otho spared the lives of his men by committing suicide.
5. Aemilianus - 2-3 months
The reign of Aemilianus took place right in the middle of the Crisis of the Third Century, so it is no surprise it was a short one. Aemilian was tasked by Emperor Gallus with driving back the Goths who were invading across the Danube in 253. Despite overwhelming odds Aemilian was successful, but his forces despised Gallus who they claimed made too many concessions to the enemies of Rome. In response, they proclaimed Aemilian as emperor.
Aemilian accepted and marched on Rome. Gallus' reinforcements did not arrive in time, and he was abandoned by the senate. Aemilian was hastily accepted as emperor, but Gallus' reinforcements were still on their way to Rome.
Aemilian's forces were tired of war and decided to murder him instead to escape another conflict. The exact dates of his accession and demise are not clear, but he had only ruled between two and three months at the time of his death.
4. Pertinax - 2 months, 27 days
Pertinax was born the son of a former slave. He worked his way up Rome's military, serving in Parthia and Britain and eventually in the Danube region. He was appointed as consul in 192 with Commodus as his co-consul.
Commodus was assassinated at the end of 192 and Pertinax was declared Emperor of Rome by the Praetorian Guard. Pertinax was allegedly an unpopular military commander, once even causing his own soldiers to revolt, and proved to be an equally unpopular emperor too. After trying to instil military doctrine into the Praetorian Guard they assassinated him in the spring of 193, ending his reign after 2 months and 27 days.
3. Didius Julianus - 2 months, 6 days
In third place is Didius Julianus. Julianus was born into a wealthy family and was the descendant of consuls, an office he would later take himself in 175 during the reign of Commodus. Julianus' rise to power was unique, as he was the first person ever to buy his way to the top. When Commodus was deposed in 192 he was quickly replaced by Pertinax who was subsequently murdered by his own Praetorian Guard. The position of Emperor was then auctioned by the Praetorian Guard with Julianus being the highest bidder.
The move proved to be - not surprisingly - unpopular with many. Seeing an opportunity, three generals across the Roman Empire revolted, with Septimius Severus successfully marched on Rome with his legions. Fearing inevitable defeat, a palace guard assassinated Julianus in 193 ending his rule of 66 days. Severus replaced Julianus as emperor, founding the Severan dynasty.
2. Diadumenian - 1 month
Diadumenian comes in second, he was the son of the Emperor Macrinus who swept to power following the death of Caracalla in 217. Diadumenian was appointed as his father's co-ruler in May of 218, aged only 9.
His father Macrinus became increasingly unpopular and eventually the eastern part of the empire revolted against him, instead favouring Elagabalus – a relative of Caracalla. The forces of Macrinus and Elagabalus came to blows at Antioch in 218, with the rebels securing victory. Diadumenian fled with an entourage but was later captured an executed. His reign lasted only one month. His father would be captured shortly after and met the same fate.
1. Gordian I & Gordian II - 21 days
In at number one are the father and son duo, Emperor Gordian I and his son, Gordian II. They reigned at the start of the Crisis of the Third Century. Initially Gordian I had been tasked with putting down rebellions across North Africa which had come about as a result of increased taxation by the Emperor Maximinus Thrax. Gordian I was persuaded to join the rebel cause and declare himself emperor, which he did on the condition that his son would join him. In 238 they officially declared themselves joint emperors of Rome – a move quickly ratified by the Senate who despised Maximinus Thrax.
Their reign was cut very short however, when the governor of neighbouring Numidia launched an attack on Carthage, killing Gordian II in battle and causing Gordian I to later commit suicide. They ruled for only 21 days which makes them the shortest reigning emperors ever.
Pax Romana, meaning 'Roman Peace' in Latin, was the period of relative stability and peace that started with the reign of the Emperor Augustus in 27 BC and lasted roughly 207 years, ending with the death of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius in 180 AD. Augustus established Pax Romana (which is sometimes called Pax Augusta) after he defeated Mark Antony at the Battle of Actium in the Last War of the Roman Republic in 30 BC.
While Rome and its empire still saw the occasional conflict and civil war (such as the year of the four emperors in 69 AD) it was nothing like the wars and bloodshed it had faced during the last decades of the Roman Republic, which saw Rome facing enemies on all fronts, and a series of bloody civil wars that left it devastated and longing for change – ultimately resulting in the transition from an oligarchic republic to an autocratic hegemony.
This change in structure allowed the unified and steadfast Roman Empire to expand rapidly in territory, influence and population. The empire reached its greatest territorial extent between 98-117 AD during the reign of the Emperor Trajan, while the population swelled to 70 million – which was estimated to be roughly one third of the entire world population at the time.
Rome was able to fund it's expansion through the taxation of newly acquired provinces which had no choice but to recognise Roman authority, but they in turn received protection and peacekeeping from the Roman military. Augustus reintroduced the census of the Roman Empire to determine how much citizens and landowners owed in tax. The more provinces that fell under Roman rule increased the taxes and natural resources flowing towards Rome, as well as more man power for the army. Any revolts that did arise during the time of Pax Romana were easily dealt with due to the power of the military who remained loyal to the emperors. Most provinces ultimately saw the benefits of being part of the Roman Empire, and uprisings during this time were few and far between.
Ever expanding territory also meant that the empire was becoming too large for one ruler, and during the reign of Marcus Aurelius he opted to co-rule with Lucius Verus and later with his son, Commodus. This helped to set a standard that would endure until the fall of the Roman Empire, and following this it would now become common for two or more emperors to exist at any one time.
Pax Romana ended with the reign of Commodus in 180 AD which saw an increase in threats from foreign nations and within the empire itself, culminating in crisis of the third century. The contemporary historian and politician Cassius Dio remarked that Commodus' reign took Rome 'from a kingdom of gold to one of iron and rust'.
The Secular Games were a religious celebratory event held in Ancient Rome for 3 days and nights. The games were held at the end of a saeculum – a period of time that roughly equalled the maximum human lifespan. In other words, each Secular Games would be celebrated by an entirely new generation, with everyone who had been present at the previous one now being deceased. Romans marked a saeculum between 100-110 years.
The Secular Games were celebrated by an array of different activities, including theatrical performances, songs, sporting events and sacrifices.
The origins of the Secular games are unclear, in Roman myth they were allegedly started when a man called Valesius sought a cure for his sick children. Eventually he turned to the Gods, praying to them for a cure and offering his own life in return. Valesius was commanded by unknown voices to take his children to the Tiber and have them drink the water, which had to be first heated on an altar in the Campus Martius in Rome. Valesius did as he was told and his children were miraculously healed. The unknown voices was revealed to be Dis Pater and Proserpina, underworld deities in Roman mythology. Valesius then made sacrifices to both in thanks for saving his children's lives.
The first ever Secular Games is thought to have been held in 249 BC, although some ancient sources suggest they may have been held earlier than this. Another Secular Games was likely held in 149 BC, at the start of the third and final Punic War. They should have been held again in 49 BC, and may have been planned to – had it not for the Roman Republic being engulfed in Caesar's Civil War. Instead they were postponed indefinitely, and would only be revived decades later by the first Roman Emperor, Augustus, in 17 BC.
Ancient Rome was not all about conquests, gladiator fights and the construction of magnificent buildings. The truth is often a lot less glamorous, such as the Plebeian Secessions.
What were the Plebeian Secessions?
Plebeian secessions were a form of protest, or striking, in Ancient Rome during the early Roman Republic. Plebeians were not allowed to be elected to most public offices and had no say in the matters of the Senate, and thus were often at odds with the ruling class.
Secessions were used during disputes as a peaceful, last resort against the ruling patrician class and involved an organised effort by plebeians to simply put down their tools (or whatever they happened to be holding) and walk out of Rome to let the elite fend for themselves.
Since the plebeian class were responsible for virtually all production and transportation of goods and food, it meant that all commercial trade ground to a halt in Rome, ultimately leading to a knock on effect through out the Roman Empire.
A new underground room has been discovered in the Domus Aurea, or Golden Palace of Emperor Nero. Archaeologists dubbed it the 'Sphinx Room' as it is decorated with colourful animal frescoes, including images of panthers, centaurs, griffins and a sphinx. The room also has frescoes dedicated to various flora, aquatic animals and the god Pan.
The palace was commissioned by Nero after the great fire of Rome in 64 AD which burnt down large swathes of the city, including much of the Palatine Hill. The palatial complex was so large that at one point it covered three of Rome's seven hills.
The 2,000-year-old room was discovered last year by chance while a restoration team was mounting scaffolding and repairing an adjacent room. At the start of 2019 the restoration team began their salvage and restoration work. Much of the room is still buried under earth and rubble, and the restoration team believes it may be difficult to remove it all without damaging the structural integrity of the room and the entire palace itself. Archaeologists dated the Sphinx Room between 65 and 68 AD.
Alfonsina Russo, the head of the Colosseum archaeological park in which the Golden House resides, said it was “an exceptional and thrilling find”.
The Golden Palace was said to have had a revolving dining room, and baths that were built later by the Emperor Trajan. Much of the Golden Palace was destroyed in the centuries following Nero's death.