The Roman emperor Nero is remembered as the vain and immoral monster who fiddled while Rome burned. He murdered his younger brother and rival to the throne. He then murdered his mother, with whom he may have slept. He killed his pregnant wife in a fit of rage, then castrated and married a young freedman because he resembled her. Without seeking to rehabilitate Nero, Champlin reinterprets his enormities on their own terms, as the self-conscious performances of an imperial actor with a formidable grasp of Roman history and mythology.