After a weekend of golfing in Florida, President Trump quote-tweeted a mysterious meme Sunday evening, depicting himself playing the violin in front of an orange and red background, with the caption, “MY NEXT PIECE IS CALLED NOTHING CAN STOP WHAT’S COMING.”

“Who knows what this means, but it sounds good to me!” he tweeted.

The meme drew speculation that it was related to the QAnon conspiracy theorists, as The Washington Post’s Timothy Bella described here.

But Walter Shaub, director of the Office of Government Ethics from 2013 to 2017, had another idea:

Nero was the notorious emperor who, as legend has it, “fiddled while Rome burned.” By Monday morning, #NeroTrump was a top trend on Twitter.

A history lesson is definitely in order.

Nero, a descendant of Julius Caesar, was born Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus in 37 A.D.; his mother, Agrippina, conspired by an incestuous marriage to make Nero the next in line for the throne. Her husband/uncle, the emperor Claudius, died by poisoning soon after, making Nero, 16 or 17 at the time, the fifth emperor of Rome.

Agrippina attempted to rule via her son but was soon exiled and later executed. And as Nero grew into a young man, he was kind of always DTFF — down to feast and frolic. He threw lavish parties in extravagant palaces, slept with anyone he wanted and even took to the stage as an actor, poet and musician.

The elites of Rome were not impressed. Orgies were one thing, but acting? In plays? That cheapened the throne, they complained.

Then, in 64 A.D., Nero announced he wanted to level and rebuild most of the city in a more contemporary style. The Senate refused him permission. Soon afterward, the whole city caught on fire.

It burned for six days straight, then rekindled and burned for three more. Ten of Rome’s 14 districts were destroyed. And Nero soon began to build his massive “Golden House” on its smoldering ashes.

But did he really fiddle while Rome burned?

No, because fiddles didn’t exist until the Middle Ages. But he maybe played his lyre?

His first biographer, Tacitus, wrote in his “Annals” that Nero was 30 miles away in Antium at the time, “but at the very moment when Rome was aflame, he had mounted his private stage, and typifying the ills of the present by the calamities of the past, had sung the destruction of Troy.”

Not a great look.

Later biographers were even less charitable. Suetonius claimed that witnesses caught him setting the fires, and that he watched the city burn from a tower, “and exulting, as he said, in ‘the beauty of the flames,’ he sang the whole of the ‘Sack of Ilium,’ in his regular stage costume.” Cassius Dio claimed he hired a bunch of thugs to set fires and then watched from the palace, singing and playing the lyre in costume.

The famous expression that “Nero fiddled while Rome burned” came later, according to Encyclopaedia Britannica, but it was adapted over centuries from an original story.

In any case, Nero’s feckless response to the tragedy is now being compared to Trump’s Twitter behavior amid the growing crises of the coronavirus outbreak and its economic fallout. Monday morning, as Americans nervously awaited the opening bell on Wall Street, Trump tweeted his usual complaints about Democrats, the “Deep State” and the “Fake News Media.”

Soon after Trump retweeted the fiddling meme, CNN legal analyst Renato Mariotti had this warning, “You might want to look up what happened to Nero.”

It wasn’t good.

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