Northern Africa 69 AD: Year of Four Emperors

Political map of Northern Africa on 20 Dec 69 AD (Rome and Northern Africa: Year of Four Emperors), showing the following events: Overthrow of Nero; Principate of Otho; Principate of Vitellius; Flavian Revolt; Fall of Vitellius.

Galba was Roman Emperor for just half a year before he was overthrown by Otho in early 69 AD—the infamous Year of Four Emperors. After Otho was defeated by Vitellius, the general Vespasian, on campaign in Judea, announced his bid for the throne. Temporarily ruling from Egypt, Vespasian defeated Vitellius in December.

Main Events

8–9 Jun 68 AD Overthrow of Nero

In June 68 AD Nymphidius Sabinus, a prefect of the Praetorian Guard, spread the lie that Nero had fled to Egypt, persuading the troops to rise against him and the Senate to proclaim Galba emperor. Abandoned by his guards, Nero escaped the palace and committed suicide outside Rome with the assistance of his secretary. Nymphidius then declared himself Nero’s successor, only to be executed by the Praetorians as Galba approached wikipedia

15 Jan–16 Apr 69 AD Principate of Otho

On 15 January 69 AD, at the behest of the 36-year-old Marcus Salvius Otho, the Praetorian Guard turned on the Roman emperor Galba, killing him along with his co-consul Titus Vinius and successor Lucius Calpurnius Piso. Their heads were displayed on poles and Otho was proclaimed emperor. Although popular with the people due to his relative youth and resemblance to Nero, Otho’s reign was brought to an abrupt end when he was defeated by Vitellius at Bedriacum and chose to stab himself through the heart with a wikipedia

16 Apr–21 Dec 69 AD Principate of Vitellius

Following the defeat of Otho in April 69 AD, Vitellius made his way to Rome with his Rhine legions and assumed the position of emperor. Although he initiated a few long-lasting reforms and attempted to rally public support by imitating the still-popular Nero, his rule was viewed with distrust by the Syrian and Danube legions, who soon rallied behind Vespasian and invaded Italy. Facing defeat, Vitellius attempted to abdicate but was stopped by his supporters, leading to his ultimate defeat and execution in wikipedia

1–11 Jul 69 AD Flavian Revolt

The legions of the east were distrustful of the influence the Rhine legions had over Vitellius, especially as many of the Danube legions had supported Otho. By mid-69 AD conspirators in the east had persuaded the 59-year-old general Titus Flavius Vespasian—at the time engaged in suppressing the Jewish revolt—to make a bid for the throne. On 1 July Vespasian was proclaimed emperor at Alexandria, traveling to Judea and Syria to receive oaths of allegiance over the next ten wikipedia

?–21 Dec 69 AD Fall of Vitellius

In winter 69 AD the Roman fleet at Misenum (near Naples) revolted in favor of Vespasian, bringing the civil war to Campania. Meanwhile, the Danube legions advanced towards Rome through Umbria, persuading the Vitellian army guarding the Appenine pass at Narnia to defect. Realizing it was all over, Emperor Vitellius attempted to resign but was prevented from leaving the palace by his supporters. On 19 December Vespasian’s supporters (the Flavians) marched into Rome in three columns, defeating the Vitellians in a brutal two-day battle which destroyed much of the city and killed thousands. Captured, Vitellius was stabbed to death by the mob on the Gemonian wikipedia