fiddle while Rome burns

fiddle while Rome burns

Fig. to do nothing or something trivial while knowing that something disastrous is happening. (From a legend that the Roman emperor Nero played the lyre while Rome was burning.) The lobbyists don't seem to be doing anything to stop this tax bill. They're fiddling while Rome burns.
See also: burn, fiddle, Rome

fiddle while Rome burns

Occupy oneself with unimportant matters and neglect important ones during a crisis. For example, The account was falling through, but he was more worried about missing his golf game-talk about fiddling while Rome burns! This expression alludes to the legend that the Emperor Nero played his fiddle while watching the conflagration of Rome. [Mid-1600s]
See also: burn, fiddle, Rome

fiddle while Rome burns

If someone fiddles while Rome burns, they do nothing or spend their time on unimportant things when they have very serious issues or problems to deal with. The Australian community understands the seriousness of the situation. It is the Federal Government that has been fiddling while Rome burns. Note: This expression is very variable. For example, people sometimes replace `Rome' with a different place name or other noun so that this expression is more relevant to the subject they are talking about. People talk about educational reform but while the politicians fiddle, Los Angeles and Chicago are burning and these kids' educational opportunities are going down in flames as well. Note: There is a story that the Emperor Nero set fire to Rome, and then played his lyre and sang as he watched the flames. Afterwards he denied this and blamed the Christians for the destruction.
See also: burn, fiddle, Rome
References in periodicals archive ?
All government departments, both national and local, must make cutbacks and inflation is spiralling upwards so to spend pounds 70,000 on this project is just like Nero playing his fiddle while Rome burns.
Assailed by financial gloom on all sides, now is the time for us all to fiddle while Rome burns merrily outside.
Singing 'The Cup of Life' at George Bush's inauguration is like playing the fiddle while Rome burns," said an angry Robi Draco Rosa who wrote the hit song and numerous other tracks for Martin, including the breakthrough smash "Livin' La Vida Loca".