Fiddling while Rome burns


      • Neglecting important tasks or issues
        To describe someone who is ignoring or avoiding important matters while focusing on trivial or unimportant things.

      • Wasting time or resources
        To convey that someone is spending their time or resources on insignificant or frivolous activities instead of attending to more pressing matters.

    Examples of Fiddling while Rome burns

    • While the company's finances were in dire straits, the CEO continued to throw extravagant parties and host lavish events for his inner circle, fiddling while Rome burned.

      This idiom means that while the CEO should have been addressing the financial crisis, he was focusing on trivial matters and ignoring the major issue at hand. It highlights the grave consequences that can arise from prioritizing insignificant matters over important ones when faced with a critical situation.

    • As the clock ticked down and the country teetered on the brink of war, the politicians continued to bicker and argue, fiddling while Rome burned.

      This idiom conveys a sense of inaction and irresponsibility in the face of a crisis. It suggests that those in positions of power are wasting time and resources on petty disputes, rather than addressing the urgent issue that demands their attention.

    • The students crammed for their exams, cramming last-minute facts and formulas into their heads, fiddling while Rome burned.

      This idiom implies that the students were putting off crucial preparations until the last minute. In the context of an exam, "Rome burning" represents the consequences of poor preparation and procrastination when it comes to academic pursuits.

    • Amidst the chaos of the natural disaster, the authorities remained oblivious to the piling horror, fiddling while Rome burned.

      This idiom highlights the ineptitude and insensitivity of those in authority during a crisis. It implies that the officials were ignoring the gravity of the situation and focusing on trivial matters, rather than addressing the urgent issue and providing immediate aid to those affected.

    • The CEO kept playing golf and attending conferences while the company was facing a major financial crisis. This is an example of fiddling while Rome burns as the CEO was prioritizing his personal interests over addressing the critical situation of the company, much like Nero playing his fiddle while Rome was being destroyed by fire.

      The idiom "fiddling while Rome burns" refers to a situation where an individual ignores important issues or problems and instead focuses on trivial or inconsequential matters. This expression highlights the contrast between frivolity and neglect, as well as the dire consequences that can result from such behavior, much like the destructive fires that Nero failed to confront while he indulged in his own pleasures. In the current example, the CEO's actions could lead to severe repercussions for the financial stability and reputation of the company, much like the catastrophe that befell ancient Rome during Nero's reign.


    The idiom "fiddling while Rome burns" is often used to criticize someone who is neglecting important tasks or issues while focusing on trivial matters. It can also be used to describe someone who is wasting time or resources on unimportant things instead of addressing more pressing matters. Both uses convey a sense of disapproval or warning, cautioning against the consequences of ignoring important matters.

    Origin of "Fiddling while Rome burns"

    The origin of this idiom can be traced back to ancient Rome. According to legend, the Roman emperor Nero was known to have played the fiddle while the city of Rome was engulfed in flames in the Great Fire of Rome in 64 AD. This event is believed to have inspired the saying "fiddling while Rome burns" as a metaphor for neglecting important matters while indulging in frivolous activities.

    Over the years, the idiom has evolved to encompass a broader meaning, beyond the literal interpretation of playing a fiddle while a city burns. It can now be used to describe any situation where someone is ignoring or avoiding important tasks or issues while focusing on insignificant matters. The phrase has become a common way to criticize someone's actions or behavior, highlighting the consequences of neglecting important matters.