On this day in history, June 9th, in 68 A.D, the Julio-Claudian dynasty came to an end with the death of Nero.

After the Great Fire, Nero resumed plans for the Domus Aurea. In order to finance this project, Nero needed money and set about to get it however he pleased. He sold positions in public office to the highest bidder, increased taxes and took money from the temples. He devalued currency and reinstituted policies to confiscate property in cases of suspected treason.

These new policies resulted in the Pisonian conspiracy, a plot formed in 65 by Gaius Calpurnius Piso, an aristocrat, along with knights, senators, poets and Nero’s former mentor, Seneca. They planned to assassinate Nero and crown Piso the ruler of Rome. The plan was discovered, however, and the leading conspirators, as well as many other wealthy Romans, were executed.

Just three years later, in March 68, the governor Gaius Julius Vindex rebelled against Nero’s tax policies. He recruited another governor, Servius Sulpicius Galba, to join him and to declare himself emperor. While these forces were defeated and Galba was declared a public enemy, support for him increased, despite his categorization as a public enemy. Even Nero’s own bodyguards defected in support of Galba.

Fearing that his demise was imminent, Nero fled. He planned to head east, where many provinces were still loyal to him, but had to abandon the plan after his officers refused to obey him. He returned to his palace, but his guards and friends had left. He ultimately received word that the Senate had condemned him to death by beating and so he decided to commit suicide. Unable to carry out the deed by himself, however, his secretary, Epaphroditos, assisted him. As he died, Nero was said to have exclaimed, ‘What an artist dies in me!’


Art of the Day | Head of Drusus Minor

This monumental marble portrait is of Drusus Minor, son of the emperor Tiberius. The sensitivity of the carving, the excellent state of preservation, and the monumental scale distinguish it as the most accomplished portrait of the Julio-Claudian prince to have survived from antiquity. The portrait was carved during a momentous transitional period in world history, roughly contemporary with the ministry of Jesus Christ.

Head of Drusus Minor (13 B.C. - A.D. 23),probably after A.D. 23 and likely before A.D. 37, Roman, 1st century marble, Overall - h:35.00 cm (h:13 ¾ inches). Leonard C. Hanna, Jr. Fund 2012.29