Emperor Nero’s Marriages

Catherine Knight, Collections Assistant Archaeology

Nero became emperor at the age of sixteen. He ruled for fourteen years before committing suicide in AD68. He is often thought of as one of the ‘bad’ emperors, known for his extravagances and cruelty. Among other things, he is said to have ordered the assassination of his own mother and to have killed his pregnant wife by kicking her in the stomach. Perhaps most famously, Nero is remembered as the man who burned Rome and sat playing music while watching the flames.

Emperor Nero, copyright cjh1452000.

Like other unpopular emperors, it is likely that some of the stories around Nero have been exaggerated or fabricated by chroniclers. The rumour that he started the Great Fire of Rome, for example, is considered by many historians to be false.

Nero was married three times. He is also said to have taken part in marriage ceremonies with two of his freedmen. In one of these, the other man was castrated and took on the role of the bride. This was allegedly as a result of his resemblance to Nero’s late wife Poppaea, the one he kicked to death while she was pregnant. In Nero’s other marriage ceremony with a man, he himself took on the role of the veiled bride.

There are currently two coins issued by Nero in the collection. Both are very worn copper alloy issues. One is a dupondius that was found at Burton upon Stather. The second is a copper alloy sestertuius that was found somewhere in North Lincolnshire. A third North Lincolnshire Nero coin has been recorded on the Portable Antiquities Database. This is a sestertius dating to AD65.

A sestertius issued by Nero and found in North Lincolnshire.
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