A big day in history: the Great Fire of Rome

Dominic Sandbrook explores what happened in Rome on 19 July AD 64

The Fire of Rome, by Hubert Robert (1733-1808). "It was the worst possible place for a fire to break out, and fear turned into outright panic," says Dominic Sandbrook.  Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

This article was first published in the July 2012 issue of BBC History Magazine 

Nobody knew how the Great Fire of Rome started. Some blamed arsonists, others the strange new religious sect from the Levant. Some even pointed the finger at the emperor himself. But decades later, the historian Tacitus thought that the blaze broke out in the gigantic Circus Maximus, beneath the Palatine Hill.

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