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The Year of the Four Emperors (Roman Imperial Biographies), 3rd Edition Paperback – 9 Mar 2000

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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; 3 edition (9 Mar. 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415236207
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415236201
  • Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 1.6 x 23.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,222,860 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

About the Author

Kenneth Wellesley taught in the Department of Humanity (Latin) at the University of Edinburgh from 1949 until his retirement in 1981. A contributor to many classical periodicals, he is best known as a Tacitean scholar: he translated the Histories for the Penguin Classics series and edited both the Histories and part of the Annales for the Teubner Library. Barbara Levick was Fellow and Tutor in Ancient History at St. Hilda's College, Oxford. Her published works include biographies of Tiberius (Routledge Pb 1999), Vespasian (Routledge 1999) and Claudius (1993), as well as a sourcebook on The Government of the Roman Empire (Routledge 2000)

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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A fascinating review of a pivotal year in Roman history
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x8f8f5378) out of 5 stars 7 reviews
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8f7c4d44) out of 5 stars An enjoyable read of a fascinating year 2 July 2005
By BK - Published on
Format: Paperback
Being an avid reader of Roman history, I find myself picking up new books with some trepidation. Will the author(s) provide new information and insights? How will they treat past ancient historians such as Tacitus and Livy? How will the tale unfold, chronologically or grouped by topic? But most importantly, will it entertain or bore me? Fortunately, Wellesley's "The Year of the 4 Emperors" is a fascinating and interesting read covering the fall of Nero in 68AD to the rise of Vespasian in the beginning of 70AD and all the subsequent battles and intrigues that occurred between those 2 dates around the selection of an Emperor (Principate actually) to govern Rome and the known civilized world. What was most challenging after the death of Nero (and subsequently the end of the Julio-Claudians line which had ruled Rome since Augustus) was how the successor was going to be chosen. Since Augustus never came out and pronounced himself as Emperor (his powers derived from the legal "Republican" positions granted to him by the Senate), there was in-fact no legal rules established for the selection of a new Emperor beyond adoption (which Nero failed to do). And since the Senate had long since forgotten "how" to govern Rome, it only made sense to them to select a new Emperor and continue the political status-quo. This they did by selecting a new Emperor, Galba, which ended up spawning a civil war when powerful legions decided that they too deserved a say in the final decision. In the end, there would be 4 Emperors selected, some who were directly involved in the planning and battles to others who stayed far away from them. Wellesley's provides a clear and concise chronology of the events in 69AD from the first proclamation to the last battle. In it he describes the reluctance of the legions to attack one-another, the senate's feebleness, the power of the Praetorian Guards and the ambivalent nature of the population rapidly siding with the current power to be. He looks at the different influencers from within, the timely loyalty changes and the strategies and plans that were set into motion in that year. He also clearly analyses Tacitus' works, which made up the bulk of his research, and provides insights and perspectives into places Tacitus left blank. From Rome to the Rhine, from Judea to Spain, every part of the Empire was involved in the selection of a new Emperor whether through proclamation or by providing legions for the battles ahead. Overall, a very enjoyable and lively book of a year that marked the rise of the legions in directly selecting an Emperor thus marking the next political transition of the Roman Empire.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8f7c4dc8) out of 5 stars The long year... 13 May 2009
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition
I have an older edition entitled "A.D. 69, The long year". I understand the reason for the more accessible title but i think the original title has a dramatic advantage. This is an effective and high resolution account of a year that was nearly fatal for the roman empire with not even a hint of the zenith it would soon reach under the flavians. How many times have i wished even more was known.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8f7c81b0) out of 5 stars One Year, Four Emperors, Two Civil Wars 10 Feb. 2006
By James Paris - Published on
Format: Paperback
It was a foregone conclusion that Nero had to go; but once he was gone, too many candidates for his office were willing to risk everything to take his place. So when the aged Servius Sulpicius Galba ascended to the imperium in A.D. 68, almost immediately two schemers went to work bent on overthrowing him.

In Rome, there was Marcus Salvius Otho, who was not only a good friend to the deposed Nero, but either husband or lover of Poppeia before she became empress. According to author Kenneth Wellesley, "He wore a wig, put scent on his feet and on the march to Rome it was suspected that he studied his appearance in a mirror, like an actor in his dressing room. No, it was little use having inherited power from Nero if this were to pass to Otho." Farther north along the Rhine was Aulus Vitellius, commander of the legions of Lower Germany, described as "a lethargic but noble nonentity."

Otho cozied up to the Pretorian Guard regiments and offered them a bonus if thy helped him assassinate Galba, which they did. Around the same time, Vitellius send two armies under Caecina and Valens to make his claim to the throne. That gave Otho a few months to cobble together an army from the Pretorians and other nearby legions.

The armies met at the First Battle of Cremona in Northern Italy on April 13, A.D. 69. When the result went against him, Otho committed suicide; and Vitellius began his march to Rome from his safe position in Gaul.

In July of the same year, Titus Flavius Vespasianus (usually referred to as Vespasian) -- being none too happy at Otho's usurpation -- declared himself emperor from Alexandria, Egypt, not knowing that Otho was already history. An able soldier in his sixtieth year, Vespasian had had an illustrious career and was a natural for the job.

Once Vespasian put out the word, Antonius Primus, commander of the VII Galbiana Legion on the Danube, jumped into the fray by invading Veneto with several other legions from the Balkans. He fought his way through Northern Italy to, of all places, Cremona, where he met the army of Vitellius and defeated it handily at the Second Battle of Cremona in October of the same year This time, hoever, Vitellius was not quite so obliging as Otho and continued to try drumming up support as Antonius moved south. Note that, at this time, the main body of Vespasian's army from Asia under Mucianus had not yet arrived in Italy.

Eventually, Antonius Primus wore Vitellius' forces down, and he was forced to abdicate. What happened next is one of history's little ironies: His Pretorian Guards wouldn't accept Vitellius's abdication. So in the resulting confusion, some of Vespasian's troops hunted him down and killed him.

Years ago, I had read Cornelius Tacitus' THE HISTORIES, which covers the events of this year very adequately, with the slight prejudice of one who was an adherent of the Flavian dynasty founded by Vespasian. Wellesley improves on Tacitus by his occasional flashes of wit, such as this comment on Verginius Rufus: "For the rest of a long life he dined out on the glory acquired by doing nothing and calling it patriotism." More substantively, he does an excellent job of describing the Barbarian incursions occasioned by so many of the Roman frontier forces involved in fighting two civil wars in the space of a single year.

On the negative side, this book needed not only more maps, including at least one each of the City of Rome and the full extent of the empire, but better maps. For example, the two illustrating the Battles of Cremona are all but useless.

I recommend Wellesley's THE YEAR OF THE FOUR EMPERORS to aficionados of Roman history. Neophytes beware, as the book does require some previous background in the subject.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8f7c8540) out of 5 stars An excellent book on an eventful year. 14 Jun. 2009
By Colin Glithero - Published on
Format: Paperback
This is the second book I have read (and reviewed) on the events of A.D.69.The other was by Gwyn Morgan. Both are first-class. Anyone who already has either of them should not hesitate about buying the other. They are sufficiently different to make it worthwhile to have both in your library. This book is scholarly in its use of the available sources, but highly readable. Anybody interested in Roman history will enjoy it.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8f7c86b4) out of 5 stars read Gwyn Morgan then this book SHOULD BE MADE INTO A MOVIE 20 Jan. 2015
By brainout - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Ahhh, per my other review on this time period, I had wanted Morgan's book ( ) turned into a movie on the Year of the Four Emperors. If you're a Hollywood producer, DO IT PLEASE -- but use THIS book instead, for developing your screenplay. Not sure I'd start it on Jan 1 69 as Wellesley (and Tacitus), but rather on the last few months of Nero. Unless, you can make the flashbacks work as Wellesley tries to do in this succinct but riveting reconstruction. Even so, read Morgan first for backstory, and to get familiar with the names, timelines, battles, etc. Then read this, then maybe read Morgan again.

For Wellesley understands the need for a 'live' story. Morgan, provides much needed underpinning of the events. One big flaw in all Roman history writings is that each writer takes a commentary approach, from 1st century Roman writers onward; so you're always scrambling to a dictionary or encyclopedia to just get the basic timeline and geography. Oh well. Next best thing, is to TURN THE STORY INTO A MOVIE.

Here in Wellesley, we have a kindred drama, yet without sacrificing scholarship. A TON OF MONEY CAN BE MADE BY DOING A MOVIE FROM THIS YEAR IN ROMAN HISTORY, NOT TO MENTION THE BILLIONS ON GAME OFFSHOOTS, SO PLEASE MAKE A MOVIE ON THIS. If done right, it will be bigger than Game of Thrones, bigger than Gladiator. Okay, enough caps and yelling.

If you are a Christian, you desperately need to understand this year in history, because per Bible it's triggered by Paul's death maybe only days or months before Nero's, in June 68 AD. Paul is maybe predicting his own death for that year, back in 56 AD when writing Ephesians 1:3-14 (I did videos to prove when and what Paul meant in mapping future Church history, see my 'ggs11' channel in vimeo). For it's a vital Bible principle that as goes the believer, so goes history, and all of Roman history to Odovacer was future-traced by Paul to show that principle (again, see my videos, it's all documented live in Bible text, hundreds of videos and many Word docs you can download and vet yourself in the Greek).

Of course, most of the world only wants to be entertained after coming home, plunked in front of the TV, eating dinner. Fine. This book will entertain you, too. At least, until someone wisens up and makes a movie out of it, hiring both Wellesley and Morgan as consultants.

Will shut up now.
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