Resolute Square

Being Emperor Means Never Having To Say You Didn't Win

What's the difference between Nero at HIS Olympics in 67 and Trump at HIS golf course 1,957 years later? Robert McElvaine on losers who declare themselves winners.
Published:March 28, 2024

Subscribe to Robert's newsletter at Musings & Amusings of a B-List Writer.

By Robert S. McElvaine

In 67 CE, Nero proclaimed himself the winner of an Olympic chariot race for which he had decreed that his competitors’ chariots would each have four horses and his would have ten. As the emperor’s chariot rounded the first bend on the course, it tipped over and Nero was thrown out on the ground, badly injured.

He had himself propped up and declared the winner. (If that reminds anyone of the events following the 2020 United States presidential election, surely it is just coincidental.) Nero had forced the games to be held two years ahead of schedule to coincide with his visit to Greece. He entered many other events, several of which he had added to the program for his own preferences.

Stunningly, the Emperor was declared the winner of every event in which he competed. What a MAN!

Fast forward 1,957 years and we find a wannabe American emperor boasting, of course in all caps, “I WON BOTH!” trophies at his own golf club.

This was nothing new. Trump always awards himself championships at courses he owns, as Nero did in an empire he saw himself as owning. In his 2019 book, Commander in Cheat, Rick Reilly details Trump’s astonishing level of cheating at the sport. A few examples:

Caddies gave him the nickname “Pelé” because he routinely kicks his ball from the rough onto the fairway.

On at least one occasion, he picked up an opponent’s ball that was ten feet from the hole and threw it into a sand trap.

He claims his handicap is much better than it really is.

He routinely changes his score to a lower number.

Narcissists gonna be narcissists.

It is worth remembering that Rome was largely destroyed by fire in the year 64, during Nero’s reign. Though there is no evidence that Nero started the fire, he took advantage of it to advance his political agenda.

Nero used the fire in a way similar to what Hitler would do with the Reichstag fire in 1933. Nero blamed the fire on a growing religious group, Christians. He ordered the arrest, torture, and grisly execution of numerous Christians on the false charge that they were responsible for the fire.

As Nero blamed Christians for the Roman fire, Hitler blamed Communists for the Reichstag fire and issued a decree suspending the rights of German citizens and giving the Nazi regime the power “to arrest and incarcerate political opponents without specific charge, dissolve political organizations, and to suppress publications.”

There might be a lesson for Americans in 2024 in those parallels.

After Nero’s death, his victories were declared void by Olympic officials intent on restoring the integrity of the Games.