Year of the Four Emperors





After the death of Nero in 68, Rome saw a succession of short-lived emperors and a year of civil wars. Galba was murdered by Otho, who was defeated by Vitellius. Otho's supporters, looking for another candidate to support, settled on Vespasian.

According to Suetonius, a prophecy ubiquitous in the Eastern provinces claimed that from Judaea would come the future rulers of the world. Vespasian eventually believed that this prophecy applied to him, and found a number of omens, oracles, and portents that reinforced this belief.

He also found encouragement in Mucianus, the governor of Syria; and, although Vespasian was a strict disciplinarian and reformer of abuses, Vespasian's soldiers were thoroughly devoted to him. All eyes in the East were now upon him. Mucianus and the Syrian legions were eager to support him. While he was at Caesarea, he was proclaimed emperor (1 July 69), first by the army in Egypt under Tiberius Julius Alexander, and then by his troops in Judaea (11 July according to Suetonius, 3 July according to Tacitus).

Nevertheless, Vitellius, the occupant of the throne, had Rome's best troops on his side - the veteran legions of Gaul and the Rhineland. But the feeling in Vespasian's favor quickly gathered strength, and the armies of Moesia, Pannonia, and Illyricum soon declared for him, and made him the de facto master of half of the Roman world.

While Vespasian himself was in Egypt securing its grain supply, his troops entered Italy from the northeast under the leadership of M. Antonius Primus. They defeated Vitellius's army (which had awaited him in Mevania) at Bedriacum (or Betriacum), sacked Cremona and advanced on Rome. They entered Rome after furious fighting. In the resulting confusion, the Capitol was destroyed by fire and Vespasian's brother Sabinus was killed by a mob.

On receiving the tidings of his rival's defeat and death at Alexandria, the new emperor at once forwarded supplies of urgently needed grain to Rome, along with an edict or a declaration of policy, in which he gave assurance of an entire reversal of the laws of Nero, especially those relating to treason. While in Egypt he visited the Temple of Serapis, where reportedly he experienced a vision. Later he was confronted by two laborers who were convinced that he possessed a divine power that could work miracles.




Galba 68 - 69



6th Emperor of the Roman Empire

Galba (Latin: Servius Sulpicius Galba Caesar Augustus; 24 December 3 BC - 15 January 69), was Roman Emperor for seven months from 68 to 69. Galba was the governor of Hispania Tarraconensis, and made a bid for the throne during the rebellion of Julius Vindex. He was the first emperor of the Year of the Four Emperors.

He was born as Servius Sulpicius Galba near Terracina, "on the left as you go towards Fundi" in the words of Suetonius. Through his paternal grandfather ("more eminent for his learning than for his rank - for he did not advance beyond the grade of praetor" and who "published a voluminous and painstaking history", according to Suetonius), who predicted his rise to power (Suetonius, 4), he was descended from Servius Sulpicius Galba. Galba's father attained the consulship, and although he was short, hunchbacked and only an indifferent speaker, was an industrious pleader at the bar.

His mother was Mummia Achaica, the granddaughter of Catulus and great-granddaughter of Lucius Mummius Achaicus. They only had one other child, an elder son called Gaius who left Rome after squandering the greater part of his estate, and committed suicide because Tiberius would not allow him to take part in the allotment of the provinces in his year. On his father's remarriage to Livia Ocellina, Galba was adopted by her and took her names, remaining Lucius Livius Ocella Sulpicius Galba until becoming emperor.

He came from a noble family and was a man of great wealth, but was unconnected either by birth or by adoption with the first six Caesars. In his early years he was regarded as a youth of remarkable abilities, and it is said that both Augustus and Tiberius prophesied his future eminence (Tacitus, Annals, vi. 20; Suet. Galba, 4).

His wife, however, was connected at least by the marriage of some of her relatives to some of the Julii-Claudii. The couple had two sons, Galba Major and Galba Minor who died during their father's life. Galba Major was the elder son and born circa 25 AD. Hardly anything is known about his life as he died young. He was engaged to his stepsister Antonia Postuma, but they never wed, which leads modern historians to believe that he died during this time. Their engagement is dated to 48, and that is generally believed to be his time of death. Galba Minor was the younger son. His date of birth was later than 25 but before 30. This Galba outlived his older brother, but did not live a long time. He was a quaestor in 58, but he was never seen in politics after that. Suetonius mentions that "Galba Minor had discovered his father's affair with a male slave and threatened to tell his stepmother, which led to death of him." His time of death is generally believed to be around 60 AD. Galba Minor was never married and had no children.

In addition, Suetonius's description of Galba was that In sexual matters he was more inclined to males, and then none but the hard bodied and those past their prime. This seems to be the only case in Roman history where a named individual male is stated to prefer adult males.

He became Praetor in 20, and consul in 33; he earned a reputation in the provinces of Gaul, Germania, Africa and Hispania (Iberia, comprising modern Spain and Portugal) for his military capability, strictness and impartiality. On the death of Caligula, he refused the invitation of his friends to make a bid for the empire, and loyally served Claudius. For the first half of Nero's reign he lived in retirement, until 61, when the emperor bestowed on him the province of Hispania Tarraconensis.

In the spring of 68, Galba was informed of Nero's intention to put him to death, and of the insurrection of Julius Vindex in Gaul. He was at first inclined to follow the example of Vindex, but the defeat and suicide of the latter renewed his hesitation. It was said that the courtier Calvia Crispinilla would be behind his defection from Nero.

The news that Nymphidius Sabinus, the Praetorian Prefect, had given him his favor revived Galba's spirits. Until now, he had only dared to call himself the legate of the senate and Roman people; after Nero's suicide, he assumed the title of Caesar, and marched straight for Rome.

Following Nero's death, Nymphidius Sabinus sought to seize power prior to the arrival of Galba, but he could not win the loyalty of the Praetorian guard and was killed. Upon Galba's approach to the city in October, he was met by soldiers presenting demands; Galba replied by killing many of them.

Rule

Galba's primary concern during his brief reign was restoring state finances, and to this end he undertook a number of unpopular measures, the most dangerous his refusal to pay the praetorians the reward promised in his name. Galba scorned the notion that soldiers should be "bribed" for their loyalty. He was notoriously cruel throughout the Empire; according to the historian Suetonius, Galba levied massive taxes against areas that were slow to receive him as Emperor. He also sentenced many to death without trial, and rarely accepted requests for citizenship.

He further disgusted the populace by his meanness and dislike of pomp and display. Advanced age destroyed his energy, and he was entirely in the hands of favorites. Three of these - Titus Vinius, who became Galba's colleague as consul, Cornelius Laco, the commander of the Praetorian Guard, and Galba's freedman Icelus Marcianus - were said to virtually control the emperor. The three were called "The Three Pedagogues" because of their influence on Galba. All this made the new emperor gravely unpopular.

During the later period of his provincial administration, Galba was indolent and apathetic, but this was due either to a desire not to attract Nero's favor or to the growing infirmities of age. Tacitus says all pronounced him worthy of the empire, until he became emperor.

Mutiny

On 1 January 69, two legions in Germania Superior refused to swear loyalty to Galba. They toppled his statues, demanding that a new emperor be chosen. On the following day, the soldiers of Germania Inferior also rebelled and took the decision of who should be the next emperor into their own hands, proclaiming the governor of the province, Vitellius, as Emperor. This outbreak of revolt made Galba aware of his own unpopularity and of the general discontent. In order to check the rising storm, he adopted as his coadjutor and successor L. Calpurnius Piso. The populace regarded the choice of successor as a sign of fear and the Praetorians were indignant, because the usual donative was not forthcoming.

Assassination

M. Salvius Otho, formerly governor of Lusitania, and one of Galba's earliest supporters, disappointed at not being chosen instead of Piso, entered into communication with the discontented Praetorians, and was adopted by them as their emperor. Galba at once set out to meet the rebels, though he was so feeble that he had to be carried in a litter. He was met by a troop of Otho's cavalry and was killed near Lacus Curtius. One guard, centurion Sempronius Densus, died defending him. Piso was killed shortly afterwards.

According to Plutarch, during Galba's last moments he offered his neck, and said, "Strike, if it be for the good of the Romans!" According to Suetonius, Galba prior to his death had put on a linen corset- although remarking that it had little protection against so many swords. After his death, Galba's head was brought to Otho, who gave it to his camp followers who paraded and mocked it - the camp followers' mocking was their angry response to a remark by Galba that his strength was unimpaired. The head was then bought by a freedman so he could throw it on the place where his former master had been executed on Galba's orders. Galba's steward buried both head and trunk in a tomb by the Aurelian Road.

Altogether, around 120 people claimed the credit for killing Galba, being anxious to win Otho's favour and hoping to be rewarded. A list of their names was drawn up, which fell into the hands of Vitellius when he succeeded Otho as emperor. Every one of them was executed.




Marcus Salvius Otho 69



7th Emperor of the Roman Empire


Marcus Salvius Otho (April 25, 32 - April 16, 69) was Roman Emperor from January 15 to April 16, in 69 AD, the second emperor of the Year of the Four Emperors.

Otho belonged to an ancient and noble Etruscan family settled at Ferentinum (modern Ferento, near Viterbo) in Etruria. He appears first as one of the most reckless and extravagant of the young nobles who surrounded Nero. This friendship was brought to an end in 58 because of a woman, Poppea Sabina. Otho introduced his beautiful wife to the Emperor upon the insistence of his wife, who then began an affair that would eventually be the death of her. After securely establishing this position as his mistress, she divorced Otho and had the emperor send him away to the remote province of Lusitania.

Otho remained in Lusitania for the next ten years, administrating the province with a moderation unusual at the time. When in 68 his neighbour Galba, the governor of Hispania Tarraconensis, rose in revolt against Nero, Otho accompanied him to Rome. Resentment at the treatment he had received from Nero may have impelled him to this course, but to this motive was added before long that of personal ambition. Galba was childless and far advanced in years, and Otho, encouraged by the predictions of astrologers, aspired to succeed him. But in January 69 his hopes were dissipated by Galba's formal adoption of Lucius Calpurnius Piso Licinianus, who Galba had previously named a recipient in his will.

Nothing remained for Otho but to strike a bold blow. Desperate as was the state of his finances, thanks to his previous extravagance, he found money to purchase the services of some twenty-three soldiers of the Praetorian Guard. On the morning of January 15, only five days after the adoption of Piso, Otho attended as usual to pay his respects to the emperor, and then hastily excusing himself on the score of private business hurried from the Palatine to meet his accomplices. He was then escorted to the Pretorian camp, where, after a few moments of surprise and indecision, he was saluted imperator.

With an imposing force he returned to the Forum, and at the foot of the Capitol encountered Galba, who, alarmed by vague rumours of treachery, was making his way through a dense crowd of wondering citizens towards the barracks of the guard. The cohort on duty at the Palatine, which had accompanied the emperor, instantly deserted him. Galba, his newly adopted son Piso and others were brutally murdered by the Praetorians.

The brief struggle over, Otho returned in triumph to the camp, and on the same day was duly invested by the senators with the name of Augustus, the tribunician power and the other dignities belonging to the principate. Otho had owed his success to the resentment felt by the Pretorian guards and the rest of the army at Galba's refusal to pay the promised gold to the ones who supported his accession to the throne. The population of the city was also unhappy with Galba and cherished the memory of Nero. Otho's first acts as emperor showed that he was not unmindful of the facts.

He accepted, or appeared to accept, the cognomen of Nero conferred upon him by the shouts of the populace, whom his comparative youth and the effeminacy of his appearance reminded of their lost favourite. Nero's statues were again set up, his freedmen and household officers reinstalled, and the intended completion of the Golden House announced. At the same time the fears of the more sober and respectable citizens were allayed by Otho's liberal professions of his intention to govern equitably, and by his judicious clemency towards Marius Celsus, consul-designate, a devoted adherent of Galba.

But any further development of Otho's policy was checked once Otho read through Galba's private correspondence and realized the extent of the revolution in Germany, where several legions had declared for Vitellius, the commander of the legions on the lower Rhine, and were already advancing upon Italy. After a vain attempt to conciliate Vitellius by the offer of a share in the empire, Otho, with unexpected vigour, prepared for war. From the remoter provinces, which had acquiesced in his accession, little help was to be expected; but the legions of Dalmatia, Pannonia and Moesia were eager in his cause, the pretorian cohorts were in themselves a formidable force and an efficient fleet gave him the mastery of the Italian seas.

The fleet was at once dispatched to secure Liguria, and on the March 14 Otho, undismayed by omens and prophecies, started northwards at the head of his troops in the hopes of preventing the entry of the Vitellius' troops into Italy. But for this he was too late, and all that could be done was to throw troops into Placentia and hold the line of the Po. Otho's advanced guard successfully defended Placentia against Alienus Caecina, and compelled that general to fall back on Cremona. But the arrival of Fabius Valens altered the aspect of affairs.

Vitellius' commanders now resolved to bring on a decisive battle, the Battle of Bedriacum, and their designs were assisted by the divided and irresolute counsels which prevailed in Otho's camp. The more experienced officers urged the importance of avoiding a battle, until at least the legions from Dalmatia had arrived. But the rashness of the emperor's brother Titianus and of Proculus, prefect of the pretorian guards, added to Otho's feverish impatience, overruled all opposition, and an immediate advance was decided upon, Otho himself remaining behind with a considerable reserve force at Brixellum, on the southern bank of the Po.

When this decision was taken, Otho's army had already crossed the Po and were encamped at Bedriacum (or Betriacum), a small village on the Via Postumia, and on the route by which the legions from Dalmatia would naturally arrive.Leaving a strong detachment to hold the camp at Bedriacum, the Othonian forces advanced along the Via Postumia in the direction of Cremona.

At a short distance from that city they unexpectedly encountered the Vitellian troops. The Othonians, though taken at a disadvantage, fought desperately, but were finally forced to fall back in disorder upon their camp at Bedriacum. There on the next day the victorious Vitellians followed them, but only to come to terms at once with their disheartened enemy, and to be welcomed into the camp as friends.

More unexpected still was the effect produced at Brixellum by the news of the battle. Otho was still in command of a formidable force: the Dalmatian legions had already reached Aquileia and the spirit of his soldiers and their officers was unbroken. But he was resolved to accept the verdict of the battle that his own impatience had hastened. In a dignified speech he bade farewell to those about him, and then retiring to rest slept soundly for some hours.

Early in the morning he stabbed himself in the heart with a dagger, which he had concealed under his pillow, and died as his attendants entered the tent. His funeral was celebrated at once, as he had wished, and not a few of his soldiers followed their master's example by killing themselves at his pyre. A plain tomb was erected in his honor at Brixellum, with the simple inscription Diis Manibus Marci Othonis.

He was just thirty-seven at the time of his death, and had reigned just three months.




Aulus Vitellius Germanicus



8th Emperor of the Roman Empire

Aulus Vitellius Germanicus (September 24 AD 15 - December 22, 69) was Roman Emperor for eight months, from 16 April to 22 December 69. Vitellius was acclaimed Emperor following the quick succession of the previous emperors Galba and Otho, in a year of civil war known as the Year of the Four Emperors.

Vitellius was the first to add the honorific cognomen Germanicus to his name instead of Caesar upon his accession; the latter name had fallen into disrepute in many quarters because of the actions of Nero.

His claim to the throne was soon challenged by legions stationed in the eastern provinces, who proclaimed their commander Vespasian emperor instead. War ensued, leading to a crushing defeat for Vitellius at the Second Battle of Bedriacum in northern Italy. Once he realised his support was wavering, Vitellius prepared to abdicate in favour of Vespasian, but was executed in Rome by Vespasian's soldiers on 22 December 69.

He was the son of Lucius Vitellius, who had been consul and governor of Syria under Tiberius. Vitellius the son was consul in 48, and (perhaps in 60-61) proconsul of Africa, in which capacity he is said to have acquitted himself with credit. At the end of 68 Galba, to the general astonishment, selected him to command the army of Germania Inferior, and here Vitellius made himself popular with his subalterns and with the soldiers by outrageous prodigality and excessive good nature, which soon proved fatal to order and discipline.

Far from being ambitious or scheming, he was lazy and self-indulgent, fond of eating and drinking, and owed his elevation to the throne to Caecina and Valens, commanders of two legions on the Rhine. Through these two men a military revolution was speedily accomplished, and early in 69 Vitellius was proclaimed emperor at Colonia Agrippinensis (Cologne), or, more accurately, emperor of the armies of Germania Inferior and Superior.

In fact, he was never acknowledged as emperor by the entire Roman world, though at Rome the senate accepted him and decreed to him the usual imperial honours. He advanced into Italy at the head of a licentious and rough soldiery, and Rome became the scene of riot and massacre, gladiatorial shows and extravagant feasting. As soon as it was known that the armies of the East, Dalmatia, and Illyricum had declared for Vespasian, Vitellius, deserted by many of his adherents, would have resigned the title of emperor.

It is said that he awaited Vespasian's army at Mevania. It was said that the terms of resignation had actually been agreed upon with Primus of Alexandria, one of VespasianŐs chief supporters, but the praetorians refused to allow him to carry out the agreement, and forced him to return to the palace, when he was on his way to deposit the insignia of empire in the Temple of Concord.

On the entrance of Vespasian's troops into Rome he was dragged out of some miserable hiding-place, driven to the fatal Gemonian stairs, and there struck down. "Yet I was once your emperor," were the last and, as far as we know, the noblest words of Vitellius.

During his brief administration Vitellius showed indications of a desire to govern wisely, but he was completely under the control of Valens and Caecina, who for their own ends encouraged him in a course of vicious excesses which threw his better qualities into the background.




Flavian Dynasty Begins


Caesar Vespasianus Augustus (69 - 79)



9th Emperor of the Roman Empire


Caesar Vespasianus Augustus (November 17, 9 - June 23, 79), originally known as Titus Flavius Vespasianus and best known as Vespasian, was the emperor of Rome from 69 to 79. He was founder of the Flavian Dynasty and ascended the throne in the end of the Year of the Four Emperors.




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