Year of the four Emperors

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The Year of the Four Emperors refers to 69 AD, a politically unstable period in the Roman Empire during which four different emperors came to power in the space of a single year.

The tumultuous period began in March of 68 AD with a revolt against the unpopular taxation policies of the already unpopular Emperor Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, better known as Nero. Roman Governor Servius Sulpicius Galba joined in the revolt and marched on Rome to install himself as Emperor. Facing with the disloyalty of his army, the Praetorian Guard and the Senate, Nero fled Rome and committed suicide on August 9. His death also marked the end of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, which had ruled since the beginning of the empire.

Galba took power, but quickly lost the support of the senate and armed forces. He refused to pay the soldiers who had helped him attain the throne, and he arrested and executed many of his perceived rivals and critics. On January 1 of 69 AD, the legions of Germania Inferior refused to swear allegiance and obedience Galba, and on the next day, they acclaimed their governor Vitellius as emperor. However, before Vitellius could seize power, a young noble named Marcus Salvius Otho bribed the Praetorian Guard to kill Galba. The assassination was accomplished on January 15 and the senate proclaimed Otho emperor in the same day.

Otho's reign would be short, as Vitellius was already marching on Rome to take power. Otho offered to share power with the advancing governor, but Vitellius rebuffed the offer and the two sides met in the inconclusive Battle of Bedriacum. Soon after the battle, on April 16, Otho committed suicide. His rule had lasted 90 days[1]

Vitellius assumed power that same day, but his rule was quickly threatened.

By mid-July, he received news that legions in Egypt had rejected his claim to power and sworn allegiance to a rival emperor, Titus Flavius Vespasianus, the governor of Judaea and a successful and popular general, who sent troops to march on Rome and install him on the throne. Vitellius attempted to resign as emperor but was overruled by his followers and the Praetorian Guard. Vespasian's troops easily defeated the Vitellian legions and the emperor himself was dragged from his palace, murdered and thrown into the Tiber river on December 22. Vespasian took powerr on the same day, and ruled the empire for another 10 years.[2]

References

  1. http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Cassius_Dio/63*.html#64-13.2
  2. http://www.heritage-history.com/www/heritage.php?R_menu=OFF&Dir=wars&FileName=wars_yearfour.php
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