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The Great Fire of Rome: The Fall of the Emperor Nero and His City Hardcover – September 7, 2010


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The Great Fire of Rome: The Fall of the Emperor Nero and His City + Blood of the Caesars: How the Murder of Germanicus Led to the Fall of Rome + Nero's Killing Machine: The True Story of Rome's Remarkable 14th Legion
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; First Edition edition (September 7, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306818906
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306818905
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #407,209 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Australian-born historian Dando-Collins vividly recreates one of history's most famous events. On a warm summer night in 64 C.E., a small fire broke out in a Roman shop; fanned by winds, the fire spread quickly, destroying huge parts of the city. The emperor, Nero, an accomplished lyre player and singer, was in Antium for a singing competition, and when news of the fire reached him, he reluctantly set sail for home. Nero announced an ambitious rebuilding plan, with bounties for landowners who completed reconstruction of buildings on their land in a prescribed period. Nero also planned for wider streets, which made him unpopular with many. Seeking to assign blame for the fire, Nero settled on the priests of Isis, persecuting them at public festivals. This drew the ire of Nero's critics, who believed the emperor himself had set the fire. Nero spent the last four years of his life in seclusion. Drawing heavily upon the conflicting accounts of the fire and Nero's rise and demise in the works of Roman historians Tacitus, Suetonius, and Cassius Dio, historian Dando-Collins energetically recreates the days leading up to the fire, the conflagration itself, and the subsequent decline of Nero's fortunes. 8 pages of b&w photos, maps.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

Publishers Weekly, 7/26/10
“Dando-Collins vividly recreates one of history’s most famous events…Dando-Collins energetically recreates the days leading up to the fire, the conflagration itself, and the subsequent decline of Nero’s fortunes.”

WTVF (CBS, Nashville), 9/7/10
“Did Nero really set fire to Rome in 64AD? More than just a convenient slam against a failed emperor, this book solves the historical puzzle and is interesting reading.”

Internet Review of Books, September 2010
“Dando-Collins manages the narrative skillfully, burying his transitions so that the story flows as easily and inevitably as the Tiber. The cruelty and violence are appalling but fascinating, and they help keep the pages turning…He writes with admirable enthusiasm and a good grasp of the things that interest him most, military affairs, plots, and power plays…Enjoy it!”
 
Washington Times, 9/17
“Dando-Collins takes readers inside ancient Rome and its political intrigues that unfold alongside a momentous human drama.”
 
Asbury Park Press, 9/19
“This book explores that fateful (for Rome, at least) night of July 19 in the year 64, when a blaze began beneath the Circus Maximus—ancient Rome's version of Madison Square Garden.”
 
PopMatters.com, 9/22
“Nero and the Great Fire of Rome is a tale that begs to be told; it is a heck of a good story…It is entertaining. It moves quickly and delivers its main points well.”
 
The Lone Star, September 2010
“[A] totally interesting book…You will learn the many secrets and the scandals that surround this most mysterious of historical event.”

InfoDad.com
, 9/30/10
“Very well-written and very well-paced…What Dando-Collins does so well, in addition to re-creating the sense of Rome 2,000 years ago, is explain both the confluence of events leading to the fire and the later circumstances that led to the besmirching of Nero’s name…A clearheaded, intelligent look at what sort of man the last Caesar seems really to have been, and how the devastating fire for which he was wrongly blamed led to the ruin of his rule and reputation.”

Bookviews.com
, October 2010
“Heavily researched”
 
Library Journal, 10/08/10
“Surprisingly little nonfiction exists for a general audience about the Great Fire of Rome…Dando-Collins fills this gap with an exciting, novelistic account of the fire that remains solidly grounded in the primary source literature…This book will appeal to general Roman history buffs and students with its fast pacing and dramatic content. Recommended.”
 
Italian America, Fall 2010
“Expos[es] the secrets and scandals surrounding this infamous historical event and separat[es] truth from legend.”

Kingman Daily Miner
, 10/8/10
“A page-turner and an insightful eye-opener to ancient Roman history…Brilliantly written and highly recommended.”
 
San Francisco Book Review website, 11/4/10
“Dando-Collins presents another side to the story…[His] hypotheses are well-researched…The language is refreshing, simple, and not overly academic…The book retains intrigue as Dando-Collins moves from the underlying turmoil that led up to the fire to the slow dethroning of Nero. Overall, it is an easy, entertaining read.”
 
Midwest Book Review, November 2010
“A fine addition to any history collection focusing on the time of antiquity.”
 
Military Heritage, January 2011
“Dando-Collins gives us an entirely different view of the events that led to the cataclysmic inferno that engulfed Rome on the evening of July 19, AD 64…[His] account of Nero’s brief life, the conspiracy that was concocted against him, and the great fire that consumed 70 percent of the Eternal City is intriguing.”
 
Asbury Park Press, 1/16/11
“Dando-Collins' chronicle of Nero's career is presented in the context of the dynamics of the empire as well as the lives of ordinary people in Rome in the first century. For most readers, it will shed new and interesting light on the man and the era.”
 
Reference & Research Book News, February 2011
“An excellent corrective to myth and a good introduction to first-century Roman history.”
 
Collected Miscellany, 4/25/11
“Dando-Collins does a superb job of describing the various plots to overthrow Nero and how he reacted to each threat…A fascinating look at ancient Rome and the power politics of the last days of the Caesar dynasty. Dando-Collins captures the scheming and back-stabbing among the power elite…A must-read for anyone interested in the politics of Rome.”

 

UNRV.com, 6/14/11
“A rather good story, well told...An interesting read and the style will appeal to many readers who may be reluctant to persevere with more ‘academic’ treatises.”

Curled Up with a Good Book, 7/4/11
“A vivid portrait of ancient Rome that is sure to fascinate readers and anyone with an interest in history…Roman civilization comes to life throughout…Skilled writing…Well-researched."

 


More About the Author

Stephen Dando-Collins is the author of Caesar's Legion: The Epic Saga of Julius Caesar's Elite Tenth Legion and the Armies of Rome, Nero's Killing Machine: The True Story of Rome's Remarkable Fourteenth Legion, Cleopatra's Kidnappers: How Caesar's Sixth Legion Gave Egypt to Rome and Rome to Caesar, and Mark Antony's Heroes: How the Third Gallica Legion Saved an Apostle and Created an Emperor. He is an Australian-born researcher, editor, and author who has spent the last three decades identifying and studying the individual legions of the Roman army of the late Republic and the empire of the Caesars.

Customer Reviews

That seems like an impossible mistake.
R. Smith
This book reflects on the how the Great Fire of Rome in 64 AD led to the fall of Emperor Nero four years later.
lordhoot
It should be of interest to a wide readership, especially ancient history enthusiasts.
G. Poirier

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Meaghan on August 26, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This is a pretty good account of the decline and fall of Nero; unfortunately, it is NOT really about the Great Fire of Rome. I think the fire is covered in only about two chapters before the author moves on to Nero's stunted singing (!) career and the assassination plots against him. One might call this a revisionist biography, as Dando-Collins argues that Nero wasn't that bad a guy, or at least no worse than any of the other Roman emperors.

Dando-Collins makes the argument that Nero did NOT persecute Christians after the Great Fire. He believes some chronicler substituted "Christians" for "followers of Isis." I am intrigued by this idea, but I don't like it how Dando-Collins just took his theory and ran with it, treating it as fact for the rest of the book.

I don't mean to sound overly critical. I did enjoy the book. I just think there are some aspects of it that are wide open to debate.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By lordhoot on October 1, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This book reflects on the how the Great Fire of Rome in 64 AD led to the fall of Emperor Nero four years later. Much of the book is filled with background material prior to the fire. However, from the author's point of view, it did appears that Nero initially tried to fight the fires although later on, he took advantages of what the end result of the fire provided him. Interestingly, the book didn't write much about the Christians being tormented as we see in some Hollywood movies. Perhaps the author realized (as many of us already knew) that there wasn't enough Christians in Rome during that time to create a scapegoat complex. So Nero went after the followers of Egyptian Goddess Iris who were more numerous in number. Nero seek a scapegoat because the growing rumours even back then, that he had a hand in the fire. Despite of Nero's best efforts, this wasn't going away so he needed a fall guy to take the blame. The book covered the fact that even afterward, many Roman historians still blame Nero for the fire. Whether this was a calculated effort at misinformation, it hard to tell. The book does say that most of Nero's contemporary historians does NOT blame Nero for the fire. But the negative press that Nero suffered from the fire during his life time, plus his frivolous lifestyle and his murderous tendencies, led to his downfall which was universally hailed in great rejoicing. The book does a very good job in describing all that in a very readable material. The author does take certain "liberties" with drama within the historical context but overall, I found the book highly entertaining and somewhat educational.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Katchak Yol on December 23, 2012
Format: Hardcover
In the introduction, page 10, is the following: "The so-called First Triumvirate, Octavian, Antony and Lepidus..." This is a major error as Octavian, Antony and Lepidus were the Second Triumvirate. Otherwise the fun reading that Dando-Collins does well.
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By El Gringo on March 14, 2014
Format: Hardcover
The other reviews, from 1 star to 5 are correct. D-C does try to rehabilitate Nero; there is only one chapter on the actual fire; it is told in a novelistic style (the first half at least); and he does claim that the followers of Isis were blamed for the crime--not Christians.

Some reviewers apparently took great offense at all this. As a Christian myself, I got an unsympathetic vibe from the book, but it wasn't egregiously offensive to me.

i found the book accessible, rich in detail, not pretentious, and the alternative history interesting and fun.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book has almost 0 to do with the great fire of Rome. 2 chapters give or take a few fleeting mentions. The rest was OK but not exactly the subject I was looking for.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is another superb book by Stephen Dando-Collins. I have enjoyed his series on famous Roman legions, and was anxious to read this when I saw that it was available. It did not disappoint. His narrative is based on ancient sources and speculation is well-controlled and useful. Dando-Collins is a fine stylist and a serious researcher. His portrait of Nero is the most well-balanced that I have tread in years. I strongly recommend this book.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By R. Smith on February 2, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Dando-Collins is always an amusing read. He tells an entertaining story and I have occasionally recommended his books for airplane reading. That said, of all of D-C's works, The Great Fire Of Rome has some of the worst, most dishonest citation I have ever seen. Using his depiction of Nero's last words is a small, nitpicking example:

"Too late!" Nero gasped, looking up at the centurion with bulging eyes. "Is this your duty?" he asked. [11]

This doesn't sound right to me, so let us take a look at [11] and see where Dando-Collins got this quotation. Notes 8-11 are sourced as Suetonius 6.47. Okay, let's find what translation D-C has used. Hmm. The Bibliography doesn't even list Suetonius' The Twelve Caesars, in my copy. That seems like an impossible mistake. I suppose we could blame the editor. Fine, we will check his quotation against both Robert Graves (Penguin Classics), J. C. Rolfe (Loeb Classical Library) and, heck, we'll even check it against the Latin.

Graves translates the final lines:

Nero muttered, 'Too late! But, ah, what fidelity!'

Rolfe's translation is:

He was all but dead when a centurion rushed in, and as he placed a cloak to the wound, pretending that he had come to aid him, Nero merely gasped: "Too late!" and "This is fidelity!"

The Latin:

"Sero," et: "Haec est fides."

Even for a beginner in Latin, this phrase is simple and its meaning clear - and the translations both get it right - Nero is speaking of the Centurion's futile attempt to save his life as fidelity, he is mistaken that this is a demonstration of loyalty. He is contrasting this "fidelity" against the "infidelity" of the Guardsmen, bodyguards, and everyone else that has recently abandoned him.
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