Sunday, September 16, 2012


A POEM found in Upper Egypt sheds new light on the infamous wife of Emperor Nero, calling her a favorite of the gods.

The poem, written in Classical Greek, treats Poppaea Sabina, the wife of the controversial emperor, as a goddess - describing her ascending into the heavens and painting a touching portrait of the couple.

Due to the lettering style, researchers believe the poem was written around 300 AD - two hundred years after Nero's death, leaving a mystery as to why someone more than 1,400 miles from Rome would wish to write a tribute so many years later.

Nero has gone down in history as one of Rome's most cruel, depraved and megalomaniac rulers, often indulging in orgies and blamed for a devastating city fire which allowed the emperor to rebuild the city to his own tastes.

Poppaea was also criticised at the time and has gone down in history as one of the great villainesses of all time. She was portrayed with exquisite lasciviousness by Patricia Laffan in the splashy Technicolor epic Quo Vadis (photo). 

When, according to ancient records, Nero killed his first wife Octavia, Poppaea was said to have been presented with her head.

She then convinced Nero to commit matricide and was, according to the records, the real power behind the throne.

But the poem sees Poppaea in a different light, with the goddess Aphrodite welcoming her to the stars, telling her: 

My child, stop crying and hurry up: with all their heart Zeus' stars welcome you and establish you on the moon...

The poem was discovered 100 years ago - but was only recently translated.

Two excavators, Bernard Grenfell and Arthur Hunt, found hundreds of thousands of scrolls in ancient city dumps in Oxyrhynchus in Egypt.

The town had a population of around 10,000 at the time of the Romans, and the papyri contained thousands of records and details of life in the era. 

While Nero has gone down as one of history's bad guys, Hadrian has gone down as one of history's good guys. His reign (from 117 to 138 A.D.) came at the beginning of the golden age of the Roman Empire, after the excesses of earler rulers such as Tiberius, Caligula and Nero and before the decline and fall set in.

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