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Vitellius was Roman emperor in the year 69, known as the Year of Four Emperors. After the death of Nero in 68, confusion led to civil war: Galba was briefly installed as emperor but assassinated in January 69. Then Otho was proclaimed in Rome but Vitellius by the troops in Germany. Their forces met in battle in April, Otho committed suicide, and Vitellius reigned only until December, when he was succeeded by Vespasian.

Aulus Vitellius was born on either 24 September or 7 September in the year 14. 'The boy's horoscope read so appallingly that [his father] did everything in his power to prevent him from winning a provincial governorship', says Suetonius in The Twelve Caesars. He got the nickname Spintria for being a catamite to Tiberius.

He was a favourite of the emperor Caligula for his chariot-racing, of Claudius for dicing, and of Nero for being President of the Games who would call out the reluctant Nero and persuade him the people wanted to hear his superb lyre-playing. He was a glutton, he was pursued by creditors, and he stripped temples of their gold; Galba's appointment of him to the command in Germany must have seemed like just another cushy job.

He entered Rome as a military dictator and occupied himself with lavish banquets and cruel executions. Before long provinces rose up against him, with the general Vespasian at their head. Soldiers dragged Vitellius from his hiding-place in the palace and killed him.

< Otho - Roman Emperors - Vespasian >

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