I am a huge fan of all thing ancient rome. I read this because I didnt know much about Nero. I feel like the audience for this book would include novices with little or no knowledge of Nero, along with well-informed history buffs. I felt like this was such a holistic and thorough account that even someone with a wealth of knowledge could learn something new. It also did a grand job of presenting the history of Nero like a story, rather than just presenting the facts. This made it an engaging, and enjoyable read. Not all historians have the ability to present history like this.
This was really good! I think Nero is usually put with Caligula and Commodus as a crazy Roman Emperor and while he did do some crazy things, he was a way more nuanced character. For starters, the people loved him. What is going on here?
The answer is a mix of genuine atrocity, curious decisions, and post-hoc political disparaging. I thought Everritt did a great job showcasing Nero's entire life and all the political stuff that lead to his end. The stuff with his mother, Agrippina, was particularly good. Highly recommend as a biography for this well-known, but somehow little understood, Emperor.
I didn't know much about Nero beyond the slanders that everyone knows, so I was looking forward to learning more about the person and his reign instead of the bogeyman everyone thinks they know. And the authors do give us some of that- the policies of Nero's reign, the probable truths behind things like the famous fire, etc. But I had so many problems with this book, I don't know how much of what the authors claim as fact I could actually believe, and this left me frustrated throughout the entire book.
It wasn't just that the writing wasn't good- though I didn't like the writing. Awkward subject changes jerked the reader around and made it hard to follow things, especially in the beginning. For the first half to 3/4ths of the book the authors seem to take the ancient sources at nearly face value, question almost nothing they tell, their biases and agendas (let alone when they were writing), etc. They tell us how great a performer Nero was; how awful his mother Agrippina was and how yes, maybe there could have been incest between them (really guys?); all kinds of things that I question the sources on about Boudicea's revolt in Britain; how Nero responded to the different conspiracies against him, and more. Then in the last third or so of the book the sources start getting analyzed a little, and brief archaeological evidence pops up to support (or not) theories. It's like the book is not only written by two authors, but by two authors who didn't consult with each other or bother with an editor before publishing this book. In the beginning we hear how wonderful Nero is as a performer. In the end we're told we don't know, but he was popular with the masses (as a ruler at least, and who's going to tell the emperor he's a terrible performer?). By the time one of the Roman names is "Englished" to something more familiar (like Ovid, Lucan, etc) this book has pretty much lost all credibility with me and the only reason I was finishing it was because I had promised NetGalley a review.
Unfortunately, not a book I would recommend
I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
This book was incredibly interesting. I feel like I learned a lot even though I feel like this space in the book world can be pretty saturated. I loved it.
A thoroughly researched account of Nero’s life and imperial Rome.
Nero is among the most colorful of Roman emperors, if not exactly among the most likable. He’s a character, and even though Everitt doesn’t give much attention to the most outlandish and likely apocryphal material, he still gives us an entertaining portrait of one of Rome’s most colorful megalomaniacs.
The first half of the book is more intriguing than the second, though this is no fault of the author. Nero’s early years are among the most intriguing in his personal history, and the latter parts of the book spend a lot of time of things like the governing of the provinces, essential to know for a complete portrait of Rome at the time but not exactly thrilling stuff.
If you’ve read a lot on Rome in this era, most of the information here won’t be new to you, though there are some nuggets of good info that aren’t commonly mentioned and it’s nice to have it all wrapped up in one book when you’re looking for a refresher on a specific emperor or time period during the empire.
In this biography of Nero it has all your typical biography aspects his relative his childhood but this is more detailed and written in a way that isn’t at all academic I love nonfiction and it is rare to get a book that you don’t want to put down and with Nero‘s biography I thought it would be a easy read but one I could dismiss when needed well I was totally wrong with his relationship with his mother all the backstabbing politics he’s sociopathic declarations this book reads like a Shakespearean play with his politics and his tendency in love of violence makes this a very interesting book and a five star read. I love this book and highly recommend it I’ve received it from NetGalley and the publisher but I am leaving this review voluntarily please forgive any mistakes as I am blind and dictate my review.
An interesting new history that examines how Nero was seemingly loved during his time but yet we only hear the bad stories about him. There was a lot more backstory than I was expecting like about Augustus and the other emperors before Nero. I think this could've been condensed down a bit, but overall an interesting history.
My thanks to both NetGalley and the publisher Random House Publishing Group- Random House for an advanced copy of this memoir and history of one of the more infamous figures in Roman History.
Living in the Internet age means that people have no sense of history (and a lot of people don't have any sense, but that is something else). Mention Roman emperors some might remember Caesar, movie fans might remember Caligula. However Nero is probably one that people will possibly remember. The heavy metal image of a man in a toga fiddling while a city burns around him. Wedding a man, and having odd relations with his mother, vast gladiator games with blood soaked sands. A lot of stories, some based in reality, some based in myth, but yes there was a lot of gore and violence. Nero: Matricide, Music, and Murder in Imperial Rome by authors Anthony Everitt and Roddy Ashworth tells the story of one of the most infamous of Roman emperors, and the time in which he came to power and eventually had it taken away.
Nero was a complicated man. However years of disinformation, gossip, and faulty scholarship have clouded man and the myth. There is plenty that he did wrong. Running with a group who would attack travelers at night, coming back to his home with bruises, sometimes more. Eliminating threats to himself be it family, including his mother, which he tried hiding his attempt by giving her a trick boat, that was supposed to pretend to sink. Once that failed, he skipped the subterfuge and killed her straight out. Nero stole wives, eliminated wives, and exiled people who were once close, eventually killing quite a few of them. In his time he dealt with coups, a burned capital, an uprising in Britain and traitors all around. However he seemed to have the loyalty of his guard, except near the end and the people, who still supported him.
The book has a wonderful style, both full of information and ideas, and almost gossipy in a way. There is a little bit of jumping around as a situation might arise that Nero has to deal with, and the authors go back in history and explain why things are going wrong. This does not affect the narrative at all, as the aside sometimes clears up a lot of misconceptions. The book reads well, and even with asides and a very large cast, does not lose its pace nor our interest. Every page has something interesting either about Rome the time or Nero. Nero's love of the arts and almost wish to give up governance and just retire and write and sing songs was surprising. However seeing the way he spent money, that seems very doubtful. A fascinating book.
Recommended for history fans or for fans of just well written books. This is the first that I have read of either author and quite enjoyed it and will be on the lookout for more. A perfect gift for both knowledgeable readers and neophytes as the authors do a very good job of making everything quite clear.
I had been longing to get my hands on this book since hearing advanced commentary praising it. The early opinions are totally true: this book is a gem. As other reviewers note, Nero has had so many horror stories told about him, many have shrugged and thought, “who knows?” Anthony Everitt knows! What a triumph of research combined with vivid writing. I’m hoping potential readers won’t be put off by the relative length of the book (not long by most historical biographies’ standards)
and avail themselves of this page-turner. The author manages to place Nero firmly in his time and environment. I learned a great deal about this period in Roman history but the background never slowed the “story” if you’ll forgive the word. In some ways, Nero was as bad as advertised but Everitt adds and subtracts, producing a portrait that is fascinating as history and compelling for psychologists (armchair or licensed).
I have no particular knowledge of Nero or ancient Rome so can't speak to how different or extensive this biography is in comparison to other sources. However, I can say that I was fascinated by this book and felt that the author did an amazing job of portraying Nero in a more nuanced, realistic light than his reputation in the popular imagination. Also, as a non-expert, I appreciated that the author knew when to step back and provide context about daily Roman life and political intrigues of the day.
A wonder and in depth look at one of Rome’s most notorious emperors and the family that created him. Unlike many biographies, this book doesn’t feel the need to rehash extensive biographies of all the players, which makes this book more enjoyable and easier to read.
Nero is a tough subject to write about as he was such an over the top personality it's easy to get carried away or for the book to read as more of an exaggeration than facts. However Anthony Everitt has done fantastically on bringing both our main subject and the time and place to life in this book.
It definitely reads like a drama, you'll be kept engaged through the entire book, however it was a dramatic time and a dramatic person.
Anthony Everitt has once again delivered a fantastic piece on a wonderfully interesting period in history.
My thanks to Random House, the authors and Netgalley.
I loved this book!
Truth is that I've always been a bit iffy on most writers take on Nero and this time in history.
It always seemed to be way over the top!
According to this book, it was over the top, just in a slightly different way.
I enjoyed this take.
Is any of it true? Well, how the hell would I know?
One thing is for sure, and that is the fact that I would never trust anyone from that time period to write anything trustworthy. I prefer a distant lens.
Hey, I'd have parties with the man!
This books reads as easily as any excellent drama - probably because Nero was so over the top dramatic in every aspect of his life from beginning to end. Also, Everitt makes the subject matter fresh and suspenseful, giving the feeling of events playing out now rather than being 2,000 years old.
While covering the life of Nero, Everitt also does a very good job at assessing when to pause on Nero's life and give background on events to put his life in context. Therefore, we also get a history of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, the busy life of Agrippina, the Romans in Britain, the rise and fall of Boadicea, and more.
Some might feel its too many sidetracks, but I loved seeing the big picture of the Roman Empire even as we follow the life of Nero.
Also, Everitt does a great job taking a hard look at the primary sources and call out the sexist bs when Roman writers would conveniently use sex as an excuse to pull women down. Example, he makes a good case that Empress Melissiana wasn't a nymphomaniac, but that version played better to a Roman audience than 'well, this woman nearly succeeded in a coup d'etate and could have taken us all down'.
An excellent biography of Nero and history of the Julio-Claudin Roman Empire.
Anthony Everitt delivers a fantastic and well researched book bringing to life one of the most controversial and misunderstood emperors in all of Rome.
Reading this book felt like being there in Rome and following the life of Nero and his rise and eventual fall from grace. Everitt lets readers see the evolution of both Nero and Rome and the sacking and fall of the greatest nation of the western world.
Overall I feel like Nero can be a book that teachers can use to help students understand one of the craziest emperors in all of Rome and in the history of the world.