Why Emperor Nero Was One Of Rome's Most Hated Rulers

When it comes to a historical list of really evil and hated rulers, Emperor Nero — who ruled over the Roman Empire from A.D. 54-68 — ranks pretty high. Only his earlier predecessor, Caligula, who was so deranged that his own security guards wound up killing him, came close to his level,  per National Geographic.

According to Britannica, the person who eventually became Emperor Nero had a tough life. He lost his father at the age of 2, and his mother, Jula Agrippina "the Younger," was the Roman version of Joan Crawford — she was not nice to her child. Nero became emperor when his step-father, Emperor Claudius, died, though Agrippina may have had a hand in that by poisoning him. And his view of marriage was most certainly warped by his mother, and he wound up killing both his first and second wives. Of course, he would later order his mother put to death. 

What's ironic is that Emperor Nero was liked by the public. Well, at least by those who weren't Christian; those who were found themselves eaten alive by dogs, among other things. But Nero was into the arts, and that was something people liked. It wasn't until after the Great Fire of Rome in 64 that things really soured when he was accused of fiddling while the city of Rome burned. But historians wonder if he was unfairly blamed for that tragedy.

Historians wonder if Nero should be judged quite as harshly as he is

Historians are not looking to completely absolve Emperor Nero in the slightest — there is no question that he was a bad man. After all, he had his mother killed and had not one but possibly two wives killed, not to mention all of his atrocities to Christians. But has he been unfairly maligned for the Great Fire of Rome? 

First of all, Nero was 35 miles away when it happened. Could he have secretly given instructions to people to carry out the fire and then left to give himself plausible deniability? That is entirely possible. Is it suspicious that Emperor Nero then had a gigantic palace erected where many of the homes had burned? Could allowing citizens to stay in his current palace have been a ploy to gain sympathy from an unsuspecting public? Yes. But as far as the whole fiddling thing went, the instrument he allegedly used was not invented until centuries later, per History

Some people are not built to get power, and Nero was apparently one of them. Karma got him, with his own people turning on him, and he ultimately ended his own life, per PBS. Had circumstances been different and he hadn't been brought into Roman royalty, he might have been an actor or an artist, via The Independent. Ultimately, we will never remember him for that, but instead as someone who was totally corrupted and paid the price.