How Long Was Rome on Fire?

By Anna Duncan

How Long Was Rome on Fire?


The Great Fire of Rome is one of the most infamous events in ancient history. It was a devastating fire that swept through the city of Rome, causing widespread destruction and chaos.

The fire is said to have started on the night of July 18, 64 AD, during the reign of Emperor Nero. But how long did this catastrophic event actually last? Let’s delve deeper into this historical incident and find out.

Causes and Spread:

The exact cause of the Great Fire of Rome is still debated among historians. Some believe it was accidental, possibly caused by a lit candle or faulty wiring. Others suggest that Emperor Nero himself ordered the fire to be set in order to clear land for his grand architectural plans.

The fire quickly spread throughout the city due to strong winds and narrow streets lined with wooden buildings. The densely populated areas, such as the Subura and Aventine Hill, were particularly affected.


The duration of the Great Fire of Rome is a topic that has been extensively discussed by historians over the centuries. While there isn’t a definitive answer, various accounts provide some insight into its length.

According to historical records, the fire raged for around six days and seven nights. This estimate comes from Tacitus, a prominent Roman historian who wrote about the event in his book “Annals.” However, it’s important to note that Tacitus was writing decades after the fire occurred and may not have had access to accurate information regarding its exact duration.

Evidence Contradictions:

Other ancient sources present conflicting information about how long Rome burned. For instance, Cassius Dio, another historian, states that the fire lasted for a total of nine days.

The discrepancies in these accounts make it difficult to determine the precise duration of the fire. It’s possible that different parts of the city continued to burn even after the initial blaze was extinguished, leading to varying reports.


The Great Fire of Rome had a profound impact on the city and its inhabitants. The destruction caused by the fire was immense, with numerous buildings and landmarks reduced to ashes. Thousands were left homeless and forced to seek shelter elsewhere.

Emperor Nero, who was blamed by many for his alleged role in starting the fire, famously scapegoated the Christians as culprits and subjected them to harsh persecution. This event marked a significant turning point in Christian history.


In conclusion, while there is no definitive answer to how long Rome burned during the Great Fire of 64 AD, historical accounts suggest that it lasted for approximately six days and seven nights. However, conflicting reports from different sources add an element of uncertainty to this estimation. Regardless of its exact duration, there is no denying the devastating impact that this catastrophic event had on Rome and its people.