The Civil War 68-69  

8 June 68 - 1 July 69

8 june 68 - 15 january 69



Galba was seventytwo years old when he was declared emperor, A. D. 69, and was then in Spain with his legions. He soon found that his elevation to the throne was but a source of new disquietudes.

Galba was sensible, that besides his age, he was less respected for want of an heir. He resolved to adopt some person, whose virtues might deserve advancement, and protect his declining age. His favorites, understanding his determination, resolved on giving him an heir of their own choosing. Otho made application for himself; but Galba, consulting the public good alone, rejected his suit, and chose Piso Lucinianus. The character given by historians of Piso, is, that he was every way worthy of the honor designed him.

Otho, who had long been a favorite of Galba, and hoping to be adopted his successor in the empire, finding his hopes disappointed, resolved to obtain the empire by force. Having corrupted the fidelity of the soldiers, he stole secretly from the emperor, and assembling them, in a short speech, urged the cruelties and the avarice of Galba.

Finding the invectives received with shouts by the army, he avowed his intention of dethroning him. The soldiers, ripe for sedition, seconded his views; and taking Otho upon their shoulders, declared him emperor; and to strike the citizens with terror, carried him with their swords drawn into the camp.

Galba seeing them approach, seemed to recollect his former fortitude; and bending his head forward, bid the assassins strike it off. This was quickly performed; and his head being set upon the point of a lance, was presented to Otho, who ordered it to be carried round the camp, his body remained unburied in the streets till it was interred by one of his slaves. He died in the seventythird year of his age, A. D. 69, after a reign of seven months; as illustrious by his own virtues as it was contaminated by the vices of his favorites, who shared in his downfall.

15 January 69 - 16 April 69


Otho, who upon the death of Galba, was elected emperor, began his reign by a signal instance of clemency in pardoning Marius Celsus, who had been highly favored by Galba; and not contented with barely forgiving, he advanced him to the highest honors, asserting that, "fidelity deserved every reward."

After Otho was made emperor, the legions in Lower Germany, having been purchased by the gifts and promises of Vitellius their general, proclaimed him emperor; and regardless of the senate, they declared that they had an equal right to appoint to that high station, with the cohorts at Rome.

Otho departed from Rome, to give Vitellius battle. The army of Vitellius, which consisted of 70000 men, was commanded by his generals, Valens and Cecinna; whilst he remained in Gaul in order to bring up the rest of his forces. Both sides hastened to meet each other with so much animosity and precipitation, that three considerable battles were fought in three days, in all which Otho had the advantage.

But these successes were of short continuance, for Valens and Cecinna joining their forces, a general engagement followed, in which Otho was totally defeated. He killed himself shortly after, having reigned three months and five days.

16 April 69 - 22 December 69


Vitellius immediately after his victory over Otho, was declared emperor by the senate, A. D. 69, and received the marks of distinction which were accustomed to follow the appointments of the strongest side.

Vitellius soon gave himself up to all kinds of luxury and profuseness; but gluttony was his favorite vice, and he brought himself to a habit of vomiting in order to be able to renew his meals at pleasure. By the continuance of such vices, added to enormous cruelties, he became a burden to himself and odious to mankind. The legions of the East resolved to make Vespasian emperor.

During the preparations against him, Vitellius made an effort to defend the empire; his chief commanders, Valens and Cecinna, were ordered to make all possible preparations to resist the invaders. The first army that entered Italy, with an hostile intention, was under the command of Antonius Primus, who was met by Cecinna near Cremona. A battle was expected, but a negotiation taking place, Cecinna was prevailed upon to change sides, and declare for Vespasian.

His army quickly repented, and imprisoning their general, attacked Antonius without a leader. The engagement continued during the night; and in the morning both armies engaged a second time; when the soldiers of Antonius, saluting the rising sun according to custom, the Vitellians, supposing they had received new reinforcements, betook themselves to flight, with the loss of 30000 men.

Vitellius, who was wallowing in luxury and excess, now made offers to Vespasian of resigning the empire, provided his life was spared, and a revenue allotted for his support. In order to enforce this request, he issued from his palace in deep mourning with all his domestics weeping around him. Meantime, one Sabinus, who had advised Vitellius to resign, perceiving his desperate situation, resolved by a bold step to oblige Vespasian and seize upon the capitol.

But he was premature in his attempt; for the soldiers of Vitellius attacked him with great fury; and prevailing by their numbers, soon laid that beautiful building in ashes. During this dreadful conflagration, Vitellius was feasting in the palace of Tiberius, and beheld the horrors of the assault with great satisfaction. Sabinus was taken prisoner, and executed by the emperor's command. Young Domitian, his nephew, who was afterwards emperor, escaped by flight in the habit of a priest, and all the rest, who survived the fire, were put to the sword.

But Antonius, Vespasian's commander, arriving before the walls of the city, the forces of Vitellius resolved upon defending it to the utmost extremity. The battle lasted all day till the besieged were driven into the city, and a dreadful slaughter made of them in all the streets which they attempted to defend.

Vitellius was soon found hidden in an obscure corner. Willing to add a few hours to his miserable life, he begged to be kept in prison till the arrival of Vespasian at Rome. But his entreaties were fruitless, the soldiers binding his hands, and throwing a halter round his neck, led him into the forum, upbraiding him with bitter reproaches. When they came to the place of punishment they killed him with many blows; dragged the dead body through the streets, and threw it into the Tiber.

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