Nero’s Mistress May Have Lived In This Pristinely Preserved Villa Buried By Vesuvius

Before diving too deeply into whether Villa A in Oplontis, Italy has any ties to the woman who would become Emperor Nero’s second wife, it would help to learn a little about her first. In general, Poppaea Sabina is known for her connections to various men. She was the granddaughter of Roman consul Gaius Poppaeus Sabinus, who also governed Moesia, a Roman-occupied area in the southeastern Balkan region (via Britannica). Her family’s ties to political power didn’t stop there; Poppaea’s father, Titus Ollius, was a quaestor (or a financial official), per the Roman historian Suetonius.

Poppaea was married three times before Emperor Nero, her final husband. The first was to a Roman official named Rufrius Crispinus — and who, in a sardonic twist, was later executed by Nero, per Oxford Reference. Her second was to Otho, one of Nero’s cohorts, who forced Otho to divorce Poppaea. For what it’s worth, Poppaea and Nero were already in the midst of an affair (via ThoughtCo); By around 58 A.D., she was Nero’s mistress, and Poppaea and Nero tied the knot in 62 A.D.

As a historical figure, Poppaea has remained controversial. Supposedly, she influenced Nero to execute his mother, Agrippina, his first wife, Octavia, and the philosopher Seneca (via The Latin Library). While the historian Tacitus painted an unflattering picture of Poppaea, the Jewish historian Josephus called her that she was a “god-fearing” woman who interceded on behalf of the oft-persecuted Jews in the Roman empire at least twice (via the Encyclopedia).

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