July 18, 64 AD
It was a steamy summer night in the city of Rome. The wind picked up, bringing some relief, but before the night was over a large portion of the city was engulfed in flames. It started in the poorest part of town, where the merchants set up their wares each day. It didn’t take long for the fire to spread through the wooden marketplace. With encouragement from the wind, it spread quickly and destroyed almost 70% of Rome.
Rumors added fuel to the fire as the emperor, Nero, was claimed to be responsible for the disaster. Did he actually give the order or start the fire himself? Was it true that he sat on the balcony of his palace, fiddling away as the city was consumed? Could he possibly look out over the burning city that he had built, with joy in his heart?
Nero was one of the most unpopular leaders of his time. He was known to use Christians as human torches to light the city streets. His sadistic deeds were well. Yet was he so evil that he’d actually have a city that he ruled burned to the ground? He was proud of what he’d built His narcissism most likely wouldn’t allow him to wipe out the grandeur that was Rome. His reputation would be at stake. He had plans to create an even more grandiose Rome with his name attached to it. That plan was carried out when he rebuilt the city to even greater heights.
Still the people weren’t particularly fond of this guy, and when their livelihood and residences were snuffed out, he was the one they’d name as the perpetrator. Nero wasn’t ready to be victimized in such a way. He needed someone to blame and the perfect scapegoat would be the Christians. Their beliefs were infiltrating Rome faster than the wildfire which spread through the streets that night. In order to satisfy the rumors about him, the Christians were taken to the amphitheater and fed to the lions.
There was no proof that Nero fiddled while his city burned. He was out of town when the fire broke out. Of course he could’ve ordered it, but there was no actual evidence of such a plot. If it were true, it would’ve been like shooting himself in the foot.
He was not playing a fiddle as is often depicted. The fiddle had not yet ben invented. If anything, he would be playing a stringed instrument like the lyre. The one truth in the story that has been handed down through history is that Christians would now become the object of even greater persecution. Someone had to take the fall.
So the media doesn’t always get it right. Some things never change!