Nero: Emperor and Court.
Nero: Emperor and Court
John F. Drinkwater
Cambridge University Press
One Liberty Plaza, Fl. 20, New York, NY 10006
9781108472647, $44.99, HC, 464pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Nero (15 December 37-9 June 68 AD) was the last Roman emperor of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. He was adopted by his great-uncle Claudius and became Claudius' heir and successor. Like Claudius, Nero became emperor with the consent of the Praetorian Guard. Nero's mother, Agrippina the Younger, was likely implicated in Claudius' death and Nero's nomination as emperor. She dominated Nero's early life and decisions until he cast her off. Five years into his reign, he had her murdered. (Wikipedia)
"Nero: Emperor and Court" by John F. Drinkwater (Emeritus Professor of Roman Imperial History at the University of Nottingham, England) portrays Nero, not as the murderous tyrant of tradition, but as a young man ever-more reluctant to fulfil his responsibilities as emperor and ever-more anxious to demonstrate his genuine skills as a sportsman and artist. This reluctance caused him to allow others to rule, and rule surprisingly well, in his name.
On its own terms, the Neronian empire was in fact remarkably successful. Nero's senior ministers were many and various, but notably they included a number of powerful women, such as his mother, Agrippina II, and his second and third wives, Poppaea Sabina and Statilia Messalina.
Using the most recent archaeological, epigraphic, numismatic and literary research, "Nero: Emperor and Court" explores issues such as court-politics, banter and free speech; literary, technological and scientific advances; the Fire of 64, 'the persecution of Christians' and Nero's 'Golden House'; and the huge underlying strength, both constitutional and financial, of the Julio-Claudian empire.
Critique: An impressive work of impeccable scholarship, "Nero: Emperor and Court" is enhanced for academia with the inclusion of figures, tables, a twelve page listing of References, and a fifteen page Index. Exceptionally well organized, this seminal biographical history will prove to be an enduringly valued contribution to the Imperial Roman History collections and supplemental studies reading lists. It should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Nero: Emperor and Court" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $27.83).
Willis M. Buhle