Upon the death of Nero, the dynasty of Augustus came to an end which resulted in a bloody civil war ,the first one since Octavian and Antony, between rival generals for the power of the empire. During the year 69 AD ,four different emperors ascended the throne in rapid succession though the first three did not last more than six months.
The first emperor to ascend the throne was a man named Servius Sulpicius Galba who was born in the year 4 BC. Galba had enjoyed the favor of previous emperors and held the consulship in 33 AD with Tiberius. As a result of this favor he had a long and distinguished military career.
Near the end of Nero's reign, there were five separate revolts throughout the empire with five different generals competing for the emperor ship. Galba was the first of these generals to reach Rome and had himself proclaimed emperor. He was an old man of 75 when he became emperor.
Galba's fatal mistake was that he refused top pay the soldiers the bonus that emperors usually paid them upon their ascension. He believed that a soldier should do his duty out of patriotism and not because of big bonuses. He also angered his only friend and closest supporter, Otho by choosing another man as his heir. As a result, Otho turned his soldiers against Galba and on January 16 69 AD Galba was killed in the Roman streets after a brief reign of 7 months.
The future emperor Marcus Salvius Otho was born in the year 32 AD. Immediately upon his proclamation as emperor, he had the Praetorian guard kill all the friends and supporters of Galba, including the old emperor himself. As soon as he became emperor, Otho faced a revolt of his own as the praetorian guard supported him but the Legions in Germany supported a man named Vitellius. As a result ,the German legions marched on Rome to put Vitellius on the throne and to depose Otho.
Upon hearing of this revolt, Otho sent his troops to fight Vitellius. The two armies met just outside the Italian town of Cremona. Otho had sent his troops to late ,however, and his army suffered a miserable defeat. When he heard of this defeat ,he killed himself .Otho had reigned for a mere 95 days.
Aelius Vitellius was born in the year 32 AD. Upon his ascension, he abandoned himself to extravagance and all but ignored the troops who had given him the position. He actually did not want to be emperor and even tried to make peace with the troops of Otho which his soldiers would not allow because they wanted their own general on the throne who would pay them a cash bonus. Also, upon hearing that the troops of his rival ,Vespasian, were approaching Rome Vitellius begged the senate to allow him to abdicate the throne and live as a private citizen so he could be spared the miserable death he knew that the Flavian troops would give him. The Roman people were appalled by this act of cowardess and told him to wait for his fate like a man.
Upon the entrance of Vespasians troops into Rome, they found Vitellius cowering in a a palace bedroom with a bed blocking the door. Vitellius was dragged out of his palace and was thrown onto the streets where he was slowly tortured by Vespasians troops. As he lay dying, he was mocked by the troops of Vespasian. Vitellius had been emperor for only seven months.
Vespasian ascended the throne and with him peace and stability was finally restored to the Roman empire. He also ushered in the new Flavian dynasty, in which he and his two sons would rule Rome for 29 years.