The Roman Empire - In The First Century
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Galba et al
Bust of Galba Et Al
Following Nero’s death, Rome was plunged into chaos. Warring generals jostled for power. In the space of just over a year, three men would lead Rome before each was brutally murdered. They were: Galba, Otho and Vitellius (ruled 68 – 69 AD).

Servius Galba was a career politician. Born into an established, wealthy family, he became consul in 33 AD. Six years later, he held command of the Upper German Army and, in 60 AD, was appointed Governor of Nearer Spain.

Marching on Rome

Eight years into his governorship, Nero purged Rome of suspected plotters, killing innocent and guilty alike. Fearing for his life, Galba recruited troops and marched on Rome.

By this time, Nero was already dead. With no heir to succeed him, the Senate named Galba as the new emperor.

With chaos still gripping the capital, Galba moved fast to secure his position. He executed a number of highly placed Romans, including some who had pushed for him to be emperor.

Dangerous enemies

Galba was quick to make enemies. By rewarding his Gallic troops, he alienated the Lower Rhine Army, which proclaimed Aulus Vitellius to be the rightful Emperor. And when the Praetorian Guard asked for the money they had been promised for deserting Nero, Galba refused to pay them. This proved to be a seriously big mistake.

Galba then made matters worse by ignoring his faithful supporter, Marcus Otho, and naming Lucius Piso as his successor.

Death number one

Otho was furious. He gained the support of the Praetorian Guard, who assassinated both Galba and Piso – just seven months after Galba had been named emperor.

Now it was Otho’s turn to rule. He became Emperor in January 69 AD, but events were already moving against him. Rome’s legions in Germany were supporting Vitellius and were marching towards Italy.

Defeat and death number two

Otho acted fast. He sent a naval force to southern Gaul, raised forces and went to meet his rivals. Although he was joined by more forces, the German legions were stronger. Undeterred, Otho insisted on battle. His army was heavily defeated in April and Otho killed himself.

With two emperors dead in ten months, attention turned to Vitellius. Another professional politician, Vitellius had also been elected consul, in 48 AD, and had been proconsul in Africa.

Another march on Rome

Vitellius was appointed commander of the Lower German Army in 68 AD, just in time for Nero’s death. The following year, his troops proclaimed him emperor and the army marched on Rome.

Like Galba, Vitellius wasted no time in eliminating opponents. He was the third emperor in a year of terror and Rome wanted order to be re-established. They looked to the east. Vespasian, who commanded troops in Judaea, had also been proclaimed emperor by his troops.

Death number 3

After losing a bitter battle in the streets of Rome, Vitellius considered resigning his throne, but his troops would not let him. But within months, thos same soldiers would brutally murder him. With Rome desperate for peace and most players dead, the field was now open to Vespasian.

Where to next:
Emperors - Vespasian
Enemies and Rebels: Josephus & Judaea

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The Roman Empire

Republic to Empire

Age of Augustus

Years of Trial

Empire Reborn

- Julius Caesar
- Augustus
- Tiberius
- Caligula
- Claudius
- Nero
- Galba et al
- Vespasian
- Titus & Domitian
- Nerva & Trajan

Social Order

Life in Roman Times


Enemies and Rebels


The Roman Empire - In The First Century