The best books on Roman Emperor Nero, the man and the myth

Who am I?

The deeper I looked into Nero’s history the more references I found to astrology about which I knew nothing except that it was a “pseudo science”. Then an idea hit me like the proverbial lightning bolt. It didn’t matter that astrology was mere superstition. All that mattered was that Nero and his contemporaries believed in it. Nero’s birthday and time are known so it must be possible to re-create his horoscope. With this mysterious wheel in hand, anyone familiar with ancient astrological lore should be able to make some very intelligent guesses about what Nero’s astrologer would have been advising his imperial client on perhaps a daily basis.


I wrote...

The Nero Prediction

By Humphry Knipe,

Book cover of The Nero Prediction

What is my book about?

Nero is widely regarded as the most despicable Roman emperor who “fiddled” while Rome burnt. In fact Nero was a man of considerable generosity, talent, great ingenuity and boundless energy intent on making his life a work of art, dreaming of an age in which music, not military force, is power. What’s missing here?

Astrology, the seductive mixture of astronomy and superstition which in Nero’s time exceeded every religion in power and influence. So ardent was the belief that horoscopes were roadmaps to the future that believers tailored their actions to match astrological predictions. Meet the self fulfilling prophecy. When Nero’s horoscope became widely known it bedeviled his reign because it predicted when he would be fortunate and when he would be vulnerable, invaluable information for his enemies in the aristocratic class who believed that he was dishonoring the imperial throne by performing in public. All this seen through the eyes of the ex-slave who rose to the position of Nero’s right hand man but who also had a star-crossed destiny hanging over his head.

The books I picked & why

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Nero

By Edward Champlin,

Book cover of Nero

Why this book?

After reading the ancient histories about Nero which support the legend that he was a lazy sadistic tyrant it was refreshing to find a book written by a leading academic (Champlin is professor of classics at Princeton University) which portrays him the way I see him, as an energetic, talented dreamer set on making his life a work of art. 


Classical Scientific Astrology

By George C. Noonan,

Book cover of Classical Scientific Astrology

Why this book?

Early on in my research on Neronian astrology I had the good fortune to discover this book and visit its author, a real live astrologer. When he showed me the chart he had done for me I felt a  shiver of excitement, convinced that I was the first person to pay an astrologer to cast Nero’s horoscope in 2,000 years. Dr. Noonan’s book is an excellent introduction to astrology as it was practiced in the ancient world. 


Nero: The Man Behind the Myth

By Richard Holland,

Book cover of Nero: The Man Behind the Myth

Why this book?

Written by a veteran London Times journalist this exciting book reads like a fast paced thriller. What I found most interesting is his detailed description of Nero’s most notorious action, the murder of his mother. He writes “It is in the realm of abnormal psychology that an explanation may lie.” He is clearly unaware that what best explains the spooky full moon melodrama played out on a cosmic stage was the blind faith both Nero and his mother had in astrology (see Nero's astrology chart here). 


Nero: Emperor In Revolt

By Michael Grant,

Book cover of Nero: Emperor In Revolt

Why this book?

A magisterial, affectionate portrait of Nero and his times, this book is full of delightful touches of humor. Grant writes that although Nero enjoyed giving feasts, “we are not told if he was amused by the famous contemporary glutton Arpocras, who ate four tablecloths at a time, and broken glass as well.”


Renan's Antichrist

By Joseph-Ernest Renan, William G. Hutchison,

Book cover of Renan's Antichrist

Why this book?

This book by the renowned nineteenth-century biblical scholar is a great read because it epitomizes the traditional anti-Nero bias to the point of parody. Renan writes that “Nero’s actions float between the black wickedness of a cruel dunce and the irony of a cynic. He did not possess an idea that was not puerile. The sham world of art in which he dwelt had made the veriest fool of him.”


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Nero, Rome, and astrology?

5,215 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Nero, Rome, and astrology.

Nero Explore 13 books about Nero
Rome Explore 169 books about Rome
Astrology Explore 26 books about astrology

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like What Life Was Like: When Rome Ruled the World: The Roman Empire 100 BC-AD 200, Ancient Rome, and The History of the Vestal Virgins of Rome if you like this list.