27 May – 24 October 2021 at the Sainsbury Exhibitions Gallery
Nero (r. AD 54–68), the last male descendant of Rome’s first emperor Augustus, succeeded to the throne aged only 16. During his reign of nearly 14 years, he murdered his own mother, his first wife, and allegedly his second wife; it has even been claimed that Nero himself started the Great Fire of Rome in AD 64. In June AD 68, when confronted with rebellions by insubordinate military officials, Nero was forced to commit suicide. The Roman senate immediately excised his memory from official records, and his name was vilified.
This major exhibition will question the traditional narrative of this ‘maligned emperor’, exploring the contrast between sources that paint Nero as a ruthless tyrant and those that celebrate his great social appeal. Through 200 spectacular objects, including items destroyed during the Great Fire and precious manuscripts, visitors can follow the young emperor’s rise to power and consider his actions as a ruler, examining the decisions he made during a period of profound social change.
During his reign, Nero established stable relationships with Rome’s greatest rivals, the Parthians, as well as implementing massive infrastructure projects, tax reforms, military measures and successful diplomatic missions. Following his death, civil war and political unrest renewed, raising significant questions about the emperor’s legacy.
Great Russell Street
London WC1B 3DG