The Emperor became fixated on the notion of having Sporus remain with him and serve as a replacement for Poppaea Sabina, his former spouse.
One of the most notorious emperors in history is Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, commonly referred to as Nero. His reign marked the end of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, and he is widely remembered as a cruel and unscrupulous ruler. Historians have documented his numerous atrocious acts, such as the great fire of Rome and the rumored murder of his wife Poppea and mother Agrippina. However, a lesser known detail of Nero’s life is his relationship with his lover Sporus.
Nero was highly drawn to ephebes, youthful males between the ages of 14 and 18. In ancient Greece, these ephebes were educated at the Ephebeia, a school geared toward training them for life in different areas.
The emperor’s gaze lingered on the young ephebe Sporus, who had an androgynous beauty that captivated his attention and heart. Reports suggest that the reason for this fixation was Sporus’s similarity to Nero’s late wife Poppaea Sabina.
At first, Nero’s relationship with Sporus started out as purely sexual, but eventually he developed strong sentiments for him. He went so far as to castrate Sporus in order to make him serve as a replacement for his beloved Poppaea.
In the Roman Empire, same-sex marriages were not allowed, so the ruler opted for a feminization surgery for a solution. After the procedure, Nero celebrated his union with Sporus, who attended the wedding wearing female clothing.
In order to comply with the laws of the Roman Empire, Nero and Sporus entered into a marriage without the possibility of consummation. Despite this, they still celebrated the union with a grand ceremony, with Sporus dressed as a woman. Although same-sex marriages were strictly prohibited, Nero found a way to satisfy his desires through feminization surgery and the marriage with Sporus.
Sporus saw himself as Proserpina or Persephone, the goddess who was famously “abducted” by Pluto or Hades to be his wife. Though he was a slave to Nero in theory, his life was not a bed of roses. As a tribute to his master upon his departure from this world, Sporus placed a ring on his body, symbolizing the “abduction of Persephone”.
Ninfidio Sabino, a member of the royal guard who had ambitions of becoming emperor, married in an attempt to gain the throne. Despite his efforts, the guards remained loyal to the existing candidate for the throne, blocking Ninfidio’s plan to usurp the crown.
After Nymphidius’ death at the hands of the royal guard, Sporus was taken over by Otho, the first husband of Poppaea, who became the next Roman emperor.
Three months after their marriage, Otto tragically committed suicide due to the haunting resemblance of his wife to the late Poppaea. Vitellius, who had vanquished Otto, took charge of the Roman Empire, as well as Sporus, Otto’s wife. Vitellius, however, was not interested in having Sporus as a wife, but as a tool to demonstrate his power over the people. He publically ridiculed Sporus and even forced her to perform in a play, The Kidnapping of Proserpina, that involved the rape of Sporus. At the tender age of only 20, Sporus was unable to cope with the humiliation and tragically took her own life before being forced to perform.