Nero at the Olympic games A.R. 816.

WAG 7736


This is one of a group of drawings by British artist and book illustrator Edward Francis Burney, depicting scenes from Greek and Roman history and mythology. One of the inscriptions on the margin, May No. 7, seems to refer to the month in a calendar for which Burney created this frontispiece drawing. He executed many headpieces of this kind for pocket calendars and memorandum books between 1796 to 1829. [See correspondence between Patricia Crown and Edward Morris, in the docket file] According to ancient historians such as Suetonius and Philostratus II, Emperor Nero was persuaded to participate in the Olympic Games of 67 CE in order to improve relations with Greece and to display Roman dominance. Custom required that the Olympic Festival should have been held the year before, but Nero ordered the Eleans to postpone it until his visit. As a competitor, he raced a ten-horse chariot, and nearly died after being thrown from it. He was put back into the chariot, but was unable to hold out and gave up before the end of the course. He received the crown just the same. In return he presented the entire province of Olympia with its freedom and gave the judges Roman citizenship and a large sum of money.