Suetonius, the Emperor Hadrian’s secretary, describes the extravagance of the Emperor Nero (54-68 AD) in his history, The Twelve Caesars:
“There was nothing however in which he was more ruinously prodigal than in building. He made a palace extending all the way from the Palatine to the Esquiline [two of the seven hills of Rome], which at first he called the House of Passage, but when it was burned shortly after its completion and rebuilt, the Golden House.
Its size and splendour will be sufficiently indicated by the following details. Its vestibule was large enough to contain a colossal statue of the emperor 120 feet high; and it was so extensive that it had a triple colonnade a mile long. There was a pond too, like a sea, surrounded with buildings to represent cities, besides tracts of country, varied by tilled fields, vineyards, pastures and woods, with great numbers of wild and domestic animals.
In the rest of the house all parts were overlaid with gold and adorned with gems and mother-of‑pearl. There were dining-rooms with fretted ceils of ivory, whose panels could turn and shower down flowers and were fitted with pipes for sprinkling the guests with perfumes. The main banquet hall was circular and constantly revolved day and night, like the heavens. He had baths supplied with sea water and sulphur water.
When the edifice was finished in this style and he dedicated it, he deigned to say nothing more in the way of approval than that he was at last beginning to be housed like a human being.”
30th August, 1856
Earl Granville, Queen Victoria’s representative at the coronation of Czar Alexander, writes to her from Moscow:
“The preparations for the coronation are on an immense scale. The present estimate of the expenses is £1,000,000; the last coronation cost half that sum; the coronation of Alexander, £150,000; while that of the Emperor Paul did not exceed £50,000. The military household of the present Emperor consists of one hundred and twenty generals—that of Nicholas, at the beginning of his reign, consisted of twenty.”
A million pounds sterling was the equivalent of £100m today, which was twenty times the cost of Victoria’s own coronation in 1838 and four…