fiddle while Rome burns, to

fiddle while Rome burns

To take little to no productive action during a crisis. The phrase refers to the legend of the Roman Emperor Nero playing the lyre as Rome burned down. Organizing these files is like fiddling while Rome burns—the boss won't care what they look like when he finds out we lost that big client! Climate change is upon us, and our leaders just fiddle while Rome burns.
See also: burn, fiddle, Rome, while
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

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, while
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

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, while
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

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, while
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012

fiddle while Rome burns

be concerned with relatively trivial matters while ignoring the serious or disastrous events going on around you.
This phrase comes from the Roman biographer and historian Suetonius' description of the behaviour of the Roman emperor Nero during the great fire that destroyed much of Rome in ad 64.
See also: burn, fiddle, Rome, while
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017

ˌfiddle while Rome ˈburns

(saying) do nothing or waste your time when you should be dealing with a dangerous or serious situation: With the world’s population growing fast and millions getting hungrier every day, the leaders of the rich nations just seem to be fiddling while Rome burns.This phrase refers to the Roman emperor Nero, who fiddled (= played the violin) during the burning of Rome in AD 64.
See also: burn, fiddle, Rome, while
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017

fiddle while Rome burns, to

To busy oneself with trivial matters during a crisis. The expression comes from the legend that during the burning of Rome (a.d. 64), the Emperor Nero played his lyre while watching the spectacle from a high tower. Indeed, the historian Suetonius alleged that Nero had ordered the fire set in order to see how Troy had looked when it burned. The expression was probably already a cliché by the time Charles Kingsley wrote in Westward Ho! (1855), “It is fiddling while Rome burns to spend more pages over . . . Rose Saltenere, while the destinies of Europe are hanging on the marriage between Elizabeth and Anjou.”
See also: fiddle, Rome, while
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer
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