68: How did the Infamous Roman Emperor Nero Meet his End?

68: How did the Infamous Roman Emperor Nero Meet his End?
Photo Credit To Wikipedia Commons/ Nero and Agrippina by Carlos Delgado. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Story Highlights

  • Historical event:
  • 9 June 68
  • Nero's last words were reportedly: "Qualis artifex pereo!" ("What an artist dies in me!"). After his death, there was a struggle for the Roman imperial throne. Namely, Nero was the last emperor of the famous Julio-Claudian dynasty.

One of the most notorious Roman emperors died on this day in the year 68.

Nero became famous by the Great Fire of Rome, the bloody persecution of the early Christians, and the murder of his own mother Agrippina. Finally, an uprising was started against him, led by Servius Sulpicius Galba.

When Galba proclaimed himself emperor and attracted new supporters, Nero feared for his life and tried to flee Rome. One Roman offered him his villa a few kilometers outside the city. Nero hid there with his four faithful companions. He believed that he would be found and killed by the rebels, so he decided to take his own life before he was caught.

He ordered his companions to dig a grave for him. At that moment, news came from Rome that he was declared the enemy of the state and is to be executed by beating. All nervous, he begged one of the companions to kill himself first so as to set an example. When he heard the approaching horsemen, he knew he must be killed immediately, but still couldn’t do it. Instead, he ordered his personal secretary Epaphroditos to do it for him.

Before he died, Nero allegedly uttered his famous last words: “Qualis artifex pereo!” (“What an artist dies in me!”). When one of the horsemen entered, he saw Nero dying and tried to stop the bleeding, but to no avail. Epaphroditos was later executed for failing to prevent the death of Nero (they wanted to publicly punish Nero and kill him by beating).

Nero was the last emperor from the famous Roman Julio-Claudian dynasty. After his death, there was a struggle for the throne. The new emperor Galba ruled for no more than seven months before he was killed, and the following year three emperors were overthrown one after the other.

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