Updated: Oct 31, 2019
I recently posted on Passion to Know More's Facebook page that Paul and Peter were killed during Nero's persecution of Christians. Emperor Nero, he was one crazy guy. Really!
Nero was the 5th emperor of Rome. He ruled from A.D. 54-68. He was only 16 when he became emperor!
Claudius was the 4th emperor of Rome and Nero's great uncle. After Nero's father died at a young age, his mother, Agrippina, married Claudius. Claudius adopted Nero. Claudius did have a natural son, Britannicus, who was much younger than Nero. Britannicus died at a palace dinner about a year after Nero became emperor. Many assumed it was Nero who murdered him, but that was never proven.
Nero's mother, Agrippina, helped him rule initially, but then she started bad-mouthing her son and Nero had his mother murdered in A.D. 59.
Nero was married to Octavia, his step-sister, but she fell out of favor since Nero was having an affair with Poppaea Sabina. Nero divorced Octavia. He had her put to death in A.D. 62.
Nero then married Poppaea Sabina. She died pregnant with their second child. Some historians report that Nero kicked her to death although others say she died of natural causes.
But you have probably heard of Nero because of the great fire of Rome in A.D. 64. Some historians believe that Nero ordered the fire set so that he could rebuild Rome bigger and grander. That has never been proven and is debated. The A.D. 64 fire burned for about a week and destroyed over half of Rome! Only four of Rome's fourteen districts escaped damage from the fire. You may have heard that Nero played his fiddle while Rome was burning. This is widely thought to be untrue.
What is certain is that some people blamed Nero for the fire. Nero needed a scapegoat and he blamed the Christians for starting the fire. Widespread persecution of Christians began.
Nero has some Christians fed to wild animals for entertainment and used them as human torches. Secular historian, Tacitus, writes about the persecution, “Their death was made a matter of sport; they were covered in wild beasts’ skins and torn to pieces by dogs or were fastened to crosses and set on fire in order to serve as torches…” Nero used live Christians to light his gardens as he drove around naked in his chariot! He was a bad guy. He was a homicidal maniac killing anyone he thought opposed him. Rome burns; he blames Christians to get out of it; persecution of Christians begins.
In and around Rome multitudes of Christians were arrested and put to death in the most cruel ways. Crucified. Or tied in skins of animals, and thrown into the arena to be worried to death by dogs, for the entertainment of the people. Or thrown to the wild beasts. Or tied to stakes in Nero's gardens, pitch poured over their bodies, and their burning bodies used as torches to light Nero's gardens at night, while he drove around in his chariot, naked, indulging himself in his midnight revels, gloating over the dying agonies of his victims.
Source: Halley's Bible Handbook Revised Edition, Henry H. Halley, copyright 1965, page 635
In A.D. 68 a rebellion rose against Nero. When he realized things weren't going his way, he committed suicide at the age of 31.
Nero is not specifically mentioned in the Bible. But about half of the New Testament books were written during Nero's emperorship. What happened to the Christians during this time of history is the direct background of at least the books of 1 Peter and II Timothy. According to the writings of later church fathers, Nero had Paul beheaded and Peter crucified.
Nero AD 37-68
Became the emperor in A.D. 54.
Last descendant of the house of Caesar to rule as emperor of Rome.
Nero’s mother, Agrippina the Younger, married her uncle Claudius who adopted Nero as his eldest son, making him heir.
Nero married Claudius’s daughter, Octavia (his step-sister as well as his cousin)
Claudius dies mysteriously and Nero becomes emperor.
The natural son of Claudius mysteriously dies.
Nero has his mother killed.
Divorces Octavia and has her killed.
Marries Poppea Sabina and Nero may have kicked her to death (she was pregnant at the time), but she may have died from natural causes.
A.D. 64 a fire destroys much of Rome.
Legend says Nero played the fiddle as Rome burned - largely thought untrue.
People blamed Nero for the fire, but he blames the Christians.
Cruel persecution of Christians begins.
Nero has some Christians fed to wild animals for entertainment.
Secular historian, Tacitus, writes about the persecution, “Their death was made a matter of sport; they were covered in wild beasts’ skins and torn to pieces by dogs or were fastened to crosses and set on fire in order to serve as torches…”
Nero was a homicidal maniac killing anyone he thought opposed him.
Nero commits suicide in A.D. 68 at the age of 31.
Nero, the 5th emperor of Rome was the Caesar during many of the events which are recorded in the book of Acts and when many of the New Testament books were authored. Many of the New Testament General Epistles/ Letters were written during this time of intense persecution of Christians. Their theme being to stand firm in your faith. And they speak of being obedient to governing authorities. Puts a whole new perspective on them when you read them, doesn't it?
Nero was one crazy dude! Undeniably!