Secrets of the Dead: The Nero Files premieres Wednesday, February 20 at 10 p.m. on PBS (check local listings).
Streams February 21 via pbs.org/secrets and PBS apps.
The Roman emperor Nero is considered one of history’s greatest criminals. His name has become synonymous with evil, as historic accounts have accused him of killing his stepbrother, his wife and his mother, as well persecuting Christians and instigating the devastating Great Fire of Rome. This is the judgement that is passed in history from one generation to the next, but are these accounts of Nero’s reign accurate? New scientific discoveries and a closer examination of the ancient texts written about Nero cast a different light on the Roman emperor and the accusations levelled against him. Secrets of the Dead: The Nero Files follows internationally renowned criminal psychologist Thomas Müller and a team of scientists and historians as they investigate the new evidence in order to discover the truth about the controversial emperor.
Noteworthy Moments in Nero’s Timeline
- As his stepson, Nero should not have inherited the throne after Claudius’ death. But Brittanicus, the rightful heir as Claudius’ biological son, was too young to become emperor, allowing Nero to take control. It is believed that Nero had Britannicus killed by poisoning his drink to eliminate a potential adversary.
- It is believed that Nero turned to matricide because of an ongoing power struggle with his mother He engineered a plan to have her swept off a boat and drowned at sea.
- The phrase ‘fiddling while Rome burned,” refers to the belief that Nero played music while watching the destruction of his city. He’s also been accused of starting the terrible blaze in order to make room for his own construction projects and then, after blaming Christians for the fire, had them brutally and publically executed.
- In one of the darkest tales of Nero’s reign, it is believed the emperor killed his wife, Poppaea Sabina, by kicking her in the stomach while she was pregnant with their child.
Secrets of the Dead: The Nero Files is a production of Interspot Film in association with THIRTEEN Productions LLC for WNET. Directed by Klaus T. Steindl. Stephanie Carter is executive producer for Secrets of the Dead.