Year of the Four Emperors: Galba and Otho

Galba was not in favor for long as emperor of Rome. When he marched to Rome, he brought destruction to the towns or heavily fined the regions that did not readily accept him as the new ruler. When Galba reached Rome, he took away all of the reforms that had been put in place by Nero. Even significant people in the Empire lost their benefits.

Galba feared for his position and life, so he executed many senators and other people in high positions without giving them a trial. Galba also made enemies of the army. After the ruler safely made it to Rome, he refused to pay the rewards he promised to soldiers that lent their support. At the beginning of the civil year of 69, the Germania Inferior legions refused to obey the commands or swear allegiance to the new emperor. The day after January 1, the legions acknowledged their governor, Vitellius, as their emperor.

Galba panicked at the news of a loss of the Rhine legions. Upon hearing the details, he adopted a young senator, Lucius Calpurnius Piso Licinianus, as his successor. This act offended many people, including Marcus Salvius Otho, who was an influential and ambitious man who felt that this honor should go to him. Otho concocted a bribe for the Praetorian Guard, who were happy to oblige. With the Guard on his side, Otho planted the seeds of a coup. Galba went to the streets to control the unrest, but he was unable to gather any supported. Not too long after, the Praetorian Guard killed him in the Forum.


The same day that Galba was killed in the Forum, Otho was named the emperor. The people and army were pleased with the change and the new emperor was greeted with a salute. It was expected of Otho to rule with a fair hand since he did not show any tyranny or cruelty in the past. Otho was full of greed and ambitious, but could prove a fitting ruler for the people. In the meantime, Vitellius was marching from Germany towards Italy.

The finest legions of the empire were backing Vitellius with veterans of the Germanic Wars lending their support. These were the people that would help Vitellius gain power over the Roman Empire. Otho wanted to avoid another civil war, so he dispatched emissaries to propose a peaceful agreement. He invited Vitellius to become his son-in-law. However, there would be no reasoning, as Vitellius had generals from half of his army on their way to Italy.  

Otho was eventually defeated in the Battle of Bedriacum. Instead of flee and attempt a counterattack at a later time, Otho decided to end the anarchy by committing suicide. He lasted as emperor for a little more than three months.