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L. Nero (37-68). R. Vespasian (9-79).

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L. Nero (37-68). R. Vespasian (9-79).
1st c Roman Roman Imperial (Julio-Claudian & Flavian) Sculpture

JULIO-CLAUDIAN Anonymous (active 14 - 68) Primary
1st c
Roman Imperial (Julio-Claudian & Flavian)
Portrait head
L. Rome. Museo Capitolino.
Although Augustus himself was abstemious by nature, his descendants were not. His only daughter Julia behaved so scandalously that he finally exiled her, calling her a "disease in my flesh." Things went from bad to worse and his great granddaughter Agrippina the Younger poisoned her second husband, then incestuously became the wife of her uncle the emperor Claudius after having his wife Valeria Messalina killed. Agrippina murdered Claudius' son and heir Britannicus and persuaded Claudius to make her son Nero his successor. She is thought to have poisoned Claudius and on his death immediately had Nero crowned as emperor by the Praetorian Guard. Nero was not yet seventeen when he came to power. The sculptor has captured the arrogance and the self-indulgence that characterized Nero, who was emperor from 54-68. Contemporaries described the young Nero as a handsome young man of fine presence but with soft, weak features and a restless spirit. He liked the arts and inaugurated competitions in poetry and the theater. He had plans for grandiose public works, but never really got around to doing very much. Instead he spent his time gratifying his own personal pleasures. His nocturnal rioting in the streets became a scandal, and his pleasures were mixed with violent cruelty. He murdered both his mother and his wife. He fancied himself a poet and a lyre player and he gave public concerts. His perfidy is best remembered in the famous story of the great fire in Rome. According to legends, Nero fiddled as the city burned. Furthermore, he was even accused of starting the fire in order to create more space to build his magnificent Golden House with its extensive gardens. He later blamed the disastrous fire on the Christians and executed scores of them in revenge. Thus, becoming the first emperor to persecute the Christians. Plots against him led to bloody reprisals, and when one of them appeared to prove successful, he committed suicide. Having fancied himself a poet and an artist, he is reported to have said on his deathbed: "What an artist the world is losing in me!" He was the last emperor of the family of Julius Caesar. Perhaps as a reaction to Nero's excesses, Vespasian, who became emperor in 70, returned to the old Roman virtues, abandoning the lure of Hellenism. Vespasian was a simple and forthright man who tried to bring some semblance of order and virtue back to Rome after the destructive influence of the self-indulgent Nero. A very competent soldier with no interest in the arts, he accompanied Nero to Greece and had the misfortune of falling asleep during one of Nero's artistic performances. Vespasian cultivated a bluff and even coarse manner, and he liked to recall his humble origins. His reign, which was considered sensible but unimaginative, was very much appreciated by the Romans after the imaginative debaucheries of Nero. The character of this man, who founded the Flavian dynasty, is clearly apparent in this excellent portrait. How different is its spirit from the proud but weak portrait of Nero. You might note Vespasian's uncanny resemblance to the American president from Texas, Lyndon Johnson.

Caption: ROMAN IMPERIAL | L. Nero (37-68). R. Vespasian (9-79). | 1 c | Roman | Roman Imperial

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