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On July 19, 64 CE, a fire started in the enormous Circus Maximus stadium in Rome, now the capital of Italy. When the fire was finally extinguished six days later, 10 of Rome’s 14 districts were burned.
 
Ancient historians blamed Rome’s infamous emperor, Nero, for the fire. One historian said Nero was playing the fiddle while his city went up in flames. Other historians say Nero wanted to raze the city so he could build a new palace. Nero himself blamed a rebellious new cult—the Christians.
 
Most modern historians don’t blame Nero for the Great Fire of Rome. Ancient Rome was a city of more than two million people, with thousands living in slums. These slums were filled with poorly constructed wooden apartment buildings. A fire in one apartment could quickly engulf the entire block. 
ancient Rome
Noun

civilization founded on the Mediterranean Sea, lasting from the 8th century BCE to about 476 CE.

Noun

city where a region's government is located.

Christian
Noun

people and culture focused on the teachings of Jesus and his followers.

construct
Verb

to build or erect.

cult
Noun

system of spiritual or political devotion, usually derided by more mainstream organizations.

destroy
Verb

to ruin or make useless.

emperor
Noun

ruler of an empire.

engulf
Verb

to surround or submerge.

enormous
Adjective

very large.

extinguish
Verb

to put out a fire or flame.

fiddle
Verb

to play a stringed instrument, or the stringed instrument itself.

historian
Noun

person who studies events and ideas of the past.

infamous
Adjective

having a very bad reputation.

palace
Noun

large home or mansion, often the home of a leader or dignitary.

raze
Verb

to destroy completely, especially by tearing down.

rebel
noun, adjective

person who resists the authority of government.

slum
Noun

area of a city that is crowded, often lacking basic services such as electricity or sewage, and inhabited by poor people.

stadium
Noun

large structure, often used for sports or other entertainment events, with a central event area surrounded by raised seats for viewers.

temple
Noun

building used for worship.

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