June 9, AD 68. Emperor Nero, the fifth emperor of the Roman Empire, kills himself with a knife to the throat as horsemen approached to capture him. Nero, known for being one of Rome’s most murderous and capricious leaders, became emperor when his step-father Claudius died in AD 54. He is suspected of killing his step-brother and is known to have been behind the executions of his mother and two wives as well as countless other rivals and innocent subjects. It is also said that Nero played the fiddle while Rome burned in the Great Fire of AD 64. Many people suspected him of starting the fire although, perhaps to deflect blame, he pointed the finger at Christians and ordered them to be thrown to the dogs, crucified or burned. His policies estranged him from other powerful figures and led to several plots and rebellions against him. He fled Rome and upon learning that the Senate wanted him dead, he took his own life although some accounts suggest he was too cowardly to do this and needed help from a servant. Nero’s death brought to an end the 95-year Julio-Claudian dynasty and was followed by a period of civil war and unrest. (Picture – The Remorse of the Emperor Nero after the Murder of his Mother,
1878 by John William Waterhouse)
Also on June 9: Jacques Cartier discovers the Saint Lawrence River (1534); Bulgaria undergoes a military coup (1923); Queen Elizabeth II opens London Gatwick Airport (1958).
Born on June 9: Cole Porter (1891), Patricia Cornwell (1956), Michael J. Fox (1961), Johnny Depp (1963), Natalie Portman (1981).