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The Partial Historians
We are thrilled to be joined by Dr Rob Cromarty, better known as Doc Crom, for this special episode on the Year of the Four Emperors. Doc Crom, is a teacher, author, and fellow fan of #PhallusThursdays and #FannyFriday over on twitter and we recommend you follow him for his excellent tweets about Latin literature and ancient artefacts. In this very special episode we talk about his journey into Classics and his take on the personalities and power struggles involved in the aftermath of the death of the Emperor Nero. Special Episode - The Year of the Four Emperors with Dr Rob Cromarty What is ‘The Year of the Four Emperors’? The Emperor Nero made several mistakes in the last few years of his reign. Following the brutal suppression of a serious conspiracy against him, Nero left Rome in the hands of his freedmen so that he could compete in the Olympic Games. Back in Rome, the people were dealing with low grain supplies. The aristocracy had been alienated for years, and the increasing use of delatores (informers) only made matters worse. The army was also on edge after the execution of talented generals like Corbulo. The situation in early 68 CE was tense. The extent of Roman power in the crucial years of 68 and 69 CE. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. That's Revolting The Year of the Four Emperors really kicks off with rebellion. In March, Caius Julius Vindex, then stationed in Gaul, revolted in protest against Nero’s tax policy. Some problems never change. Servius Sulpicius Galba, an old associate of some of the Julio-Claudians, was stationed in Spain and decided to throw his lot in with Vindex. Vindex’s rebellion was put down by Lucius Verginius Rufus, and Galba was declared a public enemy. But that did not last long. The Praetorian Prefect, Nymphidius Sabinus, promised the guard a hefty donative to transfer their allegiance from Nero to Galba, and before long the Senate had made Nero himself a public enemy. The First of the Four Galba became emperor in June 68 CE after the suicide of Nero. As a stern, experienced candidate, he must have seemed like a promising choice. However, he soon acquired something of a reputation. According to sources, his assumption of power involved the death of many, and he was stingy with money. Most importantly, he did not provide soldiers with the bonuses they had been promised in exchange for their support. As Tacitus (Hist. 1.49.6) remarked, “…no one would have doubted his ability to reign had he never been emperor.” Galba was also 73 years old and had no children. This didn’t bode well for stability, and so he decided to focus on improving his position in this area by adopting Lucius Calpurnius Piso in January of 69 CE, a deliberate snub to one of his most prominent supporters – Otho. A portrait bust of the Roman emperor Galba. This piece is held in the Antiquities Museum in the Royal Palace, Stockholm. Photo credit to Wolfgang Sauber via Wikimedia Commons. The Year of the Four Emperors, Take Two To say that Otho was displeased is an understatement. He bribed the Praetorians to back his cause; after all, they weren’t getting bonuses from Galba! On the 15th of January 69 CE, Piso and Galba were assassinated in the forum. Otho thus became the first emperor to unequivocally acquire power by killing the previous emperor. Otho was well known as he had been a prominent member of Nero’s court; indeed, Nero’s most beloved wife, Poppaea Sabina,