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Nero Claudius Caesar

37-68. Roman emperor from 54. He was an enthusiast for the arts and sports. The early part of his reign was stable enough, for he was under the influence of Burrus and Seneca and had the service of able governors in the provinces; but he was soon free from the restraints of more astute men and, as the result of numerous blunders, became extremely unpopular with the nobility and populace alike. His vanity and lust for power seemed limitless, and his suspicions led him to have his closest friends and relatives executed. The fire during July of 64 that destroyed one-half of Rome increased his unpopularity. In response to rumors that he had started the fire and recited his own poetry over the burning city, he tried to pass the blame on to the Christians, many of whom were arrested and executed in a most horrible manner.

Nero was the “Caesar” to whom Paul appealed for justice (Acts 25:10) and whose God-given authority he had carefully supported (Rom. 13:1-7). The details are uncertain, but it is probable that Paul was acquitted by or even released before the trial at the end of his two years in Rome (Acts 28) and that he was arrested again a few years later and was executed (c. a.d. 66-67). The Apostle Peter was probably executed at about the same time or a little later.

The unofficial policy of opposition to Christianity instigated by Nero was later to become the official policy of the empire.

See B.H. Warmington, Nero (1969).