Late in the night, on 18th July AD64, a small fire began to take hold in a group of shops near Circus Maximus in the city of Rome. Before long the densely populated city was alight. The fire roared through the winding lanes of the city, eating up the wooden apartment buildings and leaving nothing in its wake. The fire would burn for six days before it was put under control. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before it was reignited and for another three days, the Romans fought to save what was left of their city. By the time the fire was totally extinguished, over two-thirds of the city was destroyed.

Rumours Spread Faster Than The Fire

Following the fire, rumours spread about the whereabouts of the absent Emperor Nero. People wanted to know where Rome’s leader was whilst their city burned. One particular rumour that spread suggested that Nero had been watching the devastation from the safety of his villa on the Quirinal Hill. Another even suggested that Nero himself was behind the lighting of the fires, so he could make room for his planned new palace.

Persecution of Christians

In response to these rumours, Nero suggested that maybe the Christians were behind the firestorm. This rumour, strongly supported by an already suspicious and hostile public, would be the catalyst for the Persecution of Christians throughout the Roman Empire. The persecution was both unforgiving and violent, with many Christians being murdered, crucified and then fed to the lions.


Following the fire, Nero played a huge role in rebuilding the city and making sure that his much-desired Domus Aurea palace, would be built. The lake below the palace would eventually become the site of the Colosseum. Nero would also become the first Emperor to establish fire codes for the city.