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