Nero, the last Roman emperor of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, committed suicide.
Nero was Augustus’ great-great grandson and was adopted by his great-uncle, Claudius, after he married his mother Agrippina the Younger. Following Claudius’ death in 54 CE, the sixteen year old Nero became emperor with the support of the Praetorian Guard whose leaders were loyal to his mother.
There are few surviving sources relating to Nero’s reign, with the majority of what we know being drawn from Tacitus, Suetonius, and Cassius Dio. Consequently historians have to exercise caution when drawing conclusions about his rule, but the contemporary accounts suggest that he acted with moderation and respect for the Senate during the early years of his reign.
By 62, however, Nero had ordered the murder of both his mother and his wife while his rule became increasingly brutal and unpredictable. He immersed himself in artistic pursuits at the expense of government, and approved vicious punishments for the Christians he blamed for starting the Great Fire in 64 CE.
Nero’s extravagant orders for the reconstruction of Rome, alongside his other expensive pursuits, had a devastating effect on the economy. Dissent turned into revolt throughout the provinces and, in response to his failure to respond to the growing insurrections, the Spanish governor Galba came out in opposition to Nero. Galba soon won the support of the legions while Nero, having fled Rome, was tried in absentia and condemned to death as an enemy of the people.
Hearing the news, Nero prepared to commit suicide but only did so with the help of a servant. His death led to the catastrophic Year of the Four Emperors in which the empire descended into civil war.