Vitellius                                   69


Galba appointed Vitellius as Governor in the Rhine region in 68. He did this as no favor to Vitellius but rather as a strategic move to pass off a hot potato. Because Vitellius came from an aristocratic and decidedly non-military background, he calculated that the army of the region would have their hands full in dealing with this persona non grata. Whether the generals of the army in question saw through the attempted ruse or simply accepted the decision was irrelevant and backfired for Galba. Aware of the discontentment within the army of the situation in Rome, Vitellius and his men prepared to do something about it. The army set out for Rome in a journey that took several months that was noted as being more of a carnival parade than a military procession.

However, the honeymoon was soon over for Vitellius who was neither the darling of the army nor especially influential elsewhere. True to his hedonistic background, he decided to throw massive parties throughout Rome while his enemies assembled armies to depose him. When he finally realized he was in real danger, too late, he met with a contact from the approaching army of Vespasian and made an agreement to abdicate in return for peaceful retirement. He then announced his decision to the Senate creating a scandal. Feeling that this cowardice was wholly unbecoming of an emperor a mob of angry citizens and soldiers broke through to his quarters where he was hiding and ripped him to shreds.

Of all things, the biographers of Vitellius note that his chief vice was none other than gorging himself with food. It was said he couldn't even bear to make a sacrifice of food at the altar without stealing a couple bites first!


AR Denarius Rome, April-July 69 A.D.


3.22 g., 16 mm.


Rev. No legend: Victory, draped and seated left, holding patera and palm

RIC 71, Van Meter Van Meter 1b