THE IMPERIAL CAPITAL – XXVIII Augustus, Year X of the Consulship of His Imperial Majesty (LXIV Common Era)
In the midst of a series of devastating fires that threaten to consume the entire Imperial Capital, His Majesty the Imperator Nero Cladius Divi Claudius Filius Caesar Augustus Germanicus (Emperor Nero) hosted a rare public press conference to extol his urban improvement campaign of Bread, Circuses, and Parks.
“These fires are actually a good thing for Rome. Blocks and blocks of obsolete and crowded housing, private businesses, scholae and temples are being cleared to make room for several new parks and open public areas,” proclaimed the Emperor. “The accompanying breakdown in public order and public safety will encourage weaker and less committed Romans to flee the City. Those who are left will appreciate these new pastoral spaces even more. Hail Caesar!”
“Hail Caesar!” was shouted in response by the Emperor’s counselor, advisor, food taster and Royal Lapdog, the Chief Eunuch Antonius, standing behind and to the right of His Majesty.
When the floor was opened for questions, Nero was asked whether the breakdown in public safety was actually a major threat to the lives and property of the citizens and people of Rome.
The Emperor thundered in reply, “Silence! I speak today only of Bread, Circuses and Parks! Do not trifle with lesser matters. My legacy will be measured in the open spaces that will bear my name for all time. People live and die; the poor are always with us. A garden goes on forever, watched over of course by those few Roman City Guards who remain at their posts. Harsh Not the Imperial Mellow!!”
“Don’t let them steal your joy!” echoed the Eunuch Antonius.
A local tribune of the people, Marcus Pontonius, dared to ask the question that was on the minds of all those in attendance, a question asked by many in the Roman Forum for many years of Nero’s Imperium, even before the current rash of fires. “These fires have occurred under your Administration, and as a result of your policies and your decisions. Will you resign?”
“No,” said Nero. “Why would I do that? Do you know what I had to do to get to this position? Well, do you? My mother slew her husband, my predecessor the Emperor Claudius, with poison mushrooms. Do you know how hard those are to come by?”
“You should be blaming Claudius, not me, for all these fires, after all. He accepted millions of denarii in funds to build housing blocks from the surrounding villas and towns of Rome that would have been used to house citizens in their towns. This over-abundance of dense housing was his creation, not mine.
“These fires are gifts from the Gods, and they are merely clearing out the rabble from this great city.
“Resign? Why would I resign? I have worked too hard to become a living God to resign!!”
“I have done nothing but good for the City! Rather, it is you scribes and disloyal Romans who should be punished. You pass on nothing but tales of woe, unhappiness, plague and disaster. I should take all of out and put you to death!”
The Chief Eunuch behind the Emperor glared at the assembled scribes and rubbed his hands together, as if he relished the chance to personally crucify the Emperor’s Critics.
Nero finished the session with a dismissive grunt and a wave of his hand. He then turned to leave the Imperial Press Room, as smoke burned the eyes and filled the lungs of all in attendance.
Rome, the Eternal, the Proud, continued to burn.