Today’s guest was born Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus, but was later known as Imperator Nero Cladius Divi Claudius filius Caesar Augustus Germanicus. Nero, for short.
He is infamous for a long list of atrocities, including burning down most of Rome in order to clear space for the building of his personal entertainment palace, the Domus Aurea. He persecuted the new Christian faith, subverted the Roman senate, poisoned his stepbrother, and executed his mother. And those are just the crimes that are rated PG.
Expecting to be executed by his enemies (who had staged a successful coup), Nero committed suicide in a villa outside Rome on June 9th, 68 AD, after 14 years on the throne.
Unfortunately, I do not get to choose when and which of the dead show up at my blog, so without preparation and racking my brain for a question, I landed on the following:
DW: After the passage of 2,000 years, do you perceive your time as emperor differently than you did back then? Do you regret your actions?
Nero: Quod est iniuriam quaestionis. That is what I say to you. In this world, there are eagles and there are fish. The fact that you would even ask such questions tells me which of the two you are. The truly great live their lives without the slightest restraint. We must, you see; it is impossible to be great and restrained at the same time.
Two thousand years have passed since my rule, yet still you know my name. That is perhaps a better answer to your question than it deserves. But I am compelled to ask a question of my own: do you know the name Michael I Rangabe? Does the name strike a chord? Do the names Maurice, Pertinax, or Olybrius mean anything to you?
Elagabalus, Macrinus, Avitus, Aemilian, Probus, Joannes?
The list of forgotten Roman Emperors is long, but you will not find me on it. No, indeed. I am a fastidious man and that list will not do for me. You condemn me for the actions which created my fame, but…you remember them! You make so free as to charge me with crimes where none exist—an indelicate thing to do, I might add. As your own President Nixon observed, “If the president does it, that means it’s not illegal.” Certainly this was always true for an emperor of Rome and I cannot be faulted if I lived my life accordingly.
If you don’t understand what I am telling you, it is because you are a fish. You have no context for the eagle in flight. It used to be that a fish such as yourself would only truly know me when it was torn by my talons from the bosom of the sea. Then for a brief moment the fish would see this world as I do: a wondrous place of wide open vistas and glittering pursuits. I tell you plainly, I do not regret the past, I long for it.