Among all the natural disasters that struck Rome, one of the most well-known is the Great Fire of Rome, in part due to the popular myth that Emperor Nero fiddled while the Eternal City burned, even though no fiddle existed in first century Rome. Suetonius and Cassius Dio, two of Nero's ancient biographers, are adamant that it was he himself who set the fire (or ordered it set). They are also the originators of the myth that Nero played the lyre, danced around his palace, and sang "The Sack of Troy" while Rome burned outside his windows.
Even though those accounts are likely apocryphal, it is true that on the night of July 18, AD 64, the most significant event of Nero's time in power - and the one which, for better or for worse, would seal his name in infamy throughout the ages - took place. What became known as the Great Fire of Rome started sometime between the night of July 18 and the earliest hours of July 19, and it consumed almost a quarter of the city as it burned out of control for five days.
©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors