Age of the last first citizen : the Neronian period
Holliday, Eli Cameron Thunder
May 19, 2020
The death of Nero in 69 C.E. left a monumental power vacuum in the highest levels of Roman government and society. The Julio-Claudian dynasty had ruled Rome for nearly a hundred years with little to no interruption. Under Julio-Claudian stewardship, Rome had been transformed from a republic to a de facto imperial dictatorship. Its system of rule – the "principate” (or authority wielded by the so-called "first citizen”) – had become such a powerful and entrenched practice that it survived the cruelties of Tiberius, the purported insanity of Caligula, and the tyranny of Claudius. The death of Nero was different: it marked the end of the dynasty, a potential turning point, and maybe even a chance for Romans to reconstitute their government. Such reform did not take place. Instead, the system hurtled forward under a new dynasty, and the fascinating (and pertinent) Neronian period became sadly confined to the dustbin of history. This work seeks to revive and complicate that study by questioning the foundations upon which traditional Neronian history has been built. By using a combination of physical and literary sources, it is possible to see that Nero’s reign was more complex and entailed more than widespread hatred for the emperor (indeed, it seems that Nero may even have been popular among some) and that Nero’s reign was not just the prelude to the inevitable rise of Vespasian.
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