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Nero (AD 37-68) was Roman emperor from AD 54. In AD 12 he had quelled a revolt in Pannonia (now Slovenia). He was notorious for his vanity and cruelty. He had his wife and mother murdered, and kicked his pregnant mistress to death. Nero also eliminated scores of opponents, and persecuted Christians, blaming them for a fire which destroyed much of Rome in Ad 64. After the fire he rebuilt a third of the city of his palace. According to tradition, he sentenced the apostles Peter and Paul to death. He would have been overthrown sooner had he not loved racing chariots, which were a Roman obsession; he even drank a traditional charioteer's potion of boar dung. Nero committed suicide after the army had forced him from power.

According to legend, Nero caused the great fire of Rome himself, and played a lyre while he watched it. The expression 'to fiddle while Rome burns' means to take no action even though a catastrophe is occurring.

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