Nero was NOT a mad tyrant who burnt to the ground: British Museum ...

One of history's most bloody tyrants, Nero appears to have derived much of his chilling ambition from his wealthy widowed mother, Agrippina.

One of history's most bloody tyrants, Nero appears to have derived much of his chilling ambition from his wealthy widowed mother, Agrippina.

One of history's most bloody tyrants, Nero appears to have derived much of his chilling ambition from his wealthy widowed mother, Agrippina. 

Her first husband, Nero's father, died of natural causes, but she is widely suspected of murdering her second.

She embarked on her third marriage, to the Emperor Claudius, in AD 49, and although he already had a son, Britannicus, by another wife, manipulated him into adopting Nero as his heir.

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She then had Claudius killed with poisoned mushrooms, clearing the way for her son to inherit the Empire in AD 54.

Then just 16, Nero was described by Suetonius as being of average height, with a prominent belly and a spotty complexion.

'He never wore the same garment twice,' wrote Suetonius. 'It is said that he never made a journey with less than 1,000 carriages, his mules shod with silver.'

He also had a terrible and vengeful temper. When, less than six months into his reign, Nero suspected a plot to replace him with Britannicus, he followed his mother's example and killed his 15-year-old stepbrother with poisoned mushrooms.

Soon, even his mother was subjected to his murderous gaze. She is believed to have conducted a lurid incestuous affair with her son to maintain control over him - but he soon tired of her constant interference and had her stabbed to death in AD 59.

Before long, it was his wife Octavia's turn. After divorcing her on a false charge of adultery, he banished her from and had her maids tortured to death.

But this wasn't enough to satisfy Nero's bloodlust. Soon afterwards, he cut off Octavia's head, and presented it as a trophy to his mistress, Poppaea.

Poppaea became his second wife - but not for long. When she complained that he had returned home late from the races, Nero kicked his pregnant wife - and her unborn baby - to death.

Nero then married a third time, after forcing the husband of his intended bride, Messalina, to commit suicide.

Disguising himself with caps and wigs, he delighted in creeping into the seedier quarters of to beat up drunks, who would be stabbed and thrown into the sewers if they put up a fight.

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