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The Great Fire of Rome

Contributed by David Verne

On the night of the 19th of July, a fire broke out among shops in Rome storing flammable goods. The windy night quickly spread the flames to nearby and tightly packed apartment complexes. With no large buildings or temple complexes in this area of the city, Rome was almost completely defenseless to the blaze. It burned for six days before finally being brought under control, and of the 14 districts of Rome, 3 had been completely leveled and only 4 had escaped all damage. Nero wasn't at Rome during the time of the fire, he was at Antium, and he returned quickly to organize a relief effort, housing refugees in the undamaged part of the palace. He passed a major reform of the fire code that widened streets, used brick-faced concrete for new buildings, and limited the size of apartment buildings to 58 feet high. With a disaster of this size, the population began looking for an explanation for how it started. Rumors began flying that Nero had started it, and that he had played his lyre while watching the city burn. Though this wasn't true, Nero's popularity had been waning for some time, and the rumor began to spread. Looking for a scapegoat to blame the disaster on, Nero turned to a small group mainly comprised of foreigners, the Christians. This began the first persecution of Christianity by Rome. [1] [2]

My Take by David Verne
The persecution was started by Nero's agents torturing Christians and forcing confessions. He then began ordering their deaths by throwing them to the dogs, crucifying them, and burning them alive. The Christians were seen as strange by most people in the Roman Empire, especially because they were monotheists, but this was too much for the Romans. Sympathy for Christianity grew, while Nero's popularity fell even further, especially after he began construction on a 100-300 acre palace complex in the middle of Rome.

See Also


  1. Tacitus, Cornelius. The Annals. 
  2. Duncan, Mike (August 23, 2009). 666.

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