Essay: The Island of the Lost Autocrats

The Emperor Nero entered his Golden House for the first time. He inspected the statue of himself, 120 feet high. He saw the enclosed lake surrounded by buildings that were designed to represent the cities of the empire. He admired the pillared arcade that stretched for a mile, the dining rooms paved with porphyry, the ceilings of gold and fretted ivory inlaid with jewels. "At last," he said, "I am beginning to live like a human being."

Eventually, Nero's armies revolted and the Senate condemned him to be flogged to death with rods. He decided to resign from office by stabbing...

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