I am Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, emperor of Rome and the last of my line in the Julio-Claudian dynasty. History remembers me as one of the greatest leaders of the ancient world, far eclipsing Julius Ceaser. My only flaw in life was that I loved Rome too much. I ordered a great fire in the capital that destroyed many old buildings and displaced or killed a few of the unwashed masses. This was done to rebuild it with palaces that would beautify Rome and to emphasize it's greatness. Good leaders must make difficult sacrifices, and it is the duty of real men to make those hard choices for the good of their people. However, there was one threat that I could not dispose of during my reign: the dreaded Christian menace.

This cult of religious fanatics has been a thorne in the side of elites for many years. While they may appear to be a harmless group that cater to the downtrodden, they are in fact traitors and insurrectionists. This sect regularly violated the religious institutions of their country, refusing to pay homage to their emperor and participate in the festivals and sacrifices to the gods. I used them as scapegoats for the fire, and began a wave of persecution against them. My tactics included burning, torturing, and feeding them to lions. Despite my response, this cult managed to persevere and even spread during this time, growing their numbers.

At some point, an opportunistic emperor named Constantine decided where the wind was blowing, claimed to see a vision before going into battle, and embraced the once heretical faith after decriminalizing it. This signaled the death of worship to our original gods. I have gone back in time with the help of a giant purple alien to ensure this doesn't happen. How could I prevent christianity from dominating Rome and keep the true state religion in power?

  • $\begingroup$ is a reform of Roman mythology and syncretisms accepted? $\endgroup$ – Kepotx Mar 14 '19 at 15:52
  • $\begingroup$ There are two problems which make it very hard to answer the question. First, in Nero's time, Christianity was still pretty much a Jewish sect, not really more prominent than other Jewish sects; the rise of Christianity as a distinct and extensively proselitizing religion came about half a century later. Second, at that point in time the Roman state religion was already a zombie; people practiced it only at state functions, sort of how we practice mindless rituals with flags and anthems. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Mar 14 '19 at 16:07
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    $\begingroup$ P.S. In what sense was Nero the "last of the line"? He was indeed the last of the Domitii Ahenobarbi, but you cannot mean that, since when he became emperor he was no longer a Domitius Ahenobarbus, having been adopted by Claudius. He was definitely not the last of the Julio-Claudians. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Mar 14 '19 at 16:14
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    $\begingroup$ I have gone back in time with the help of a giant purple alien... As long as this alien isn't a dinosaur...though that would explain Nero's obsession with "music", and alleged lack of talent. But are you sure he isn't supposed to be promoting Titan worship, specifically of Saturn, rather than Jupiter's pantheon? $\endgroup$ – nzaman Mar 14 '19 at 18:11
  • $\begingroup$ I humbly request this question be reopened, or be edited to focus on the advantage of a time-traveling Nero and then reopened. The linked question asks what could have been different, whereas this question is/should be what would a time-traveler know and be able to do differently? $\endgroup$ – cegfault Mar 14 '19 at 23:39

This question is almost certainly opinion-based, but you probably need to take an indirect approach. Wiping out the Christians using persecution was tried (at least intermittently) and we know from history that it failed. You can try more determined persecution, but "more of the same" will probably still fail. You need to eliminate the conditions that allowed Christianity to flourish.

Christianity shunted the state religion aside because the state religion focused on what amounted to the transactional and legal relationship between the state and the gods, and nearly completely ignored the spiritual life of the individual, which was seen as more under the purview of philosophy. And while Christianity found adherents among all classes, it appealed most strongly to the classes that were largely excluded from public life and that suffered greatly during the economic and demographic deterioration of the empire during the 2nd and 3rd centuries.

That means that to forestall the rise of Christianity before it happens, you want to:

  1. Augment the state religion with attributes related to the spiritual life of the individual. Some "Christianity competitors" like Mithraism tried this, but simply got out-competed. You need to add components that address the concepts of forgiveness and the afterlife, which the Roman state religion lacked but which Christianity had in spades.

  2. Do whatever you can to increase the agricultural productivity of the Western Empire (particularly Italy) and to break up the large estates. Completely liquidate the landlord class if you can manage it. You want to bring back a broad yeoman class in Italy - that class held on to pagan ways the longest, and while that class prospered the world-denying and apocalyptic / eschatological elements of Christianity had limited appeal.

  3. Focus on scientific advancement. Break the stranglehold the "pure theorists" and neo-Platonists have on the Alexandrian intellectual establishment and try to re-orient the thinkers there to practical experiment. More Aristotle, less Plato. Maybe you kick-start the humanist movement of the Renaissance in your own time.

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  • $\begingroup$ What has all this have to do with Nero, with the Julio-Claudian dynasty, or with the early empire in general? In the time frame indicated in the question, Italy and the western parts of the empire were quite prosperous; Italy, Iberia, Gaul and Africa were very fertile; industry was producing plenty of export goods; technology was progressing. The best days of the empire were still in the future. The dark days began some two hundred years after the death of Nero... $\endgroup$ – AlexP Mar 14 '19 at 16:19
  • $\begingroup$ The growth of large estates in Italy was well underway by the time of Nero. It just hadn't had its (predictable and inevitable) demographic and economic effects yet. The time to decapitate the landlord class is before it hollows out your population. And the time for changes in the state religion would have to be before Christianity has already won the mystery religion demolition derby. In addition, the time of Archimedes is centuries in the past at that point and the mystical / idealist element in Greek thought was definitely already in ascendance. $\endgroup$ – tbrookside Mar 14 '19 at 16:24
  • $\begingroup$ The times of Archimedes are in the past, yes, but the times of Galen and Ptolemy and Vitruvius and Vegetius etc. are in the future. And the latifundia had been dominating Roman agriculture since the late Republic -- and they were quite efficient, actually. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Mar 14 '19 at 16:27
  • $\begingroup$ And for the last point, one crucial thing about Nero is that he occupied the principate at a point where the power of the Emperor was great enough for his personal idiosyncrasies to be indulged and where there were very limited external threats. An emperor like Marcus Aurelius may have been better intellectually prepared to marshal the forces needed for a scientific revolution, but he had much more pressing internal and external concerns. The eccentricity of Nero (or Caligula) was widely indulged, and they could have just made science part of it. $\endgroup$ – tbrookside Mar 14 '19 at 16:28
  • $\begingroup$ The latifundia were efficient as long as there was a steady influx of cheap slaves, but they also helped wipe out the free rural population of Italy. Much later, the efforts of the Macedonian dynasty to revive small landholdings in the east managed to reverse much of the damage done to the demographics of Asia Minor; why not get ahead of that problem while there's still a continents-spanning empire to save instead of a pitiful rump state? $\endgroup$ – tbrookside Mar 14 '19 at 16:32

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