Hi, everybody, it's Greg. I want to take a moment to tell you about one of my favorite cast shows. It's called Dictators. And every Tuesday it delves into the minds and motives behind some of the world's most infamous leaders. Earlier seasons have covered dictators such as Benito Mussolini, Genghis Khan and Kim Jong Il. Now a new season has arrived and it takes a deep dive into the bloody reigns of Rome's most notorious emperors. And to give you a taste of the intoxicating dictator's podcast, I'm going to let you hear a clip from Part one of the episode on Nero.
He was a young artist placed at the head of an empire who subsequently watched it burn to the ground. If you like the clip and want to hear the full episode followed dictators free on Spotify over ever you listen to podcasts. And here it is.
Due to the graphic nature of this dictator's reign, listener discretion is advised this episode includes discussions of violence and sexual situations that some people may find offensive. We advise extreme caution for children under 13.
The baby's cries echoed off the stone walls of the Roman palace as Emperor Caligula made his way into Sister Agrippina chamber. It was mid-December in 37 seei and she had given birth to a boy. But Caligula wasn't happy.
A boy meant another challenger for the throne Caligula had just inherited after all of the torment he suffered under Tiberius. The last thing Caligula needed was a sudden challenger.
But Caligula put on a smile and greeted the new parents who Caligula preferred to keep on his side. After all, he knew his sister was a cunning power seeker and the baby's father was a consul to the Roman Senate. This boy's noble blood was hardly in question.
Still, Caligula was irritated at this new mouth to feed.
He gazed down at the little baby, so weak and vulnerable as a joke, Caligula's said the boy took after his ineffectual great uncle Claudius.
Maybe they should name the boy after him even better. Why not name him after Caligula himself?
Ultimately, Caligula's joke would backfire. Literally, Agrippina didn't need to name her son after an emperor, she planned for her son to become the emperor.
What Agrippina didn't plan was for Rome to burn to the ground or for her son Nero to be the one responsible.
Welcome to Dictators, a Spotify original from podcast, I'm Richard, and I'm Kate. On this show, we're going deep into the minds of some of history's most hated despots. This season, we'll be looking at the bloody reigns of Rome's most notorious emperors. You can find all episodes of dictators and all other originals from power cast for free on Spotify.
Today, we're diving into the rise of Emperor Nero, the young artist placed at the head of an empire who subsequently watched it burn to the ground. This week, we'll discuss the conspiratorial politics of Nero's mother that left him with a lonely childhood even while she guided him to the throne. We'll also hear how Niros Deep need for adoration brought Rome to the edge of catastrophe. Next week, we'll explore the fire that raised Niros Capital and the smoldering political embers that burned away his base of power.
We'll follow Nero in the final days of his reign as the last emperor of the Giulio Claudie and Dynasty and hear how his legend lived long after him. When Nairo was born in December 37 C Caligula's rain was already becoming a dark time for Roehm, illness gripped the city and the emperor was fiendishly holding on to power no matter who he had to murder.
To do so much of the reason for Caligula's interest in his sister and baby Nero was about manipulating the boy's father. Ghanaians. Caligula was not liked by the Senate, and Gannes was a valuable ally to have in their ranks.
Unfortunately, Caligula realized he'd made a miscalculation.
Gannes wasn't an ally to anyone, including his own family. Denias is only allegiance was to the bottle, according to Suetonius, a Roman historian of the time, he was a drinker and all around angry man. His rage was well known. He gouged out a soldier's eye after the soldier criticized him and he had even killed several people in fits of anger.
When a young boy playing in the street didn't move out of the way, Denias ran over the child with his chariot.
Luckily, Gannes died sometime in Nero's third year of life, which left Nero firmly under the influence of his mother, Agrippina, the younger.
To fully understand Niros story, we have to get to know Agrippina first. She was the daughter of Germanicus, the beloved former heir to the throne who died before he could rule. Ultimately, this left the empire to Caligula. However, Agrippina still had an intimate view of Roman rule.
At least she did until Caligula exiled her and her sister, La Villa, for conspiring against him. Luckily, when Caligula was assassinated just four years into his reign, his often mocked Uncle Claudius became emperor. And with 50 year old Uncle Claudius in power, Agrippina saw an opportunity. Agrippina grew up surrounded by backstabbing and plotting within the emperor's palace. She'd learned early on that for a woman to gain power and prestige was to play smart and be resourceful so she would use her son Nero to her political advantage.
But at this point, he was still a child. So when Claudius invited Agrippina to return from exile, she set out playing a long game of political chess. She waited and prepared to make the key moves that would bring her ever closer to the throne. Young neuro received a thorough classical education, but he took a particular interest in the arts, supposedly one of his babysitters was a dancer and she taught Nero about artistry and emotion.
This gentle encouragement planted a deep appreciation for the arts in the little boy.
And much like his departed Uncle Caligula, Nero developed a love for song and dance and for attention.
Nero wanted to be adored.
He admired the musicians and athletes who gained the love of the people through their excellence. Nairo learned to see artistic performance as equal to athletics. He longed to be a champion, even if it was as a dancer instead of as a gladiator.
But his mother soon quashed that dream when her son was around 11 years old, Agrippina found herself closer to the throne than ever after Emperor Claudius discovered his third wife, Marcelina Valaria had a torrid and public affair. He had her executed.
Suddenly, the emperor was newly single.
Earley's sources maintain that Mizulina had plans to conspire against Claudius with her new lover, which explains her execution. Others hint at the possibility of Agrippina being involved as the one who made the affair public in the first place. In any case, with Claudius now alone, Agrippina was in a good place to make her next move, marrying Claudius as Empress Agrippina finally held the highest position a woman could have in Rome.
Now she could pivot her focus from her own power to her son. It was time to start grooming Nero to be emperor. Agrippina realized the teenage Nero needed a more classical education. Nobody cared if the emperor could sing like a bird. He had to be a knowledgeable and confident leader.
So she turned to one of Rome's most famous philosophers, Lucia Seneca. In 49, seeI Sinica returned from exile to become Niros Mentor, taking long and instructive strolls through the palace grounds with him. He talked with proverbs and bits of wisdom, leaving the teenager to work out for himself what the lesson was.
For the first time, Nero was learning about the world of power and politics. His lessons with Seneca often related to patience and leadership. As the boy grew, Seneca aligned with Agrippina goal of forming him into a beloved emperor, Seneca saw potential in Nero.
The boy could either be another tyrant like his Uncle Caligula or a thoughtful, empathetic leader like Augustus, the aging scholar had lived under for emperors already. Now he had the chance to mold the perfect ruler.
But Seneca wasn't the only person who had to see Nero's potential as a perfect ruler. Not long after Seneca became the boy's tutor, Agrippina convinced Emperor Claudius to become Niros adoptive father, Niros Path to the throne was becoming clear.
But it was far from certain. Nero was merely an adopted son and Claudius had other children from previous wives.
Luckily, Agrippina had one last move that would solidify her son's place as Claudius air marriage.
Nero was disinterested in power, he was happy with his artistry and enjoyed his lessons from Seneca, the last thing he wanted was to get married and succumb to the obligations of living in the emperor's family and putting on a show for the masses.
But Agrippina didn't care much about her teenage sons opinion. Niros Rise wasn't just about Nero. It was about their family, the line of Germanicus consolidating power. And the best way to do this was to have Nero marry one of Claudius daughters.
So Agrippina set her sights on Octavia, who at the time was around 13 or 14 years old, even though she was Niros Step sister.
Nero and Octavia were married in the summer of 53. S.E Nero wasn't merely an adopted son any longer. He was now Claudius, his son in law as well.
But 15 year old Nero was unhappy. He detested his father, uncle and didn't care much for his new wife cousin either. But he knew he had a duty to his mother and he wanted to please her. He reluctantly joined palace gatherings and gave official speeches in the Senate, usually written by Seneca. Slowly but surely, Nero was being introduced to the public as the young face of power in Rome, even though he still preferred singing to speeches.
For the most part, Romans, both citizens and senators alike, accepted Nero. He had the endorsement of Senaka and a storied family to boot. It was all but certain that he would eventually rule Rome. All that was left was for Emperor Claudius to die.
Of course, Agrippina had a solution for that, too. To hear the rest of this episode, Follow Dictators, a Spotify original from podcast, listen free and follow on Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.