fiddle while Rome burns


fiddle while Rome burns


  • to perform an inconsequential task or act irresponsibly in the midst of a disastrous event.
  • to concern yourself with frivolous matters during an emergency.
  • to act as though nothing important is going on when you should be addressing a dangerous ongoing problem.
  • to occupy yourself in an inappropriate manner when you should be dealing with problems that threaten dire consequences.
  • wasting time on petty endeavors (or trivial pursuits) when your attention is required elsewhere due to a crisis.

 Example Sentences

  1. Vacuuming the carpet while her co-worker was in with the boss, trying to steal her job, felt like fiddling while Rome burned.
  2. They need to stop fiddling while Rome burns and come help put out this fire.
  3. With a pandemic going on, some of our members of the government just fiddle around while Rome burns.
  4. We can’t keep fiddling while Rome burns; we need to address these issues of climate change.
  5. Bob knew he was just fiddling while Rome burned, but he couldn’t rouse himself to face the crisis.
  6. She frowned at me and said, “You can go ahead and fiddle while Rome burns, but I’ve got to take action.”


The idiom “fiddle while Rome burns” originates with Nero, Rome’s 5th emperor, and a massive fire that incinerated a huge portion of the city. Nero was already an unpopular ruler, viewed as being very ineffective and decadent. Because some people theorized that Nero may have started the fire in order to clear a swathe of land for a new palace and because he was so loathed and despised, a myth grew that had Nero playing music while the fire ravaged the city.

One problem with this theory is that fiddles didn’t emerge until the 10th century. Its roots are in the Byzantium-era Lira, also known as the Lyre. Thus, it is highly doubtful that Nero was playing a fiddle while Rome burned. In fact, it’s not been proven that he played any sort of music at all. All the same, it is the source of this idiom, and if someone is busy with frivolous tasks while a crisis rages around them, it can be stated that they are fiddling while Rome burns.

Share your opinions1 Opinion

Our leaders are fighting with each other when people are struggling with food. it is something like fiddling while Rome burns.

‒ Anonymous February 11, 2022

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