Tacitus, Annals, 15.38-41

By Anne Leader

During the night of 18 July 64, a great fire swept through Rome. The historian Tacitus described the conflagration in vivid detail, though he would only have been seven or eight years old at the time. The blaze began in the market area near the Circus at the foot of the Palatine and Caelian Hills and roared through the city for six days. Rumors spread that Emperor Nero was indifferent to the suffering, fiddling a lyre on the roof of his palace while Rome burned. Other accounts credit him with rushing back to the city from his villa at Antium, working tirelessly to help his citizens and bring the fire under control.

Bust of Nero, marble. Rome: Capitoline Museum

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