Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Insane Emperors

After Caesar was killed, his nephew, Octavian took the reins. He had been named Caesar's heir, and Caesar's supporters welcomed him. Unfortunately, Mark Antony, one of Caesar's close friends, also wanted the throne. Octavian and Antony made a truce, but it didn't last. They started fighting each other, until Octavian won. He didn't do anything to Antony though, because he was dead. Mark Antony had killed himself, not because of Octavian, but because of the Egyptian queen, Cleopatra. He had fallen in love with her and she had supported him during the war. But when she heard that Octavian had attacked Alexandria, the capital, she hid in the large, ornate tomb she had prepared for herself. Antony heard and assumed she was dead. He was so sad he tried to kill himself, he failed, but bled to death. Octavian captured Alexandria and decided to take the queen back as a war trophy. Supposedly, the queen killed herself rather than live without Antony. It is said she had a maid fetch some fruit-and a poison snake, an asp. She let it bite her. There are a few impossibilities in that story, but I'll tell you about those later.

The emperors made an amazing decline after Octavian died. They were undoubtedly insane. One, Caligula, is reputed to have made his horse a senator. He built it a special stable with an ivory manger. He also married several women in succession. He also made his soldiers attack the sea because he was angry with the god Neptune. (Yes, the planet that is blue is named after him. It possibly rains diamonds in there.) Emperor Caligula was, in my opinion, mad as a dozen march hares (and hatters, I might add.)

Now here's something about the most famous mad emperor, Nero. He supposedly set the great fire of Rome. I can't prove he did or didn't, but mostly everybody who's anybody in the world of historians says he did. But here's a few things that will shock and, hopefully, give you a picture of what kind of man he was, He killed his wife.(Why did he marry her, eh?) He also invited his mother to come visit him for a party. The catch? She had to sail there. Nero sent a boat to pick her up. It was rigged to kill her and her two friends. It malfunctioned, killing one of the friends, but the other ladies went overboard. One friend did a brave thing and cried that she was Nero's mother. The crew believed her and killed her with their oars. When back in Rome, the real mother sent word to Nero that she was alive. He sent assassins to kill her. When she saw them, she boldly told them to stab her in the stomach, where her son had come from.

Now, to the fire of Rome. Nero may or may not have set it, but we'll likely never know. It is said that " Nero fiddled while Rome burned". It wasn't considered respectable to be a musician in those days. But Nero did it anyway. He gave long concerts, and no one could leave until it was done. People would pretend to be dead so they could leave. But Nero did NOT fiddle. There were no violins to use at that time. He could have played his lyre, though, but there is a possibility that he tried to help put out fires.(I don't think anyone believes that). But the damage was decimating. Ten out of the fourteen districts of Rome were destroyed or badly damaged. The fire lasted nine days and started under the bleachers of the Circus Maximus. I think that's how you spell it, anyway. It was a chariot racing amphitheater. The chariot races were more popular than the gladiatorial games.(The ones where people and animals fought to the death.) We know that because of the seating. There was more seating at the races than at the Colosseum.

Well, anyway, Rome burned, and Nero commandeered large areas of Rome that were burned. He built a palace called the Golden House. One thing he needed, though, was someone to blame for the fire. He decided the best scapegoat was the Christians and conveniently blamed them. He sent thousands of people into the arena to be killed by wild animals. Not only were they a handy scapegoat, they refused to bow down to the state gods or to worship the emperor, which made Nero very angry. It's a wonder no one killed him. But no one did. He committed suicide.

Rome had its share of mad emperors, most of which are not mentioned because either I don't know enough about them to make this interesting or I don't remember what their name is or something like that. But these emperors were a part of the decline of Rome.

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