Nero's Colossus

For hundreds of years Nero’s Colossus was one of Rome’s premier attractions. Over a hundred feet high, wrapped in a toga, and sporting a seven rayed crown, it was only slightly shorter than its modern imitator, the Statue of Liberty. Originally erected in the vestibule of Nero’s Golden House, it welcomed visitors to Nero’s vast entertainment complex. Since no miniatures of the Colossus have been found we are fortunate to have numismatic evidence: coins that must have been minted shortly before Nero’s death.

Although the figure is poorly rendered, the seven rayed crown is clearly visible.

In about 127 A.D, the emperor Hadrian had the statue moved to make room for his Temple of Venus and Rome – it took 24 elephants to do the job! The Colossus was now close to the Flavian Amphitheater built by Nero’s successor, Vespasian. It was perhaps still standing in 700 A.D. when the British ecclesiastic Bede wrote his famous epigram “as long as the Colossus stands, so shall Rome; when the Colossus falls, Rome shall fall; when Rome falls, so falls the world.”

Nero’s epitaph.


Lucy Knipe