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The fire of Rome: AD 64

In AD 64 Rome suffers the most disastrous fire in its entire history, with only a third of its districts spared the flames. It is widely agreed that the emperor, Nero, makes good temporary provision for the homeless; and soon he puts in hand an excellent rebuilding of the city.

But the rumour grows that he himself started the fire, the act of a reckless and self-indulgent tyrant (a reputation which he has done much to deserve) seeking the pleasure of the spectacle and a chance to indulge his known interest in architecture. To scotch this rumour he needs a culprit. He blames the Christians and - according to Tacitus, writing only a generation later - persecutes them in a Peculiarly brutal manner.

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