Was watching the movie Quo Vadis on TCM today. The movie is a historical fiction that takes place amidst the backdrop of the great fire of Rome under the emperor Nero. So I got to reading up on the actual events.
For those unfamiliar with the history, the historian Tacitus, who was but a boy at the time of the fire, tells us the great fire was covertly set by Nero.
His reason? The Roman Senate refused to let him tear down a large portion of Rome to construct what Nero believed would be his enduring monument, a complex to be called Neropolis.
As Tacitus told it, Nero not only made zero effort to stop the flames… he actually watched and played an instrument while Rome burned. Violent gangs of thugs prevented many citizens from escaping to safety. Many died.
Whether Nero really authorized the fire is not proven fact, but it is known that he immediately set forth building his long-wanted but until then denied complex atop the ruins where the inferno had ravaged the city.
That said Tacitus tells us that in the wake of the fire, the people blamed Nero. Clearly Nero needed someone besides himself to be blamed, so he blamed it on a growing but unpopular religious sect known as Christians.
He commenced to have them publicly crucified, slaughtered in the arena by lions, used as torches to light his feasts, and generally exterminated. It was during this hysteria the disciple Peter and the apostle Paul were arrested and executed.
There is of course no reason to believe the thousands he had tortured and killed had anything whatsoever to do with the flames. But hey, they were unpopular, they bucked the prevalent idiology. They were different. Religious zealots. Bottom line, very convenient scapegoats.
Besides, Nero was suddenly generously spending Rome’s money giving wine and grain to the Roman public, and the Christians were not.
I’m not going to try to draw your conclusions for you. I’m just going to point out once again that those who are ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it, and the tactics and strategies of tyrants don’t necessarily change much with time.
Be careful out there.