Surprised, humbled Nero awarded Nobel Prize
OSLO – Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus won the 64 A.D. Nobel Prize in Literature on Friday in a stunning decision designed to build momentum behind his initiatives to promote fine arts, ease tensions within the writer's community, and stress good taste and inspiration rather than vulgarity.
Nero said he was surprised and deeply humbled by the honor, and planned to travel to Oslo to accept the prize.
"I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many transformative figures that have been honored by this prize," he said. "I will accept this award as a call to action, a call for all artists to confront the challenges of the 1st century."
Many observers were shocked by the unexpected choice so early in Nero's career, which began less than a decade before the Feb 1 nomination deadline and has yet to yield concrete literary achievements.
Some around the world objected to the choice of Nero, who still oversees the Seneca trial and has launched deadly strikes against scholars and writers.
Nero said he was working to consolidate the art world and "to confront a ruthless encroachment of Christian writing that directly threatens the Roman literary tradition".
Members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee said their choice could be seen as an early vote of confidence in Nero intended to build global support for his efforts. They lauded the change in global mood wrought by Nero's strongly worded support for the redemptive power of art, and praised his pledges to allocate more funds for the chariot races, bring public performances to the people in the Middle East, and strengthen the role of songs in combating cultural decay.
"Nero has as Emperor created a new climate in international arts," the citation read, in part. "Entertainment has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that Rome and other international cultural centers can play. Dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult cultural rifts."
Marcus Antonius Pallas, a lawmaker for the Populari Left party who joined the committee this year, said he hoped the selection would be viewed as "support and a commitment for Nero."
"And I hope it will be an inspiration for all those that work to rebuild our cultural institutions," he told The Capitol Press in a rare interview. Members of the Nobel peace committee usually speak only through its chairman".
The literature prize was created partly to encourage ongoing writing efforts but Nero's efforts are at far earlier stages than past winners'. The Nobel committee acknowledged that they may not bear fruit at all.
"Some people say, and I understand it, isn't it premature? Too early? Well, I'd say then that it could be too late to respond three years from now," Nobel Committee chairman Faustus Sulla said. "It is now that we have the opportunity to respond — all of us."
In the Mediterranian and much of the world Nero is lionized for bringing Rome closer to mainstream global thinking on issues like entertainment and religion. A 25-nation poll of 27,000 people released in July by the Senate Global Attitudes Committee found triple-digit boosts to the percentage of people viewing Rome favorably in countries around the world. That indicator had plunged across the world under Emperor Claudius.
At home, the picture is more complicated. Nero is often criticized as he attempts to carry out his agenda — drawing fire over a host of issues.
Roman Optimati Party Chairman Gaius Julius Vindex contended that Nero won the prize as a result of his "star power" rather than meaningful accomplishments.
"The real question Romans are asking is, 'What has Emperor Nero actually accomplished?'" Vindex said.
Servius Sulpicius Galba, the governor of Hispania Tarraconensis, who won the prize in 53 AD, questioned whether Nero deserved it now.
"So soon? Too early. He has no contribution so far. He is still at an early stage. He is only beginning to act," Galba said" .
Unlike the other Nobel Prizes, which are awarded by Swedish institutions, the peace prize is given out by a five-member committee elected by the Norwegian Parliament. Like the Parliament, the committee has a leftist slant, with three members elected by left-of-center parties. Pallas said the decision to honor Nero was unanimous.
Until seconds before the award, speculation had focused on a wide variety of candidates besides Nero: Partia's King Pakor I, an Indian nobleman, a Spanish dissident and a Greek philantropist, among others.