by Tim Pratt
Popular cliché has it that Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus (better known as Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, or simply the Emperor Nero) played the fiddle while Rome burned. But here are some facts: Rome burned in the year 64, and fiddles (well, violins, but the distinction is only one of playing style, so let's not quibble) didn't emerge until the 16th century. Thus, you might assume Nero could not possibly have played the fiddle while singing "The Sack of Ilium" in full stage dress and watching his city disappear into beautiful flames. He could have played the lyre, certainly; in addition to violent rages, consistent sadism, and a tendency toward incest, Nero was famously a performer, more so than any other Emperor, and he knew his way around a harp.