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Nero's Favourite Slave

Sit back for one of the really fun stories (he said sarcastically). Another chapter that was cut from TRINITY.

This story is a fine example of how it is of utmost importance that we hear the gruesome stories of the past, even though we may get offended. Even though it may trigger unpleasant memories of traumatic events that we have experienced. We must know our history, so we can avoid making really bad mistakes in the future.

Some time ago, while I was still studying Theology at Copenhagen University, I was in the middle of Latin class at University. Our most entertaining and competent Latin professor, whom I out of respect should refer to as Doctor V, as he was, after all, a PhD, told us a fascinating story to describe the societal standards of the first century Roman Empire. This was of course to provide us with a perspective into which we could place the ancient Latin text, with which we were indulging ourselves. In my retelling, the story went something like this:

Nero ruled the Roman empire from the year 54 to 68AD. The ruthless customs of the Roman empire were dictated by the emperors thereof. Roman emperors were known for their brutality, but Nero set a whole new standard for bat-shit-crazy. He was his own special kind of evil. Slavery was standard in the roman empire, and under Nero slavery was a thing that could make the later enslavement of Africans in the dawning America look like summer camp. Being a slave under the reign of Nero was frightening at best of times, but it was, nonetheless, the norm. Childhood slavery was also standard, as was the sexual abuse by emperors of young slave boys, if they possessed a certain level of beauty and sexual attraction. Nero also had a proclivity for beating up his wives, and after his third wife had died from “childbirth”, he seemed to tire of the females. He decided to marry Sporus, an absolute dish of a 10-year-old boy and thus Nero's favourite slave. He even went as far as hosting a wedding, dressing the boy up in the dress of an empress, and documentation suggests he tried to perform a sex change operation, to turn the boy into a woman by gender, but of course without the annoying hassle of the feminine temperament. The boy was not gender changed (the technology after all did not exist), but they did castrate him. Nero loved his new wife, now called Spora, and continued to rape her until Nero committed suicide. Guilt would be a fair guess of motivation, but likely was not. The boy was placed into the care of a guardian during the transition of the imperial throne, who also raped Spora. As per custom. Spora then landed in the property and bed of the succeeding emperor, Otho, who continued the successful tradition of sexual abuse. When Otho also killed himself after the Battle of Bedracium. Otho’s victorious rival, Vitellius, became emperor. Vitellius planned to use Spora as the victim in an entertaining re-enactment of the famous Rape of Proserpina during a gladiator show. Spora finally saw this as his own cue for suicide and killed himself before commencing a second decade of rape. Sporus died probably around the age of 20.

A real nugget of a bedtime story. I was fascinated and quite frankly amused at the absolute absurdity of the story. While my professor told this story, I happened to look around the room at my classmates. Much to my surprise, the others did not seem fascinated at all. They looked offended. Obviously on behalf of the boy, but I didn’t understand what motivated the anger and the offense. Well, that is not entirely true. I understand that some in the room may have had personal experience with childhood molestation et cetera, and then a story like that can trigger those painful memories, so what you react to is not the story, but your own memories. And of course, anger and offense should rightfully be directed at Nero, the king of assholery. However, it seemed like the anger was not directed at Nero, but at our male Latin professor, and I didn’t get that. It was like the Latin teacher was being offensive just for telling us the story.

In my opinion, what the professor was doing was freedom of speech at its finest. Teaching us history without empathetic or emotional attachment or opinion about it.

You can’t tell a story like that, while taking a moral stand against the behaviour in it.

First of all, slavery and rape was the norm in the first century Roman empire. We can’t even look at a story like this, as being a story about slavery and rape. The very words slavery and rape today, morally mean something completely different. It stirs up emotions of moral disgust in us, which did not exist back then. In the time of Nero, it was not called slavery and rape. It was called society and property. It was standard. We can all agree that rape is not a nice thing to do, but you can’t moralise about something that happened 2000 years ago, and you can’t be offended on behalf of someone you have never met. You don’t have the right. Also, what he was sharing was history, and it is his responsibility as an ethical teacher, to teach us history without censorship, so we can learn from it, and not make the same mistakes as nut-jobs like Nero. If we convey history from millennia ago through the morals of today, what we can learn from that history will be pointless, as it will be convoluted by morals that does not apply to the period, and certainly did not apply to the Roman empire and least of all to Nero.

Conveying the message, stripped of any fear of offending, is the only way to reach a respectable truth.

Thanks for reading. Have a lovely day.

Sincerely yours,

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