According to Roman historian Suetonius (c. A.D. 69-122), many Romans believed that the Great Fire of Rome (July A.D. 64) was instigated by Nero to clear the way for his planned palatial complex, the Domus Aurea
Nero’s attempts to explain the disaster and deflect criticism of himself all failed until he declared that the fire had been started by the small Christian community in Rome. He initiated the first systematic state-sponsored persecution of Christians on July 24. Arrested, thrown to wild beasts, and crucified, the Christians were rounded up and sacrificed. While the persecution began in Rome, it spread to other provinces of the Empire. Already suspect for their sacramental rites and accused by the Jews of all sorts of evil practices, the Christians’ refusal to worship Caesar as a god brought charges of treason. Although the number of believers killed is unknown, it likely included the Apostles Paul and Peter.
The Christian Martyrs’ Last Prayer, by Jean-Léon Gérôme
depicts a generalized view of Christian martyrdom in ancient Rome
While Nero pursued artistic expression in various ways, his violent excesses, massacre of senators, and neglect of Rome in his later years brought about the withdrawal of Praetorian protection. He tried to commit suicide, but was likely murdered by one of his companions. The Senate declared him an enemy of the state. Most sources for the life and times of Nero are from the next generation of recorders, and all of them are in agreement about his depraved and bloody history. Persecution of Christians would continue among future Caesars from time to time, but the Church grew steadily and in all places of the Empire.