The year to be 67 AD. The Olympic games were in complete swing. The amphitheater was packed with countless breathless fans that gazed on as the chariot racers take it the starting line.

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Among lock stood a foreigner that loved the heroes the the Greek society so much, he was figured out to share in your glory and also admiration. In defiance the the Olympic regulations, he stood behind his 10 horse chariot, while his adversaries manned only 4 steeds.

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


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

The gyeongju began. The charioteers burst indigenous the starting line. Together they rounded the first corner, the contempt overweight Nero uncovered his ten horse vehicle too bulky come maneuver. He to be thrown native the chariot and also injured so badly, he virtually died. However that would certainly come later.

Nero had no business competing in the Olympics. He was no athlete. And also while that loved and also admired the romance and also the valor of the Greek heroes, his love would certainly prove no complement 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 was born Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus on December 15, 37 AD, in Antium, Latium. Though not of Greek origin, he to be captivated by the Greek culture from the moment he was a boy.

He speak fluent Greek and considered self a great poet and performer. As a young kithara singer, he began performing because that his near friends. When he love the applause of gift an artist, because that years he had watched the Olympic contenders and also dreamed of coming to be one himself.


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

Lacking in strong capability, Nero’s possibility to contend in the Olympics would come together a result of his politics power, no his talent. He began by developing the very first Greek games in Rome. Phone call the games “Neronia,” he forced that the victors dedicate their win crowns to the emperor.

Next, due to the fact that Nero to be a poet and a singer, not a trained athlete, he would need to change the nature the the games to accommodate his very own talents and also tastes. So he introduced competitions which affiliated acting and singing, lyre-playing and also trumpeting.

Bust of Nero in ~ the Capitoline Museum, Rome. Picture by cjh1452000 CC BY-SA 3.0

He likewise bribed his method into the Olympic Games. No doubt, his influence as the emperor (an office he hosted from 54 to 67) might have assisted him as well. But it was likewise the bore of politics life that made Nero seek the applause and admiration he desired through becoming an Olympic competitor.

ancient Societies the Disappeared

His first participation was in 64 ad in the naples Sebasta. In 65, he performed together a poet and also kithara singer during the second Neroneia. Finally, he appeared as a ten equine charioteer in the Circus Maximus.

Each appearance and also many the his victories came as a result of him utilizing his wealth and also political strength to literally adjust the rule of the game.


An artist’s impression of ancient Olympia.

But the was no the worst the his offenses against the games. Nero likewise forced the Olympics come be hosted in 67, during his last tour of Greece. This way, he might participate in the games as part of his grandstanding abroad.

His vanity likewise caused the to ignore the opponents who had fairly defeated the in the chariot race. Instead, he proclaimed self the winner, claiming the he “would have actually won,” if the were not for his accident.


Nero shown on a sestertius coin through countermark “X” the Legio X Gemina. Photo by Numisantica – CC BY-SA 3.0 nl

All of this to be a an excellent offense come the Romans, who thought about the Olympic games sacred ceremonies complete of spirituality and spiritual significance. In his pursuit for victory and admiration, Nero had actually trampled this traditions. But his success would it is in short-lived.

Nero’s self-indulgent tour through Greece to be cut quick 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 they disapproved of his really appearance in the games.

Weary that Nero’s indulgences, plenty of of them had plotted to kill him upon his return. Compelled to enter his own city in disguise, Nero soon found himself in a perilous situation.


A frosting relief the emperor Nero’s head top top the gateway enntrance gate to the park that consists of the ruins of his gold palace in ~ Domus Aurea in Rome.

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

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“What one artist die in me!” Nero grieved, as the advisor elevated the knife. Shortly after, Nero’s name was removed from the perform of Olympic champions.

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Thus pass the man who admired the valor of the Greek heroes, yet who clung to his own vanity till the end.