August 10, 2022
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Rome Is Burning

by Anthony Barrett

At once accessible, engaging, and comprehensive, this history of the great fire of 64 brings together textual scholarship and archaeology to paint a remarkably comprehensive picture of the disaster and its aftermath. Our main literary sources for Nero are uniformly hostile, and the Flavians who eventually took over the Roman Empire after Nero’s fall (and a year of chaos) had good reason to blacken Nero’s reputation. Barrett’s study of the passage in Tacitus on Nero’s persecution of the Christians is brilliant, lending new weight to a 19th-Century suspicion that the essence of this account is a much later interpolation. Heartily recommended.