The great fire of Rome was a devastating fire in AD 64. The fire was so fierce that it took six days to control it. Large estates were destroyed and many lives were lost. There are several accounts of what caused the fire, although it is firmly believed that it was Emperor Nero who initiated it. However, the emperor Nero blamed the Christians for the fire.
What caused the fire?
The possible causes of the fire come from three sources: Tacitus, Cassius God and Suetonius.A report explains that Nero paid arsonists to destroy the slums by lighting the fire. All this time, Nero looked from his palace while the fire consumed everything while playing a musical instrument called Lyre. This theory explains that he did nothing to fight the fire.
The second story blames the unpopular religion of the time called Christianity. During that time, strong believers of Christ emerged who wanted to convert everyone to Christianity. The theory states that the city was burned to harm those who oppose Christianity. Most people considered this theory as a detour to keep people’s minds away from the actual cause of the fire that popular belief had been caused by Emperor Nero.
The third account states that the fire was accidental. The accident occurred in the slums located south of the Palatine hills. This theory is supported by the fact that the fire occurred during the full moon, so any pyromaniac would have feared being noticed in the moonlight. This story also claims that Emperor Nero was on a country tour in a place called Antium and was shocked by the news that the city was on fire.
A section of modern scholars also postulates that the fire was intended to create the space for the construction of Nero’s “Domus Aurea”, a magnificent palace. However, this account is in doubt because the new building was actually 0.6 miles (one kilometer) from where the fire actually started. Most likely Nero would not have wanted to destroy his existing building called “Domus Transitoria” because he had invested heavily in his architectural design and expensive marble decorations.
Fire outbreak and progress
Tacitus explains that the fire started in the Circus region near the highlands of Celio and Palatine. The fire exploded from a shop where flammable objects were stored and spread rapidly at night due to the strong wind. The fire could not be contained due to the fact that the structures were built with flammable material and close to each other. The congested buildings have made it difficult to evacuate people leading to the loss of many lives. The fire is believed to have been accelerated by incendiary activities where young people threw burning torches across the area. The situation was compounded by other outbreaks of fire in the Aemilian district that destroyed the temple among other properties. During the six days of Rome devastated by fire,
The residential houses of both the rich and the poor were destroyed. The livelihood of thousands of people has been reduced to ashes leading to a desperate humanitarian need. Tacitus explains that Emperor Nero gave food and other essential goods to the devastated population. When the fire was finally removed, only four of the fourteen districts were left untouched. Three districts have been completely destroyed with seven districts in severe destruction.
According to Suetonius and Tacitus, many Christians were arrested and persecuted by the emperor Nero. This was to show people that the fire was actually ignited by Christians