Rome's bloody, art-loving emperor Nero in new show

It's safe to say that the Emperor Nero - the subject of a major new exhibition and archaeology trail that opened in the Roman Forum this week - has always had something of an image problem.

He has gone down in the history books as the man who had his domineering mother Agrippina killed, kicked his pregnant wife Poppaea to death and - as legend would have it - played his lyre on a hill while Rome burnt below him.

The new exhibit "Nero", which runs until September 18, sets out to show that the murderous emperor was not all bad and was also a lavish patron of the arts and an innovative urban planner who re-fashioned large parts of ancient Rome.

"It's not an attempt at rehabilitating Nero. It helps to explain his merits, his qualities but also his failings, to give a fuller image," Italy's junior culture minister Francesco Maria Giro told reporters on a tour of the show.

"He was a man full of lights and shadows," Giro said, adding: "The exhibition is set out across the area where Nero conducted his public and private life," including the Roman Forum, the Palatine Hill and his Domus Aurea palace.

Nero became emperor at just 17 in 54 AD thanks to his mother and met his end in 68 AD after his legions and the Roman Senate rebelled against him. He fled Rome and stabbed himself in the throat before he could be arrested.

The victims of his rule included not only his mother and two wives, but also his rival Britannicus and his philosophical mentor Seneca who was accused of plotting to assassinate Nero and was ordered by the emperor to kill himself.

The characters of a life that reads like a cross between a horror film and a soap opera come to life in the exhibition, which begins with busts and portraits of Nero, Agrippina and Poppaea in the Roman Curia in the Forum.

The flavour of emperor's decadent rule is re-created with showings of the cult 1951 film "Quo Vadis?" starring Peter Ustinov as Nero projected inside the Temple of Romulus - now the church of Saints Cosma and Damiano.

But the centrepiece of the trail is Nero's vast palace complex, the Domus Aurea, which was never completed and was destroyed by a fire after his death.

The palace "was an extremely complex structure" which occupied a vast chunk of ancient Rome, Rossella Rea, director of the Colosseum museum, told AFP.

"It was a complex of various palaces set in a very green landscape and rich in aquatic imagery. We have to remember that the place where the Flavian emperors had the Colosseum built was a large artificial lake," Rea said.

Even the name Colosseum comes from a "colossal" 35-metre high statue of the Sun God with Nero's features that stood on the site.

Visitors can also see for the first time the famous "Cenatio Rotunda" - a revolving dining room in the palace complex that was discovered in 2009.

But access to the interior of the Domus Aurea itself is barred as the structure has been severely weakened by water leakage and is being restored.

Rea's tip for visitors is to leave plenty of time for the exhibition, spread across eight locations. The average time to complete the tour? Three hours.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
News
peopleMathematician John Nash inspired the film Beautiful Mind
News
Richard Blair is concerned the trenches are falling into disrepair
newsGeorge Orwell's son wants to save war site that inspired book
Life and Style
Audrey Hepburn with Hubert De Givenchy, whose well-cut black tuxedo is a 'timeless look'
fashionIt may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
Arts and Entertainment
The pair in their heyday in 1967
music
Life and Style
fashionFrom bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Guru Careers: Events Coordinator / Junior Events Planner

    £24K + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an Events Coordinator ...

    Royal Yachting Association Cymru Wales: Chief Executive Officer

    Salary 42,000: Royal Yachting Association Cymru Wales: The CEO is responsible ...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

    £35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

    Ashdown Group: Technical IT Manager - North London - Growing business

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A growing business that has been ope...

    Day In a Page

    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine