- Hardcover: 288 pages
- Publisher: Da Capo Press (September 7, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0306818906
- ISBN-13: 978-0306818905
- Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.2 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 18 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #446,997 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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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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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.
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.”
“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.”
“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.”
Bookviews.com, October 2010
“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.”
“An excellent corrective to myth and a good introduction to first-century Roman history.”
“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.”
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"Too late!" Nero gasped, looking up at the centurion with bulging eyes. "Is this your duty?" he asked. 
This doesn't sound right to me, so let us take a look at  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!"
"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. What he isn't doing, is asking the Centurion any rhetorical questions about duty or purpose. D-C removes Suetonius' final example of Nero's confusion and replaces it with perception.
There are a plethora of quotes that D-C provides citation for that the source cited doesn't feature at all. As with the example I've provided, if the quote is even "sort of" there, D-C often reverses its meaning or takes it completely out of context. This is unacceptable. Ironically, several of the "positive" editorial reviews that are quoted in Amazon's product description of the book, are taken completely out of context, too.
Bookviews.com, October 2010
What the review by Alan Caruba, a blogger on science with casual interest in history, actually says, is:
It is not that the book isn't heavily researched. It is that every single bit of research finds its way into what would otherwise be expected to be a fairly riveting story of a major historical event. The result is a story bogged down in minutia.
Dishonesty aside, if D-C's books were in the historical fiction or alternate history category, where they belong, I would gladly rate most of his books four and five stars. But I cannot get behind a "history book" that has worse scholarship than Wikipedia.
I highly recommend anyone interested in The Great Fire and Nero's reign to read the contemporaries, keeping in mind that they are uniformly hostile (whereas D-C seems to think he's a decent guy). The Twelve Caesars (Penguin Classics) by Suetonius is a sensational, gossip-filled biography that discusses the fire and is all we have on Nero's death (Tacitus' version is lost to us). Annals (Penguin Classics) by Tacitus gives a more fair and reserved biography, and slightly different view of the fire and Nero's response. On the city of Rome, and the ease with which an accidental fire could (and on occasion did) consume it completely, see The Ancient Roman City (Ancient Society and History) by Stambaugh.
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.
I doubt that I will read much or any of this book because it is anti-Christian. I don't have the time or interest to try to sort through his biases in search of useful information. I bought this book because I thought it was about the fire of Rome in 64AD - in my view it is mistitled. I was looking for additional background material about this historic event.
The author does not recognize the fact that there was a pro Christian eyewitness of that very fire. He also had privy to all of the secret communication of that event. And there is a copy of his view in about every home in America. He informs us...
1. Nero was without a doubt the one who set fire to the city of Rome just like Sutonius and Cassius Dio reported.
2. Unknown to history is that Nero colluded with some members of the equestrian class of leadership in Rome to burn the city.
3. He stated that the fire was the judgment of God on this corrupt city. He says that God put it in their hearts to burn the city.
4.Nero did in fact persecute and martyr Christians after the fire.
He just gave us the basic information. To me this is irrefutable because it comes from an absolute source.