Sporus, the young man who was castrated to marry the Roman Emperor Nero

The emperor had an idea for Sporus to stay with him and become Poppea Sabina’s “substitute”: have him castrated.

Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, known to history only as Nerowas one of the roman emperors more famous. Various biographies and sources cite him as a cruel and sadistic man, as well as being the protagonist of the famous fire that destroyed a large part of Rome. But there is another episode in his biography that is hardly talked about: his relationship with his lover. Spore.

Nero had a special attraction to the ephebes, term to refer to adolescents between the ages of 14 and 18. In ancient Greece, ephebes were instructed in ephebeiaan institution that prepared adolescents to face life in various areas.

The emperor set his eyes on the ephebe Sporus, a boy from androgynous beauty who completely stole the emperor’s heart and attention. Various sources say that this happened due to the great resemblance of this character with Poppea Sabinethe dead wife of Nero.

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Nero and his wishes to have Sporus with him

What began as a purely sexual relationship became for Nero a sentimental relationship. And the emperor had an idea for Sporus to stay with him and become the “substitute” of Poppea Sabina: castrate him.

The same-sex marriages they were forbidden in the Roman empire, so surgery was the only way Nero could have Sporus with him. When the physical change was ready, the wedding was celebrated between the young man, who came woman’s dress to the marriage bond, and Nero.

This was not the only marriage of this kind between an emperor and his ephebe. After Nero’s death, Sporus married the Emperor Otto.

Nero: cruel, sadistic and perverse?

The image that history has made of Nero is that of a monster, psychopath and pervert. In addition to the story of his marriage to Sporus, the young Roman emperor was also involved in other controversial events: he had his mother assassinated, Agrippina the Minor. He also had his two wives killed: Claudia Octavia and the aforementioned Poppea Sabina.

They also accused him of starting the Great Fire of Rome, an event that devastated a large part of the city for nine days. He is also remembered as a fierce persecutor of Christians. In short, his name is synonymous with degeneration, extravagance and excess.

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Emperor Nero
Engraved illustration of Nero, Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, 37-68 AD Engraving from “Great Men and Famous Women: A Series of Pen and Pencil Sketches,” by Charles F. Horne and published in 1894. (Getty Images)

However, various sources do not agree with the above. One of the experts who claims that Nero’s grotesque reputation is exaggerated, or even a myth, is Francesca Bologna, curator of the exhibition. “Nero, the man behind the myth” which took place in the british museum london in 2021.

“He had the misfortune to be the last emperor of the Roman Julio-Claudian dynasty. So when he died, there was a period of civil war and chaos, and after that a new dynasty came to power.

And all the stories about Nero were written under this new dynasty that was supposed to legitimize itself and represent the previous period in the worst possible way.”

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“That’s why we don’t have an objective view of him. It is incredible to think about how history is written and how it is manipulated to send some messages, ”he adds in an interview for the BBC.

The time in which Nero ruled “was a period of continuous suspicion and political condemnation, of conspiracies and ruthless repression, which would tragically end with the emperor’s suicide after being declared an enemy of the state by the Senate of Rome,” reports the media National Geographicwhich could support Bologna’s appreciation.


Sporus, the young man who was castrated to marry the Roman Emperor Nero