Nero played his fiddle while watching Rome burn, at least that is what I thought. I don’t know where I first heard that or from whom I heard it, but without bothering to check historical facts, I believed it. I thought of him as a monster. But this monster was once a sweet, adorable child who had a mother, a father, an uncle. He was a human just as I am. What happened that caused him to be remembered as being so cruel?
Nero’s mom, Agrippina, had been banished when Nero wasn’t even three yet, so he lived with his aunt. His uncle, Caligula, was a terrible man that attempted to drown him as a sacrifice to the goddess Diana.
When his mom returns, she takes him away from his aunt’s house to live with her. Life is enjoyable with her, but he learns the hard way that his mom cannot be trusted. She and others in his life influenced him in ways that would have led most to be extremely cruel and vindictive.
Even when Nero lives in the palace and his mom is empress, he always has to watch her as he is afraid that she will poison him. Can you imagine always being afraid that your own mom will poison you?
If I had delved further into his history, I would have discovered that Nero was a kind man, not a cruel one. He loved music, poetry, writing, art. He did not like the confines of being emperor, something he never wanted to be. He wanted to be happy, to do the things he enjoyed and to marry the woman he loved.
Did Rome burn? Yes, it did. But Nero did not start the fire, nor did he play his fiddle while it burned. Do you want to learn about the real Nero? If so, this book is one you must read. There will be a sequel, one that I look forward to reading and learning more from it.
If you have the slightest interest in Nero and what he was really like, this is a book you will truly enjoy. As well as teaching me about Nero in a very readable and exciting way, I also learned some interesting facts. Did you know that people thought of the gladiator’s blood as a tonic? They believed that it would cure specific illnesses.
Pig’s teats stuffed with sea urchins, heron’s tongues in honey sauce, moray eels drowned in hot sauce made up just part of their “scrumptious ” feasts. The wine that was served with these foods could only have made them better.
I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. If you would like your own copy, I have provided an Amazon link below.
Amazon Link: The Confessions of Young Nero
The sentences below are not taken from the final edited version of the book, so they could appear differently in the copy you buy.
Promises turn sour and watched buds do not always open to reveal a lovely flower.
I knew then that to be her enemy was to perish—and that being her son would not exempt me.
My lessons continued and I fancied I could feel my head expanding with everything I was learning, like a melon swelling on a vine.
It was my first taste of revenge, and I liked the flavor.
Stories attach themselves to events and cling like mists, true or not.
New Words Learned:
aulos – an ancient Greek wind instrument, a double pipe played with a double reed
asphodel – any of various southern European plants of the genera Asphodelus and Asphodeline, of the lily family, having white, pink, or yellow flowers in elongated clusters.
caduceus – the staff carried by Mercury as messenger of the gods
cithara – a musical instrument of ancient Greece consisting of an elaborate wooden soundbox having two arms connected by a yoke to which the upper ends of the strings are attached
hoplomachus – a type of gladiator in ancient Rome, armed to resemble a Greek hoplite (soldier with heavy armor and helmet, a round shield, a spear and a sword)
lictor – (in ancient Rome) one of a body of attendants on chief magistrates, who preceded them carrying the fasces and whose duties included executing the sentences of criminals
insensate – without sense, understanding, or judgment; foolish
Locusta – a notorious poison mixer in Ancient Rome
Molossian – a breed of dog native to Epirus in NW Greece, used in classical antiquity as a hunting dog and guard dog
palla – a voluminous square of cloth draped around the body as a mantle or wrap, worn by women of ancient Rome.
perfidy – deliberate breach of faith or trust; faithlessness; treachery
porphyry – a very hard rock, anciently quarried in Egypt, having a dark, purplish-red groundmass containing small crystals of feldspar
saturnine – sluggish in temperament; gloomy; taciturn
sesterce – a silver coin of ancient Rome, the quarter of a denarius, equal to 2½ asses: introduced in the 3rd-century b.c.
sibyl – any of certain women of antiquity reputed to possess powers of prophecy or divination
soporific – causing or tending to cause sleep
strigil – an instrument with a curved blade, used especially by the ancient Greeks and Romans for scraping the skin at the bath and in the gymnasium
timorous – showing or suffering from nervousness, fear, or a lack of confidence
venal – able to be purchased, as by a bribe
About the Author:
Margaret George specializes in epic fictional biographies of historical figures, taking pains to make them as factually accurate as possible without compromising the drama. All of her books have been bestsellers, with twenty-one foreign translations.
Margaret’s father was in the Foreign Service and so she lived overseas for her early life, in such different places as tropical Taiwan, desert Israel, and cold war Berlin, all of which were great training for a novelist to be. She started writing ‘books’ about the same time as she could write at all, mainly for her own entertainment. It was a diversion she never outgrew.
Margaret lives in Madison, Wisconsin, and Washington DC, and has a sexagenarian tortoise as a pet.