Book review: Nero

by Jurgen Malitz


I’m tempted to simply quote the opening chapter of my book about Revelation. Most of that first chapter comes directly from this book. I begin with a series of short glimpses into the life of Nero Caesar in an attempt to portray the demons within the man named by Revelation as the Beast of the Sea.

Nero was the fifth Roman emperor, and thus the fifth “king” of seven in the book of Revelation. He’s one of the most fascinating emperors of the era, sharing the title (in my opinion) with Augustus and Caligula. He’s known as a narcissistic tyrant, and the man who single-handedly ended the reign of the Caesars (the original family line) by putting every possible heir to death. He’s also known, of course, for his brutal and imaginative persecution of Christians. But Malitz also gives credit where credit is due, outlining Nero’s more positive contributions from earlier in his reign.

A short chapter near the end of the book discusses Nero’s “afterlife,” the enduring legend which sprang up in his name as the antichrist, 666. It was believed by many (including, apparently, John of Patmos) that Nero would come back to life to regain his throne by force. Nero is the ruler who dies and lives again as the eighth king of Revelation.

Mesmerizing and fun, if you have any interest at all in this stuff, you won’t be able to put the book down. Admittedly, many of the more sensational Nero stories are of questionable authenticity (such as blaming him for setting the fire that destroyed Rome near the end of his reign) and separating fact from fiction can be a challenge, but for me, writing from a Christian viewpoint, both sides are equally important.

This is a relatively short book, ending officially after 113 pages, but immediately following this is a translation of Suetonius’ The Lives of the Twelve Caesars.

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