Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Emperor Nero...Gets A Facelift?


I just read in the latest National Geographic  that the Emperor Nero, of all people, is getting some rehab done on his public image.  You remember Nero -- the brutal child-king said to have castrated a boy and then married him, the man who murdered his mother and brother, the tone-deaf musician who made his subjects cringe at public performances, the guy who kicked his wife to death when she was pregnant.   

Why is this happening?  Well, someone was digging in Rome and found some remarkable architecture that could only have been commissioned by Nero.  Cleaned up a little, reconstructed some, it begins to look as if he really liked the finer things.  (IT'S NOT HIS ARCHITECT WHO HAD A FINE SENSIBILITY -- IT WAS THE GUY WHO PAID FOR THE CONSTRUCTION.  NERO.)  It was also Nero who invented the concept of the Gymnasium -- and I don't refer to the place where you get humiliated trying to climb ropes or vault over a leather horse!  In ancient Rome this was a combination public bath, snack bar and open-mike poetry reading welcoming anyone who wanted to walk in. (DID THEY WELCOME THE SLAVES, TOO?  PEOPLE KEPT SLAVES IN THOSE DAYS.  COULD WOMEN GO IN AND READ BOOKS WITH THE MEN?)  He was a horrible singer but quite a patron of the arts, with an appreciation of the finer things, who wanted his subjects to join him in enjoying the gifts of Greek culture and universal intellectual stimulation.  Nero, by the way, appears to have invented the whole idea of Greek culture. THERE's a legacy that has followed us to the present day, for about 2,000 years and counting.  Nice work, Nero!

(HEY, YOU KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS?  It means that Nero is responsible, in some measure, for the fact that people today are aware of the existence of Eris, the Greek goddess of Chaos.  So he had a role in the creation of the blog you are reading now.  Thanks, Nero!  I owe you one!)

They said he never started a war as long as he was Emperor.  I can hardly think of an American president who hasn't done THAT.  Even the anti-war ones, Like Barry Obama.  That's something, isn't it?

Someone finally listened to Will Cuppy, too, and they admitted publicly at last that the fiddle hadn't even been invented yet when Nero was alive.  Cuppy says he played the lyre, but National Geographic nominates the kithara, an instrument whose legacy lives on today in its namesake, the guitar:


And after Nero died and all the minions of his detractors got through chipping the noses off his statues...

...and writing mean-spirited novels and screenplays about what a demented creep he was, someone finally came out and admitted that Nero was greatly loved by his subjects, and when he died they pretty much wept and gnashed their teeth in the streets.

They even say in this article that he was nowhere near Rome when it burned down that time, let alone making people listen to him sing when they ought to have been throwing buckets of water on their houses.

What next?  If Emperor Nero turns out to be a complex, sympathetic kind of leader, will they be able to rehabilitate this guy as well?

Yeah, baby!  Gaius Caligula!  Now he REALLY has a reputation to live down -- the equine Consul thing springs to mind immediately -- not to mention that movie directed by Bob Guccione.  Can any rediscovered architecture, no matter how handsome, erase THOSE images from my mind?  

TRY ME.  I'm ready!


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