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Saturday, May 16, 2020

Nero: Hating those who denounce your mistakes

You are wont to hate not so much those who are responsible for your mistakes as those who undertake to denounce them.  Isocrates.  On The Peace.  Speech 8.  Section 80.


Image: The caldarium of the Villa of Poppaea in Oplontis near Naples, Italy with a panel painting depicting Hercules in the Garden of the Hesperides.  Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor AlMare.

Although most of us are familiar with the story that Nero kicked Poppaea to death in a fit of rage (according to Suetonius), The ancient sources actually are not in agreement on that subject. Tacitus claims Nero's kick was a "casual outburst,"  Cassius Dio claims Nero leapt upon her belly, but admitted that he did not know if it was intentional or accidental, and other writers say Nero poisoned her.  Modern scholars, however, think Poppaea may have died due to fatal complications of miscarriage or stillbirth and the stories about Nero's involvement were just attempts to blacken his reputation further and, as often occurred, provide evidence to justify his forced suicide.

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