History
Fact-checked

At WiseGEEK, we're committed to delivering accurate, trustworthy information. Our expert-authored content is rigorously fact-checked and sourced from credible authorities. Discover how we uphold the highest standards in providing you with reliable knowledge.

Learn more...

How Successful Was Emperor Nero at the Olympic Games?

Emperor Nero's Olympic venture was a spectacle of power rather than athletic prowess. He secured an unprecedented number of victories, but these were tainted by claims of favoritism and manipulation. His success was less about sportsmanship and more about showcasing imperial influence. How did his actions shape the ancient Olympics? Join us as we examine the impact of Nero's controversial games.
Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman

Nero was undoubtedly one of ancient Rome's most infamous emperors. History remembers his 14-year-reign as a period of debauchery, instability, and religious persecution. Perhaps the most famous, though certainly untrue, story about Nero is that he played his fiddle (or, to choose a more historically accurate instrument, lyre) as Rome burned in the fire of 64 A.D. – a fire he was rumored to have started so that he could build a large palace on the Palatine Hill.

Throughout his reign, Nero was more interested in music, art, and sports than in the day-to-day running of the empire. He instituted a series of public games in Rome, featuring oratory, music, poetry, gymnastics, and horse riding. He also trained as a charioteer so he could take part in various athletic contests himself.

The Roman Emperor Nero considered himself an artist and an athlete and bribed his way to victory in the chariot race in the Olympics of 67 AD.
The Roman Emperor Nero considered himself an artist and an athlete and bribed his way to victory in the chariot race in the Olympics of 67 AD.

Nero was fascinated with Hellenic culture and distracted himself from a growing list of political problems in Rome with an extended tour of Greece in which he indulged his passions for music and theater. One of the most notable episodes in this tour was when he participated in the Olympic Games.

Despite the religious significance of the ancient Olympics – and rules against emperors competing – Nero co-opted them for his own artistic and athletic vanity. He bribed the organizers to delay the Games by a year so that he could take part in 67 A.D. and insisted on adding artistic and musical competitions. Nero's Olympic participation included acting, singing, playing the lyre, and competing in chariot races. Of course, the somewhat overweight and unathletic Nero won every event that entered, including a four-horse chariot race that he entered with 10 horses and failed to finish when he was thrown from his chariot. He awarded himself the victory on the grounds that he would have won had he completed the race.

The demise of Nero:

  • Fed up with Nero's misrule and inability to resolve the growing unrest in the empire, the Praetorian Guard and the Senate finally declared Nero an enemy of the people in 68 A.D. They threw their support behind Galba, the governor of Hispania, who would become the next emperor.

  • Rather than face arrest, Nero took his own life. According to the historian Suetonius, the emperor's final words were "What an artist dies in me!"

  • After his death, Nero's name was removed from the list of Olympic champions.

Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman is a teacher and blogger who frequently writes for WiseGEEK about topics related to personal finance, parenting, health, nutrition, and education. Learn more...
Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman is a teacher and blogger who frequently writes for WiseGEEK about topics related to personal finance, parenting, health, nutrition, and education. Learn more...

You might also Like

Discuss this Article

Post your comments
Login:
Forgot password?
Register:
    • The Roman Emperor Nero considered himself an artist and an athlete and bribed his way to victory in the chariot race in the Olympics of 67 AD.
      By: Hyspaosines
      The Roman Emperor Nero considered himself an artist and an athlete and bribed his way to victory in the chariot race in the Olympics of 67 AD.