The Mysterious Fiddle

Popular cliché has it that Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus (better known as Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, or simply the
Emperor Nero) played the fiddle while Rome burned.

But here are some facts: Rome burned in the year 64, and fiddles (well, violins, but the distinction is only one of playing style, so let's not quibble) didn't emerge until the 16th century. Thus, you might assume Nero could not possibly have played the fiddle while singing "The Sack of Ilium" in full stage dress and watching his city disappear into beautiful flames. He could have played the lyre, certainly; in addition to violent rages, consistent sadism, and a tendency toward incest, Nero was famously a performer, more so than any other Emperor, and he knew his way around a harp.

But there are other explanations. Perhaps Nero did play a fiddle while Rome burned. The Devil is fond of fiddles, and one can only imagine that the Devil was fond of Nero, so perhaps the instrument was a gift from fiend to fiend-in-human-form. Or Nero might have been a time-traveler, someone from the future with a love for costume and a flair for drama, playing the part of the mad emperor. Maybe the man who died uttering Nero's last words--"What an artist dies in me!"--was not the emperor at all, but a rogue historian with a flair for music from some later, technologically advanced epoch like our own.

At any rate, ready your cameras, and make sure your bows are rosined. Our chronopede departs at dawn, and we'll settle onto Quirinal Hill in the year 64 with a fine view of the conflagration. If Nero is there, with a fiddle or lyre, very well; we shall join him and form a string quartet, and question him after. And if he is not there, perhaps some citizen of Rome, fleeing the fire, will see one of us playing, and start a rumor about the emperor's musical preferences, and thus the needs of history will be satisfied.


Titanic rules apply. We don't stop playing until the disaster ends.


Kemo D. 7

Story by Tim Pratt
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