Analysis: | | Initial Questions and Sources for Answers: | | Lingering Questions: | Other Useful Pages: | | | | | | Work Cited






Inscriptiones Latinae Selectae 8794
(Acraephiae in Boeotia)
Nero_Bust.jpg
Emperor Nero

The emperor Caesar says:
'Wishing to repay your goodwill toward me and your piety, 1 have instructed the nobility of Greece from the province to assemble in as great a number as possible at Corinth on the 29th of November.'

When the crowds gathered at the assembly, he announced what is inscribed below:

'I am showing my gratitude by a gift that was unforeseen by you, men of Greece, though also hardly unexpected in the light of my grandeur, a gift so great that you have not been able to ask for it. All those inhabiting Achaea and what was until now the Peloponnese, are to receive a freedom from fresh taxes, which you did not all enjoy even in your most prosperous periods (when you were either slaves of outsiders or of one another). I wish that I were offering this gift when Greece was at its peak, so that more could enjoy my generosity. Hence I begrudge the passage of time for having eaten into the greatness of my generosity. Now, however, 1 am not being generous to you from pity, but from kindness, and 1 thank your gods whose continual goodwill to me 1 have experienced by land and sea, that they have allowed me to be so generous to you. For various generals have likewise given freedom to cities, but I, Nero, am giving it to the entire province.'

The chief priest of those who were Augusti when alive and of Claudius Nero Caesar Augustus, Epaminondas, son of Epaminondas, said:

'He has won approval from the senate and the people for this decree. Since the ruler of the whole world, Nero, the greatest emperor, designated for tribunician power for the thirteenth time, father of the fatherland, the new Helios shining on the Greeks, having announced his generosity to the Greeks, thanking and showing respect to our gods who always assist him in judgment and ensure his safety, the one and only emperor throughout the ages who has been the greatest lover of Greece, Nero-Zeus the Liberator, has given and made a present of the freedom that through all time has been born here and is native to the land but had previously been taken away from the Greeks, and since he has returned the country to the ancient state of self-rule and freedom, adding exemption from taxes to this great and unexpected gift, a boon that none of the previous emperors has given in entirety -because of all this, it has been resolved by the magistrates, the councils, and the populace to dedicate at the present time an altar to Zeus the Saviour, inscribing on it "To Zeus the Liberator, Nero, for all time", and in the temple of Apollo Ptoios that there be placed next to those of our ancestral gods statues of Nero Zeus the Liberator, and the divine Augusta ___ [either Octavia or Poppaea Sabina, erased] so that, when these are completed, our city will also be seen to have fulfilled its duties of honour and piety to the house of the emperor Augustus Nero. The resolution will be inscribed on a stele in the marketplace by the temple of Zeus the Saviour and in the temple of Apollo Ptoios.'

Trans: T. Parkin and A. Pomeroy, Roman Social History: A Sourcebook (Routledge, 2007).



Analysis:

This document gives us insight to the personal strive for popularity of emperor Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus amongst the empire, the resulting strengthening of relationship between the province of Achaea and Rome, and the impact his removal of taxation on Achaea had, all due to his announcement of liberation for all of Greece.

We learn from Nero’s gratitude specifically to the Greek gods in keeping him safe on his journey to Greece that Nero was searching to gain popularity amongst people in his empire. We also see in his original reason for visiting Greece (to compete in the Olympic Games), that Nero’s intentions were much greater than his love for entertainment and sport. Nero’s journey to Greece was a journey designed to improve and strengthen relations between the Romans and the Greeks. This is not to say however, that Roman and Greek relations were not strong already. Many Romans admired Greece for their study of philosophy and science. This is clearly seen in Nero’s speech when he says, “I wish that I were offering this gift when Greece was at its peak.” Nero admired and respected Greece just as many Romans did during this time and the strong relationship between Rome and this province can be seen in the strong presence of Greco-Roman culture in each of these regions at the time. Nero’s liberation of Greece thus was directed at strengthening the already stable relationship between the Greeks and the Romans.

This document also teaches us that Nero was successful in his objective to gain popularity amongst the Greeks. Nero sought this popularity in particular because he respected the Greeks for their athletics and art. To be popular amongst the Greeks was therefore highly sought after by Nero because of his own passions for entertainment and sports. Nero was clearly successful in his mission. We see this in how Epaminondas refers to him in his praise as "Nero-Zeus the Liberator" thus granting him the same respect and notoriety as the divine. Nero is also successful in that he raises his legacy above that of previous Romans who attempted to liberate Greece, in particular Flamininus. This respect was two sided though. Just as the Greeks praised Nero, Nero too showed respect towards the Greek gods in return. This is seen in his speech when Nero states, “1 thank your gods whose continual goodwill to me 1 have experienced by land and sea.” Nero also paid his respect to the Greek gods upon his return to Rome. Dressed in a traditional Greek garb during his triumph, Nero ended his chariot ride at the temple of Apollo rather than at the temple of Jupiter. Bringing the gods together of Rome and Greece, Nero clearly succeeded in gaining popularity from the Greeks.

Finally, this document gives insight to the impact the removal of taxation in Achaea had for the people of Greece. He is compared to the divine, is promised a temple in his honor, and is known as the savior. This kind of liberation was not common in Roman history. In fact, during Nero’s reign, his journey to Greece was the only large scale travel he made, and was certainly the only province he granted this kind of liberation to. By removing tax, especially the poll tax which people in the provinces were subjected to unfairly by greedy provincial governors, Nero lifted a heavy burden from all people of Greece. Besides Greece though, it is important to note that Nero’s administrative policies called for large scale tax cuts because Nero believed that some of the taxes implemented by the Senate were too harsh on the poor. This being said, Nero’s liberation truly had a significant impact for the people of Greece. His liberation granted the people of Greece freedom from taxes, freedom from Roman governor rule, and Roman citizenship.


Though Nero’s reign as emperor can be seen negatively due to the resulting withering Roman treasury, his seemingly lack of action during the Roman fires, and his low military involvement, this document does show one of his most successful achievements as emperor in his liberation of Greece. However, Nero's liberation did not last long. Under the reign of the emperor Vaspasian, Nero's successor, Greece found itself in civil war. Vaspasian then ordered that the Greeks pay tribute to Rome as well as be subjected to the rule of a governor as they had before.



Nero_Coin.jpg
Coin of Nero from Corinth. Front shows Nero, Back says "Jupiter the Liberator"




Initial Questions and Sources for Answers:


What types of taxes were the Greeks subjected to?

Roman Taxes in the Provinces

What motivation did Nero have in granting the entire province freedom? Was it economical, political, etc.?

Valuable Resources Greece Provides

Taxes seem like the thing the priest praises Nero for most. What state was Rome in economically at this point in time?

Roman Economy During Nero's Rule

What significance does comparing Emperor Nero to a Greek god like Zeus have? What significance does it have for the Roman people? For the Greeks?

Coinage as Evidence of Nero's Success in Popularity (Pages 233-234)

How did Nero's rule influence the relationship between Greece and Rome?

Nero's Popularity
Original Intentions on Journey to Greece


What significance do some of the nicknames have that the chief priest gives Nero such as "Helios shining on the Greeks" and "Nero-Zeus the Liberator"?


Nero and the Greek Gods



Lingering Questions:

Why would the nobility of Greece be instructed to assemble?

What were the experiences that Nero describes on land and sea? Which Greek gods are he referring to?
John_William_Waterhouse_-_The_Remorse_of_the_Emperor_Nero_after_the_Murder_of_his_Mother.jpg
John Waterhouse's painting of Nero's remorse after the murder of his own mother



Other Useful Pages:


Tax Disputes:
This page gives even further insight to the types of taxes people were subjected to under Roman rule. In particular, the document analysis touches on the fact the tax collectors in the Roman provinces would take advantage of the people by taxing them more than was necessary in order to make a profit. Though this document focuses on the province in Egypt were as the Praise for Nero takes place in Greece, it is easy to see the connection in the harships faced by the people of the provinces who were subjected to these taxes. Also it is interesting to note that the dates of each of these documents are very close to one another thus giving further insight to the mal practices of tax collecting in the provinces that was occuring regularly at this time and the magnitude of Nero eliminating them in Greece must have had.

Oath of Allegiance:
This page is great in that connects the emperor Augustus Caesar to the God Zeus in a similar way that Epamimondas in this document says the people of Greence would compare Nero to Zeus. This connection is interesting in that it shows that the emporers seemed to have made it their mission to become divine in the eyes of their people. This document also nicely touches on in the analysis how emporers became so important and so popular that people would give their allegiance to the emporer rather than to the Senate or the Roman state. This again connects to Nero's desire for popularity amongst his people. In Greece, Nero wanted people to pledge their alligiance to him so that he would achieve that divine status that was so sought after by the emporers. Clearly though in the case of Nero, being praised in one region of the Roman empire does not mean you are praised everywhere.

Unhappy Veterans:
This is an interesting document to look at if you are interested in the opposite perspective of Nero. Though the Praise for Nero presents one of the seemingly rare instances where Nero's reign was viewed positively, Unhappy Veterans shows the other side. Again this document illustrates the unfair taxes people were subjected to (in this case even against Roman law) and shows the people's discontent with Nero. The analysis of this document touches on the fact that several years before the document was written, Nero had made several fiscal reforms to reinforce veteran's rights. However, clearly these were not enough to satisfy the people and were certainly not carried out as law said it should. This document essentially presents the other side to Nero thus proving his popularity in some regions, and his despise in others.


Work Cited