Nero focused much of his attention on diplomacy, trade and enhancing the cultural life of the empire, ordering theatres built and promoting athletic games, but according to the historian Tacitus (writing one generation later) he was viewed by the Roman people as compulsive and corrupt. In 64 AD, most of Rome was destroyed in the Great Fire of Rome. Suetonius, writing a generation later claims that many Romans believed Nero himself had started the fire, in order to clear land for his planned palatial complex, the Domus Aurea.

In 68, the rebellion of Vindex in Gaul and later the acclamation of Galba in Hispania drove Nero from the throne. Facing a false report of being denounced as a public enemy who was to be executed, he committed suicide on 9 June 68 (the first Roman emperor to do so).