It’s an iconic image, symbolising madness, decadence and a corrupt lust for power. But did it actually happen?
In all probability, it didn’t. For a start, the fiddle would not be invented for another thousand years – Nero played the lyre. And according to Tacitus, Nero not only wasn’t in Rome when the fire occurred, but raced back to organise the relief efforts and funded a large portion of the reconstruction of the city from his own purse. Hardly a picture of a depraved monster, is it?
The fire is believed to have started near the Circus Maximus. It burned for seven days and five nights – on the fifth day, it was nearly quelled before flaring up with renewed strength. Of the city’s 14 districts, seven were damaged and three destroyed outright.
One of the greatest political figures of the Twentieth Century, Nelson Mandela was born in the village of Mvezo, in the Umtata district of South Africa. He was descended from a cadet branch of the ruling clan of Umtata, the Thembu dynasty, and his father served for a time as village cheif in Mvezo.
From these not exactly humble beginnings, Mandela would go on to become a prominent anti-aparthied activist who engaged in acts of violent sabotage against the ruling white regime in South Africa; to serve 27 years in prison as a result of this; and finally, to become the first Prime Minister of a racially equal South Africa when apartheid was finally dismantled. For his long life of work, and his influence in promoting peaceful change (at least, after his imprisonment he did), he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993, which he shared with Frederik Willem de Klerk, the white leader with whom Mandela had successfully ended apartheid.