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Vitellius

Emperor A. D. 69

Aulus Vitellius, governor of Lower Germany, was proclaimed emperor by his troops who hated the current emperor for his harsh discipline and stinginess with bonus payments to the troops. Vitellius' two able generals, Valens and Caecina, defeated the troops of Otho, another imperial contender near the town of Cremona. After Otho' suicide, Vitellius’ army marched into Rome and put him on the throne. It was not long before Vitellius had to face legions in revolt just like his predecessors had. This time, it was the Danubian legions in support of their own choice for the throne, Titus Flavius Vespasianus. Vitellius' own troops were deserting him and his two generals were of no use to him. Valens was sick and Caecina deserted to Vespasian. The place of the clash was again near Cremona, and Vespasian' army crushed the forces of Vitellius and brutally sacked the town of Cremona. Vitellius had been emperor for eight months.

Vitellius had not wanted to be emperor. In fact, he tried to make peace with the armies of Otho, but his own soldiers would not hear of it. They wanted their general to be emperor and to be paid the usual generous cash bonus upon his accession to the throne. Somehow, Vitellius knew that he didn't have much of a chance. He would have to fight the armies of both Otho and Vespasian. He didn' have much choice, though. If he didn't agree to be made emperor, he would probably be murdered by the troops. Even after he was emperor. when he learned that Vespasian' troops were approaching close to Rome, he went before the Senate and begged to be allowed to abdicate and live as a private citizen. The Roman people were appalled at such cowardice and told him to await his fate like a man. When Vespasian' troops entered the city, they found Vitellius hiding in a bedroom in the palace, with a bed pushed against the door. They dragged him out into the streets and slowly tormented him to death, not giving him the mercy of a quick fatal blow. &quotBut I was once your emperor!" he whined as he lay in the street dying with the soldiers mocking and abusing him.


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