Marble bust of Nero's head, looking straight forward.

Past exhibition

27 May – 24 October 2021

Room 30

The Sainsbury Exhibitions Gallery

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Nero is known as one of Rome's most infamous rulers, notorious for his cruelty, debauchery and madness.

The last male descendant of the emperor Augustus, Nero succeeded to the throne in AD 54 aged just 16 and died a violent death at 30. His turbulent rule saw momentous events including the Great Fire of Rome, Boudicca's rebellion in Britain, the execution of his own mother and first wife, grand projects and extravagant excesses.

Drawing on the latest research, this major exhibition questioned the traditional narrative of the ruthless tyrant and eccentric performer, revealing a different Nero, a populist leader at a time of great change in Roman society.

Through some 200 spectacular objects, from the imperial palace in Rome to the streets of Pompeii, visitors could follow the young emperor's rise and fall and make up their own minds about Nero. Was he a young, inexperienced ruler trying his best in a divided society, or the merciless, matricidal megalomaniac history has painted him to be?

Exhibition trailer

Trailer for Nero: the man behind the myth



View the large print guide, which is designed for visually impaired visitors and provides all the exhibition text in large print. You can also view the plain English guide, which is designed for learning-disabled visitors and provides a description of 10 key objects from the exhibition in plain English.



Teachers' resources

Discover ideas for learning in the classroom with free downloadable resources for teachers.

For students aged 7–18 (KS2 – KS5).


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