Nero was a kind of a hippy emperor that loved to mix and drink wine with charioteers, actors, musicians, prostitutes and who, more than anything else, despised the hypocrisy pervading the top echelon of Roman society. – from the Foreword by Alex Lo, Columnist for the South China Morning Post
Four and half centuries ago, Girolamo Cardano, a polymath in the mould of Leonardo da Vinci, wrote a spirited defence of the Roman emperor Nero, commonly held to be a monster and murderer, who fiddled while Rome burned and then blamed it all on Christians. He titled it Neronis Encomium – that is to say, a work in praise of Nero. To escape censure and accusations of heresy, he pretended that it was just a rhetorical exercise.
Through astute historiography, only duplicated recently, Cardano, a man of immense erudition, saw clearly that the sources on which every biographers had relied, Tacitus and Suetonius, were biased and partial.
Perhaps he found in Nero a kindred spirit, for Cardano had himself been the victim of slander on the occasion of his son’s execution. Amazingly, this important work has never before been translated in English.
Angelo Paratico, an Italian writer and a collector of ancient books, has made this fascinating work available, not just to scholars but to anyone interested in one of history’s most engrossing figures, an emperor, a god, a man of prodigious sexual and cultural appetites, yet a protector of the poor and downtrodden.
At a time when history is increasingly rewritten for political ends, Cardano’s book on the great Nero remains as relevant as it was when first published in Basel, Switzerland, in September 1562.
A native of Milan, now based in Hong Kong, Angelo Paratico is a journalist and writer in both Italian and English. His novels include Black Hole (2008); The Karma Killers (2009) and Ben (2010).
Test of the Neronis Encomium Taken from the Opera Omnia of Girolamo Cardano in 10 folio volumes. The Neronis Encomium is in Vol. I
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