Year of the Four Emperors: Galba

Over the course of the Roman Empire history, power has changed hands many times. Sometimes, the reigns of the government were turned over to the son of a former ruler, while others have taken their leadership responsibilities by force. In this article, you will encounter information regarding periods of time where many different emperors ruled within a short span of time , one year.

Year of the Four Emperors

It was in 69 AD that Rome saw four different emperors lead their empire: Galba, Otho, Vitellius, and Vespasian , the first ruler of the Flavian Dynasty. In 68, Nero committed suicide and a brief period of civil war followed thereafter. It was the first Roman civil war that broke out since the death of Mark Antony in 30 BC. Because of the chaos brewing within the empire, the city saw the successive rise and fall of many leaders. Politics and the Roman military greatly suffered in the midst of a civil war. In this time period, the Jewish Revolt and the Batavian rebellion would intensify the disruption.


Before Galba took hold of Rome, it was Nero who was in charge of the Roman Empire. In 65, the Pisonian conspiracy tried to restore the Republic, but was not successful in their attempts. Nero soon found himself surrounded by a handful of executions that left him with few political allies in the Senate. The tension continued to worsen and in late 67 or early 68, Caius Julius Vindex (governor of Gallia Lugdunensis) rebelled against Nero’s tax policy with the intention of replacing Nero with the governor of Hispania Tarraconensis , Servius Sulpicius Galba.

However, the revolt in Gaul was not a success. The legions stationed at the border to Germania marched to meet Vindex and treated him like a traitor. The Rhine army defeated Vindex in battle, and as a result, Vindex took his own life. The Senate responded by declaring Galba a public enemy. By the time June of 68 arrived, the Senate was initiating plans to get rid of Nero. They declared Nero an enemy of the Empire and made Galba the emperor.

A lot of betrayal took place during this time period. For example, Nymphidius Sabinus (commander of the Guards), who eyed the position of emperor himself, bribed the Praetorian Guard to go against Nero. As a result, Nero committed suicide, and Galba was recognized as emperor. The city welcomed the new leader with open arms.

Since Galba had obtained the throne in such a manner, his rule brought accusations of obstruction. The loyalty of others were questioned. The German legions lost their commander, as the position was given to the new emperor. Aulus Vitellius was appointed governor of the province of Germania Inferior. Since the loyalty of Germania was doubted, the Imperial Batavian Bodyguards and rebellion were dismissed.