Little Bits of History

Four in One Year

Posted in History by patriciahysell on December 21, 2011


December 21, 69 AD: Vespasian becomes Emperor of Rome – the fourth man to rule the Roman Empire that year. Known as the Year of the Four Emperors, 69 AD saw first Galba, then Otho, next Vitellius, and finally Vespasian in power. In 68, Nero was left with few allies and armies poised to march on Rome. Nero was declared a public enemy and was forced to commit suicide. It was hoped that Rome would be a true Republic again after Nero’s death.

Galba rose to the throne which was a snub to the German legions who had expected more in return for their loyalty to Rome. The Germans started a shuffle of power and Vitellius was appointed governor and head of the army. By the time Galba actually arrived in Rome, his popularity was in decline and the Germanic provinces were in revolt. Galba chose a new successor which further alienated the Senate. Otho bribed the Praetorian Guard and suddenly the job of Emperor was vacant.

Otho was made Emperor immediately. While he was ambitious and greedy, he was not cruel and it was hoped that a stable government would return. Vitellius was already leading his elite legions into Italy and heading towards Rome. Otho sent a peace proposal to Vitellius going so far as to offer him the job of son-in-law. The German troops continued their advance. Otho committed suicide rather than plunge Italy into further civil war.

Vitellius assumed the role of Emperor, choosing a day which was considered unlucky. He then celebrated with parades and feasts and soon was in debt paying for the festivities. His popularity waned as he taxed the citizens to pay off debts. Vespasian had just won a victory in Judea and began a journey north to Rome. Vitellius, aware of his tenuous grip on power, began to bribe the people without success. Vespasian’s troops entered Rome and located Vitellius hiding in the temple of Jupiter. The temple was burned, killing Vitellius. Vespasian ascended to the throne and ruled Rome for ten years.

“One of the main causes of the fall of the Roman Empire was that, lacking zero, they had no way to indicate successful termination of their C programs.” – Robert Firth

“The Sixties are now considered a historical period, just like the Roman Empire.” – Dave Barry

“It was luxuries like air conditioning that brought down the Roman Empire. With air conditioning their windows were shut, they couldn’t hear the barbarians coming.” – Garrison Keillor

“It’s like the Roman Empire. Wasn’t everybody running around just covered with syphilis? And then it was destroyed by the volcano.” – Joan Collins

Also on this day:

Can You Use Ink? – In 1913, Arthur Wynn invented the crossword puzzle.
Norway – In 1962, Norway established its first national park.