Thursday, July 18, 2013

July 18 - Great Fire of Rome

According to Roman historian Tacitus, the Great Fire of Rome began on the night of July 18, 64 CE, breaking out in the merchant area and slums near the Palatine Hill, which today is one of the most ancient parts of the city. The fire spread quickly through highly flammable tenements (“insulae”) that dominated Rome, and burned for six days. Only four of the city’s 14 districts escaped the fire, and three were completely destroyed. The cause is uncertain, but many held Nero responsible – though he never played a fiddle (the instrument didn’t exist) or the lyre while Rome burned. To deflect blame, he used the fire to repress the growing influence of Christians. Nero may in fact have wanted to build a grander Rome, but large accidental fires were common in the ancient city, which burned again twice in the next 20 years. Thugs and bandits may have used arson as an opportunity for plunder. Over time a more spectacular Rome built of marble and stone arose, and the fire’s debris was used to fill the Tiber’s deadly, mosquito-infested marshes.

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