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The Cover
October 3, 2007

Drug Jar for Theriac

JAMA. 2007;298(13):1483. doi:10.1001/jama.298.13.1483

Emperor Nero, the cruel and capricious despot who ruled Rome from 54 CE to 68 CE, did not fiddle while Rome burned. Costumed in Greek-style raiment, he may have sung a song but the violin had not yet been invented. When the legendary fire engulfed the Eternal City in July of 64, Nero arranged housing at his own palace for citizens displaced by the inferno, and he planned the rebuilding of the city. Nero used urban design techniques to make straighter streets, more space between homes, and brick construction instead of wood. Rome's four destroyed and seven damaged districts managed, after their renaissance, to outlast additional fires in 69 CE and 80 CE. During his reign, Nero held advisors close and later spurned them, banishing them to the hinterland or murdering them under the guise of “accidents.” Seneca, the 1st-century poet-playwright whose works include Morals, tutored an adolescent Nero at the urging of Nero's mother Agrippina. After having Agrippina beaten and killed by sailors (she initially survived an attempt at shipwreck and drowning), Nero soon exiled Seneca, who later committed suicide rather than face Nero's executioners. Nero appears, along with another of his advisors, his “body Physician” Andromachus, on the 1580 Drug Jar for Theriac (cover), attributed to Annibale Fontana (1540-1587).

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