Nero, we think, is much misunderstood. After his death, the senate voted to strike over his records (acta) and denounce him as a malevolent tyrant. Of course, he was capricious and prone to fits of rage when things didn’t go his way. But a tyrant he was most likely not. In later years, scholars have tried to reconstruct his acta, looking beyond the posthumous state propaganda, and the image that emerges is one of an aesthete who primarily cared for poetry, acting, interior decorating and such. It was almost as if Nero was burdened with the yoke of government and administration, and when things didn’t go his way, he reacted by ordering the death of those around him.
In fact, Gibbon, the great historian, never believed the state propaganda. Thus he said of Nero: “[Nero] excelled … in the elegant arts of music and poetry we should not despise his persuits, had he not converted the pleasing relaxation … into the [prime] ambition of his life.”