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The YEAR OF THE FOUR EMPERORS was a year in the history of the Roman Empire , AD 69 , in which four emperors ruled in succession: Galba
Galba
, Otho
Otho
, Vitellius , and Vespasian
Vespasian
.

The suicide of the emperor Nero
Nero
in 68 was followed by a brief period of civil war, the first Roman civil war since Mark Antony
Mark Antony
's death in 30 BC. Between June of 68 and December of 69 Galba, Otho, and Vitellius successively rose and fell before the July 69 accession of Vespasian, who founded the Flavian dynasty . The social, military and political upheavals of the period had Empire-wide repercussions, which included the outbreak of the Revolt of the Batavi . The Roman Empire in 68-69

CONTENTS

* 1 Succession

* 1.1 Nero
Nero
to Galba
Galba
* 1.2 Galba
Galba
to Otho
Otho
* 1.3 Otho
Otho
to Vitellius * 1.4 Vitellius to Vespasian
Vespasian

* 2 Chronology

* 2.1 68 * 2.2 69

* 3 See also * 4 References

SUCCESSION

NERO TO GALBA

Nero
Nero

In 65, the Pisonian conspiracy attempted to restore the Republic, but failed. A number of executions followed, leaving Nero
Nero
with few political allies left in the Senate. In late 67 or early 68, Caius Julius Vindex , governor of Gallia Lugdunensis , rebelled against Nero's tax policy, with the purpose of substituting Servius Sulpicius Galba
Galba
, governor of Hispania Tarraconensis , for Nero.

Vindex's revolt in Gaul was unsuccessful. The legions stationed at the border to Germania marched to meet Vindex and confront him as a traitor. Led by Lucius Verginius Rufus , the Rhine army defeated Vindex in battle and Vindex killed himself. Galba
Galba
was at first declared a public enemy by the Senate.

In June 68, the Praetorian Guard prefect, Nymphidius Sabinus , as part of a plot to become emperor himself, incited his men to transfer their loyalty from Nero
Nero
to Galba. Nero
Nero
was suddenly powerless and the Senate declared him an enemy of the state. He fled the city and committed suicide. Galba
Galba
was recognized as emperor and welcomed into the city at the head of a single legion, VII Galbiana, later known as VII Gemina .

GALBA TO OTHO

Galba
Galba

This turn of events did not give the German legions the reward for loyalty that they had expected but rather accusations of having obstructed Galba's path to the throne. Their commander, Rufus, was immediately replaced by the new emperor. Aulus Vitellius was appointed governor of Germania Inferior
Germania Inferior
. The loss of political confidence in Germania's loyalty also resulted in the dismissal of the Imperial Batavian Bodyguards and rebellion.

Galba
Galba
did not remain popular for long. On his march to Rome, he either destroyed or imposed enormous fines on towns that did not accept him immediately. In Rome, Galba
Galba
cancelled all the reforms of Nero, including benefits for many important persons. Like his predecessor, Galba
Galba
had a fear of conspirators and executed many senators and equites without trial. The soldiers of the Praetorian Guard were not happy either. After his safe arrival in Rome, Galba refused to pay them the rewards that the prefect Nymphidius had promised them in the new emperor's name. Moreover, at the beginning of the civil year of 69 on January 1, the legions of Germania Inferior refused to swear allegiance and obedience to Galba. On the following day, the legions acclaimed their governor Vitellius as emperor.

Hearing the news of the loss of the Rhine legions, Galba
Galba
panicked. He adopted a young senator, Lucius Calpurnius Piso Licinianus , as his successor. By doing this, he offended many, above all Marcus Salvius Otho
Otho
, an influential and ambitious nobleman who desired the honor for himself. Otho
Otho
bribed the Praetorian Guard, already very unhappy with the emperor, winning them to his side. When Galba
Galba
heard about the coup d'état, he went to the streets in an attempt to stabilize the situation. It proved a mistake, because he could not attract any supporters. Shortly afterwards, the Praetorian Guard killed him in the Forum along with Lucius. Otho's legions: XIII Gemina and I Adiutrix

OTHO TO VITELLIUS

Otho
Otho

The Senate recognized Otho
Otho
as emperor that same day. They saluted the new emperor with relief. Although ambitious and greedy, Otho
Otho
did not have a record for tyranny or cruelty and was expected to be a fair emperor. However, Otho's initial efforts to restore peace and stability were soon checked by the revelation that Vitellius had declared himself Imperator in Germania and had dispatched half of his army to march on Italy.

Backing Vitellius were the finest legions of the empire, composed of veterans of the Germanic Wars , such as I Germanica and XXI Rapax . These would prove to be the best arguments for his bid for power. Otho was not keen to begin another civil war and sent emissaries to propose a peace and convey his offer to marry Vitellius' daughter. It was too late to reason; Vitellius' generals were leading half of his army toward Italy. After a series of minor victories, Otho
Otho
suffered defeat in the Battle of Bedriacum . Rather than flee and attempt a counter-attack, Otho
Otho
decided to put an end to the anarchy and committed suicide. He had been emperor for a little more than three months. Vitellius' legions: I Germanica , V Alaudae , I Italica , XV Primigenia , I Macriana liberatrix , III Augusta , and XXI Rapax Otho's legions: I Adiutrix

VITELLIUS TO VESPASIAN

Vitellius

On the news of Otho's suicide, the Senate recognized Vitellius as emperor. With this recognition, Vitellius set out for Rome; however, he faced problems from the start of his reign. The city remained very skeptical when Vitellius chose the anniversary of the Battle of the Allia (in 390 BC), a day of bad auspices according to Roman superstition, to accede to the office of Pontifex Maximus .

Events seemed to prove the omens right. With the throne tightly secured, Vitellius engaged in a series of banquets (Suetonius refers to three a day: morning, afternoon, and night) and triumphal parades that drove the imperial treasury close to bankruptcy. Debts quickly accrued, and money-lenders started to demand repayment. Vitellius showed his violent nature by ordering the torture and execution of those who dared to make such demands. With financial affairs in a state of calamity, Vitellius took to killing citizens who had named him as their heir, often together with any co-heirs. Moreover, he engaged in the pursuit of every possible rival, inviting them to the palace with promises of power, only to order their assassination. Vespasian
Vespasian

Meanwhile, the legions stationed in the African province of Egypt and the Middle Eastern provinces of Iudaea (Judea/Palestine) and Syria acclaimed Vespasian
Vespasian
as emperor. Vespasian
Vespasian
had received a special command in Judaea from Nero
Nero
in 67, with the task of putting down the Great Jewish Revolt . He gained the support of the governor of Syria, Gaius Licinius Mucianus . A strong force drawn from the Judaean and Syrian legions marched on Rome under the command of Mucianus. Vespasian
Vespasian
himself travelled to Alexandria
Alexandria
, where he was acclaimed emperor on July 1, thereby gaining control of the vital grain supplies from Egypt. His son Titus
Titus
remained in Judaea to deal with the Jewish rebellion. Before the eastern legions could reach Rome, the Danubian legions of the provinces of Raetia
Raetia
and Moesia
Moesia
also acclaimed Vespasian as emperor in August, and led by Marcus Antonius Primus , invaded Italy. In October, the forces led by Primus won a crushing victory over Vitellius's army at the Second Battle of Bedriacum .

Surrounded by enemies, Vitellius made a last attempt to win the city to his side, distributing bribes and promises of power where needed. He tried to levy by force several allied tribes, such as the Batavians, but they refused. The Danube army was now very near Rome. Realizing the immediate threat, Vitellius made a last attempt to gain time by sending emissaries, accompanied by Vestal Virgins , to negotiate a truce and start peace talks. The following day, messengers arrived with news that the enemy was at the gates of the city. Vitellius went into hiding and prepared to flee, but decided on one last visit to the palace, where Vespasian's men caught and killed him. In seizing the capital, they burned down the temple of Jupiter .

The Senate acknowledged Vespasian
Vespasian
as emperor on the following day. It was December 21, 69, the year that had begun with Galba
Galba
on the throne. Vitellius legions: XV Primigenia Vespasian
Vespasian
legions: III Augusta , I Macriana liberatrix

Vespasian
Vespasian
met no direct threat to his imperial power after the death of Vitellius. He became the founder of the stable Flavian dynasty that succeeded the Julio-Claudians . He died of natural causes in 79. The Flavians, each in turn, ruled from 69 to 96.

CHRONOLOGY

68

* April – Galba
Galba
, governor of Hispania Tarraconensis , and Vindex , governor of Gallia Lugdunensis rebel against Nero
Nero
* May – The Rhine legions defeat and kill Vindex in Gaul * June – Nero
Nero
is declared a public enemy (hostis) by the senate (June 8) and commits suicide (June 9); Galba
Galba
is recognized emperor. * November – Vitellius nominated governor of Germania Inferior
Germania Inferior

69

* January 1 – The Rhine legions refuse to swear loyalty to Galba * January 2 – Vitellius acclaimed emperor by the Rhine * January 15 – Galba
Galba
killed by the Praetorian Guard ; in the same day, the senate recognizes Otho
Otho
as emperor * April 14 – Vitellius defeats Otho * April 16 – Otho
Otho
commits suicide; Vitellius recognized emperor * July 1 – Vespasian
Vespasian
, commander of the Roman army in Judaea , proclaimed emperor by the legions of Egypt under Tiberius Julius Alexander * August – The Danubian legions announce support to Vespasian
Vespasian
(in Syria) and invade Italy in September on his behalf * October – The Danubian army defeats Vitellius and Vespasian occupies Egypt * December 20 – Vitellius killed by soldiers in the Imperial Palace * December 21 – Vespasian
Vespasian
recognized emperor

SEE ALSO

* Tacitus
Tacitus
, Histories * Year of the Five Emperors (193 AD) * Year of the Six Emperors (238 AD)

REFERENCES

* Roman Warfare, Adrian Goldsworthy * The Twelve Caesars, Suetonius , available from Project Gutenberg : The Lives of the Twelve Caesars, Complete * The year of the four emperors, Peter Greenhalgh (1975) * Histories , Tacitus
Tacitus
* 69 AD: The Year of Four Emperors, Gwyn Morgan (2006)

* v * t * e

Roman emperors by epoch

List of Roman emperors · Roman Empire
Roman Empire
· Family tree

Principate Crisis of the 3rd century Dominate Division Successors

* Julio-Claudian dynasty (27 BC – 68 AD) * 4 Emperors (68–69) * Flavian dynasty (69–96) * Nerva–Antonine dynasty
Nerva–Antonine dynasty
(96–192) * 5 Emperors (192–193) * Severan dynasty
Severan dynasty
(193–235)

* 6 Emperors (238) * Illyrian emperors (268–284) * Gallic Emperors (260–274) * Britannic Emperors (286–297)

* Tetrarchies (293–313) * Constantinian dynasty (305–363) * Valentinian dynasty (364–392) * Theodosian dynasty (378–455)

* Western Roman Emperors (395–476) * Eastern Roman/Byzantine Emperors (395–1453)

* Barbarian kings of Italy * Latin emperors * Holy Roman Emperors

* v * t * e

Ancient Roman wars

WARS OF THE ROMAN REPUBLIC

* Roman–Etruscan Wars * Roman-Aequian wars * Roman–Latin wars * Roman–Hernician wars * Roman-Volscian wars * Samnite Wars * Pyrrhic War * Punic Wars
Punic Wars
(First , Second , Third ) * Illyrian Wars
Illyrian Wars
(First , Second , Third ) * Macedonian Wars (First , Second , Third , Fourth ) * Roman–Seleucid War * Aetolian War * Galatian War * Roman conquest of Hispania ( First Celtiberian War , Lusitanian War , Numantine War , Sertorian War , Cantabrian Wars ) * Achaean War * Jugurthine War
Jugurthine War
* Cimbrian War * Servile Wars (First , Second , Third ) * Social War * Sulla\'s civil wars (First , Second ) * Mithridatic Wars (First , Second , Third ) * Gallic Wars * Caesar\'s invasions of Britain * Caesar\'s Civil War * End of the Republic (Post-Caesarian , Liberators\' , Sicilian , Perusine , Final )

WARS OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE

* Germanic Wars (Teutoburg , Marcomannic , Alemannic , Gothic , Visigothic ) * Wars in Britain * Wars of Boudica
Boudica
* Armenian War * Civil War of 69 * Jewish–Roman wars
Jewish–Roman wars
* Domitian\'s Dacian War * Trajan\'s Dacian Wars * Parthian Wars * Persian Wars * Civil Wars of the Third Century * Wars of the Fall of the Western Roman Empire
Roman Empire

MILITARY HISTORY

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