The year to be 67 AD. The Olympic gamings were in full swing. The amphitheater to be packed with countless breathless fans who gazed on together the chariot racers took the beginning line.

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Among lock stood a foreigner that loved the heroes of the Greek culture so much, that was identified to re-publishing in your glory and also admiration. In defiance the the Olympic regulations, the stood behind his 10 horse chariot, when his enemies manned only four steeds.

The Olympic officials to be enraged in ~ the defiance, however they dared not question him. He was Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, and also he to be the emperor that Rome.


The palaestra of Olympia, a place devoted to the training of wrestlers and other athletes.

The gyeongju began. The charioteers burst native the starting line. As they rounded the very first corner, the contempt overweight Nero uncovered his ten horse vehicle too bulky to maneuver. He to be thrown indigenous the chariot and injured for this reason badly, he nearly died. Yet that would certainly come later.

Nero had no business competing in the Olympics. He to be no athlete. And while he loved and admired the romance and the valor of the Greek heroes, his love would certainly prove no match for his insatiable vanity.

Chariot race. Shoulder of an Attic black-figure hydria. Photo by Priam artist – Marie-Lan Nguyen CC by 2.5

According come the Encyclopedia Britannica, Nero to be born Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus on December 15, 37 AD, in Antium, Latium. Though not of Greek origin, he was captivated through the Greek culture from the time he to be a boy.

He speak fluent Greek and considered himself a good poet and performer. As a young kithara singer, he started performing because that his near friends. If he love the applause of being an artist, because that years he had actually watched the Olympic contenders and also dreamed of becoming one himself.


Statue of Nero as a boy. Photograph by Prioryman CC BY-SA 4.0

Lacking in strong capability, Nero’s chance to contend in the Olympics would come together a an outcome of his politics power, not his talent. He began by developing the very first Greek games in Rome. Phone call the gamings “Neronia,” he compelled that the victors dedicate their win crowns to the emperor.

Next, due to the fact that Nero was a poet and a singer, no a trained athlete, the would require to readjust the nature that the games to accommodate his own talents and also tastes. Therefore he introduced competitions which involved acting and also singing, lyre-playing and also trumpeting.

Bust the Nero at the Capitoline Museum, Rome. Photo by cjh1452000 CC BY-SA 3.0

He likewise bribed his way into the Olympic Games. No doubt, his affect as the emperor (an office he organized from 54 come 67) could have aided him as well. But it was additionally the boring of politics life the made Nero look for the applause and admiration he desired through becoming an Olympic competitor.

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His very first participation was in 64 ad in the neapolitan Sebasta. In 65, he performed together a poet and also kithara singer during the 2nd Neroneia. Finally, he appeared as a ten steed charioteer in the Circus Maximus.

Each appearance and many the his victories come as a result of him making use of his wealth and also political strength to literally change the rules of the game.


An artist’s impression of ancient Olympia.

But the was not the worst of his offenses versus the games. Nero likewise forced the Olympics come be hosted in 67, throughout his last tour of Greece. This way, he can participate in the games as component of his grandstanding abroad.

His vanity additionally caused him to overlook the opponents who had relatively defeated that in the chariot race. Instead, that proclaimed himself the winner, claiming that he “would have won,” if that were no for his accident.


Nero depicted on a sestertius coin through countermark “X” of Legio X Gemina. Photograph by Numisantica – CC BY-SA 3.0 nl

All that this was a good offense to the Romans, who thought about the Olympic games sacred ceremonies complete of spiritual and religious significance. In his search for victory and also admiration, Nero had actually trampled these traditions. But his win would be short-lived.

Nero’s self-indulgent tour through Greece to be cut short when his advisors warned that a plot against his life which to be unfolding. The roman elite despised Nero’s finagling v the ceremonies and also they disapproved of his really appearance in the games.

Weary that Nero’s indulgences, countless of them had plotted to kill him ~ above his return. Forced to enter his own city in disguise, Nero soon discovered himself in a perilous situation.


A frosting relief that emperor Nero’s head top top the gateway entrance to the park that contains the ruins of his golden palace at Domus Aurea in Rome.

Would he risk the pain and humiliation of a windy execution in ~ the hand of the civilization who had actually grown to dislike him? In the end, the chose fatality as a method out. That delegated the “task” come a trusted advisor, who agreed to quiet slit his throat and also call that a “suicide.”

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“What one artist die in me!” Nero grieved, as the advisor raised the knife. Quickly after, Nero’s surname was eliminated from the list of Olympic champions.

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Thus passed the male who admired the valor that the Greek heroes, however who clung come his own vanity until the end.