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Year of the Four Emperors (Roman Imperial Biographies) [Hardcover]

Kenneth Wellesley
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book Description

September 1, 2000 0415232287 978-0415232289 3
After Nero's notorious reign, the Romans surely deserved a period of peace and tranquility. Instead, during AD69, three emperors were murdered: Galba, just days into the post, Otho and Vitellius. The same year also saw civil war in Italy, two desperate battles at Cremona and the capture of Rome for Vespasian, which action saw the fourth emperor of the year, but also brought peace.
This classic work, now updated and reissued under a new title, is a gripping account of this tumultuous year. Wellesley also focuses on the year's historical importance, which also marked the watershed between the first and second imperial dynasties.

Editorial Reviews


'Unfolds with masterly skill the tale of the conflict and intrigue of this critical time of transition from the Julio-Claudians to the Flavian emperors...The excellent and compelling narrative is enriched by a wealth of background.' - Times Educational Supplement

'If you ever thought history was dull, read this book.' Eastern Daily Press

About the Author

Kenneth Wellesley taught in the Department of Humanity (Latin) at the University of Edinburgh from 1949 until his retirement in 1981. A contributor to many classical periodicals, he is best known as a Tacitean scholar: he translated the Histories for the Penguin Classics series and edited both the Histories and part of the Annales for the Teubner Library. Barbara Levick was Fellow and Tutor in Ancient History at St. Hilda's College, Oxford. Her published works include biographies of Tiberius (Routledge Pb 1999), Vespasian (Routledge 1999) and Claudius (1993) , as well as a sourcebook on The Government of the Roman Empire (Routledge 2000)

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Product Details

  • Series: Roman Imperial Biographies
  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; 3 edition (September 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415232287
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415232289
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,328,965 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An enjoyable read of a fascinating year July 2, 2005
Being an avid reader of Roman history, I find myself picking up new books with some trepidation. Will the author(s) provide new information and insights? How will they treat past ancient historians such as Tacitus and Livy? How will the tale unfold, chronologically or grouped by topic? But most importantly, will it entertain or bore me? Fortunately, Wellesley's "The Year of the 4 Emperors" is a fascinating and interesting read covering the fall of Nero in 68AD to the rise of Vespasian in the beginning of 70AD and all the subsequent battles and intrigues that occurred between those 2 dates around the selection of an Emperor (Principate actually) to govern Rome and the known civilized world. What was most challenging after the death of Nero (and subsequently the end of the Julio-Claudians line which had ruled Rome since Augustus) was how the successor was going to be chosen. Since Augustus never came out and pronounced himself as Emperor (his powers derived from the legal "Republican" positions granted to him by the Senate), there was in-fact no legal rules established for the selection of a new Emperor beyond adoption (which Nero failed to do). And since the Senate had long since forgotten "how" to govern Rome, it only made sense to them to select a new Emperor and continue the political status-quo. This they did by selecting a new Emperor, Galba, which ended up spawning a civil war when powerful legions decided that they too deserved a say in the final decision. In the end, there would be 4 Emperors selected, some who were directly involved in the planning and battles to others who stayed far away from them. Wellesley's provides a clear and concise chronology of the events in 69AD from the first proclamation to the last battle. Read more ›
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent book on an eventful year. June 14, 2009
This is the second book I have read (and reviewed) on the events of A.D.69.The other was by Gwyn Morgan. Both are first-class. Anyone who already has either of them should not hesitate about buying the other. They are sufficiently different to make it worthwhile to have both in your library. This book is scholarly in its use of the available sources, but highly readable. Anybody interested in Roman history will enjoy it.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One Year, Four Emperors, Two Civil Wars February 10, 2006
It was a foregone conclusion that Nero had to go; but once he was gone, too many candidates for his office were willing to risk everything to take his place. So when the aged Servius Sulpicius Galba ascended to the imperium in A.D. 68, almost immediately two schemers went to work bent on overthrowing him.

In Rome, there was Marcus Salvius Otho, who was not only a good friend to the deposed Nero, but either husband or lover of Poppeia before she became empress. According to author Kenneth Wellesley, "He wore a wig, put scent on his feet and on the march to Rome it was suspected that he studied his appearance in a mirror, like an actor in his dressing room. No, it was little use having inherited power from Nero if this were to pass to Otho." Farther north along the Rhine was Aulus Vitellius, commander of the legions of Lower Germany, described as "a lethargic but noble nonentity."

Otho cozied up to the Pretorian Guard regiments and offered them a bonus if thy helped him assassinate Galba, which they did. Around the same time, Vitellius send two armies under Caecina and Valens to make his claim to the throne. That gave Otho a few months to cobble together an army from the Pretorians and other nearby legions.

The armies met at the First Battle of Cremona in Northern Italy on April 13, A.D. 69. When the result went against him, Otho committed suicide; and Vitellius began his march to Rome from his safe position in Gaul.

In July of the same year, Titus Flavius Vespasianus (usually referred to as Vespasian) -- being none too happy at Otho's usurpation -- declared himself emperor from Alexandria, Egypt, not knowing that Otho was already history. An able soldier in his sixtieth year, Vespasian had had an illustrious career and was a natural for the job.
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