Burning of Rome

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The Burning of Rome actually refers to several conflagrations in the history of the city.

It has been said by Livy that the city was anciently burned when it was sacked in 387 B.C., but there appears to be little or no substantive archaeological evidence that it was actually burned at that time.

Rome was burned during a civil war in 83 B.C.; the fire lasted about one and a half days, confined to a limited area of the Capitol Hill.

The Great Fire of Rome in A.D. 64 during the reign of Nero is the most famous, and was one of the worst disasters in the history of the city. It lasted six days. The multitude of deaths was overwhelming and devastating. Many blamed Nero himself for arranging the setting of the fire by his agents. According to Suetonius and Eusebius the emperor used the disaster to blame and persecute the Christians as a way to eliminate Christianity with its belief in the Lord Jesus Christ, and to deflect blame from himself. Others claim that since Nero was away from the city, the fire was an accidental tragedy. There is no foundation to the rumor that Nero fiddled while Rome burned; it is recorded by contemporary sources that he was "entranced by the beauty of the flames" and that he sang the whole of the Fall of Troy from beginning to end as he watched. The Great Fire of Rome in A.D. 64 is almost universally the one connected with any mention of the burning of Rome.

But the burning of Rome again occurred in A.D. 69 with the defeat of the emperor Vitellius. Vespasian's army, under Primus's leadership, attacked and entered Rome on twenty December with street to street battles and a fire that engulfed the city. The fire burned for three days before it was extinguished.

Rome burned again in A.D. 80 during the reign of Titus, when fires spontaneously ignited in various places throughout the city. Again the fire blazed for three and half days, causing much devastation.[1]

One of the worst disasters in subsequent periods was the A.D. 410 sacking and burning of Rome under Alaric; this fire lasted about 2 days.

There were burnings after the sacking of Rome in 1084, and again by Lutheran forces attacking Rome as the heart of Catholicism in 1527.

In World War II, when the Allies took Rome from German occupation forces, Adolf Hitler issued orders for the burning of the city, but it was not carried out.

As with any urban center, the threat of arson and carelessly set accidental fires from burning of waste and rubbish, electrical fires, and natural "acts of God" such as lightning, forest fires, and possible volcanic activity from nearby Vesuvius and Mount Etna, have caused fires in Rome from time to time, from the Middle Ages to the present day, but stringently enforced modern civil regulations and the regular fire-fighting agencies in and around the city and its suburban areas and towns are normally able to quickly respond and control outbreaks of fires in Rome to minimize and eliminate such tragedies.


  1. Suetonius The Twelve Caesars, Titus 8; Cassius Dio, Roman History, LXVI, 24; Plutarch, Publicola, 15.1-4.

See also

Great Fire of Rome


Harmony of the Gospel (Conservative Version) longer form: Chapter Forty-eight

External links

Seven Times Rome Was Sacked (history.com)

The Burning of Rome, 64 AD (eyewitnesstohistory.com)

Great Fire of Rome - Wikipedia

Secrets of the Dead: The Great Fire of Rome - Background (PBS) (pbs.org)

Tacitus the Burning of Rome Essay (studymode.com)

Nero's Rome burns - HISTORY (history.com)

Adventures: Nero and the Burning of Rome, By Randall Miles (drivethruhistoryadventures.com)

10 Completely Different Views On The Great Fire Of Rome, Mark Oliver (listverse.com)

Roman Empire: Vitellius: abdication and burning of Rome (part 19)

Flavian Dynasty: History through Coinage: Fire of Rome 80 AD, Barry & Darling (flaviandynasty-wordpress.com)