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A balanced account of Nero’s life reveals the ‘editing and destruction’ of history-making

Popular culture and even historical writings are replete with depictions of Nero, the emperor of Rome from 54-68 CE, as a tyrant, uninterested in the suffering of his subjects and inclined towards almost every form of sadism imaginable. The truth, however, is much more complicated. In this video from the British Museum, the curators Thorsten Opper and Francesca Bologna provide a tour of the exhibition ‘Nero: The Man Behind the Myth’, which will be featured at the museum from 27 May to 24 October 2021. Taking viewers through an array of artefacts offering insights into Nero’s life, times and legacy, Opper and Bologna present Nero as a complex figure, capable of acts of cruelty, but also broadly popular with the Roman citizenry. In doing so, they also shed light on the process of history-making more generally, which, while not necessarily ‘written by the winners’, is certainly shaped by a confluence of political manoeuvring, elite opinion and surviving materials.

Video by the British Museum

8 July 2021

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