Following Nero's suicide, the Praetorian Guard offered the throne to Galba, governor of
Spain. Galba accepted, and tried to secure his position by murdering likely
opposition. Therefore, the Praetorian Guard revolted, killing Galba and nominating
Otho as their choice for emperor.
Civil war now returned to Rome. The Rhine legions refused to
recognize Galba as emperor, declaring governor Vitellius as the true emperor. The
Danubian legions declared their support for Otho, and the two armies met at the
battlefield of Cremona in the Po River Valley, where Otho was promplty defeated and
committed suicide. Vitellius followed up by systematically mudering the centurions
of the Danubian legions, but another army was already on the march. Vespasian,
former governor of Syria, declared himself emperor, with the backing of all the troops
currently in the east. Humiliated, the Danubian legions ralled with Vespasian and
advanced in the Po River Valley. After a second battle at Cremona, the victorious
Danubian legions marched on Rome. Vespasian's older brother, in command of the urban
cohorts, was killed, and the Great Temple of Jupiter burned. The Danubian legions
seized and lynched Vitellius in the streets of Rome, and what followed was a bloodbath.
Thankfully, Vespasian's own legions under Mucianus arrived in time to stop the
blood letting. Vespasian himself arrived in the spring of AD 76.
Vespasian had made a
reputation by quelling Jewish insurgences in Palestine. On leaving for Rome, he
entrusted the completion of his campain to his oldest son, Titus, who seiged and sacked
the city and was voted a triumph by the Senate.
Before his death in AD
79, Vespasian rebuilt the Capitoline temple, constructed the forum pacis (near the forum
Augustum) to celebrate the return of peace to Italy, in addition to building the Colesseum
on the site of the lake of Nero's domus aurea. His successor, Titus, only reigned
for two years and was followed by his younger brother Domition, who, despite administering
many important public building projects, was never popular. His later years were
marked by scandalous treason trials, and in AD 96 he was knifed by an assassin. His
name was cursed by the Senate and removed from all public monuments.
Marcus Coccius Nerva
was the Senate's choice for the next emperor, but, being unable to gain support,
especially from the Praetorian Guard at age 66, he adopted as his son Marcus Ulpius
Traianus (Trajan), commander of the troops in Upper Germany. Succeeding Nerva in AD
98, Trajan became the first emperor of Provincial origin, like his successor Hadrian,
under whose leadership Rome would enter a golden age.
One of Trajan's most
extensive building projects was the construction of the last and most richly decorated
imperial fora, to the northwest of that of Augustus. It was built between AD 107 and
112, paid for from the spoils of his war against the Dacians, and was designed by the
great architect Apollodorus. Dedicated in AD 113, the complex measured 300 by 180
meters, while the open central piazza was 200 by 120 meters, flanked on either side by two
homicycles. In the center was an enormous statue of Trajan on horseback. The
complex could be entered through Augustus' forum through a triumphal gate adorned by a
statue of an incredible six hourse chariot. There were also gilded status of
military standards of successful legions. Beyond the entrance on the northwest side
of the piazza was the Basilica Ulpia, the largest such building every constructed in the
Roman period. Beyon this was Trajan's column, flanked by two libraries. In
addition, there was a temple dedicated by Hadrian to Trajan and his wife, Plotina, though
it is doubtful that his was part of the original design. The open court of the forum
itself was surrounded in corynthian porticoes whose columns were of greenish/white
cipollino marble from Caryrtos, an island of Euboea off the east coast of Greece.
Trajan's reign also saw
the construction of a huge market complex to the northeast side of the forum, referred to
as the Markets of Trajan. It incorporated 150 plus separate offices and shop units,
with an enormously large vaulted hall. The complex could be accessed from three
Trajan also built great
baths, opened on the 22nd of June, AD 109 on the slopes of the Esquiline
Hill. They provided a number features seen in later baths in Rome and elsewhere.
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