(Aulus Vitellius)

d. 69

Vitellius was the second of three emperors declared in the year 69 A.D. He held the throne for 10 months after defeating Otho at the battle of Bedriacum, before being deposed and murdered by the forces of Vespasian. He is most famous however, for his reputation of indulgent gluttony. The family of Vitellius had long been members of the court of the Caesars. Vitellius had served as governor of Africa under Nero and was also one of his companions in riotous living. He was appointed to his position as commander of the legion in Germany by Galba, and in less than a year made himself popular with the soldiers due to his good nature and leniency. When Galba was deposed, two lieutenants under him, by the name of Valens and Caecina, encouraged him to declare himself emperor in opposition to Otho. They led the legions into Italy and defeated Otho's army at Bedriacum. Vitellius then marched into Rome with no further opposition.

His reign was marked by a series of extravagant excesses. Valens and Caecina ran the government and kept Vitellius in a state of perpetual indulgence. After ten months the government of Rome was in turmoil, and as soon as Vitellius heard that Vespasian was rising against him in the East he desired to abdicate without contest. The brother of Vespasian, Flavius Sabinus, was in Rome and negotiated generous terms of surrender, but when Vitellius tried to resign, his partisans physically prevented him from doing so, and sought to capture Sabinus, who took refuge in the capital. In the course of the ensuing fight, the capital, which was no longer configured as a fortress was accidentally destroyed by fire, and Sabinus was killed. Vitellius himself was captured and killed when Vespasian's troops entered Rome.

Key events during the life of vitellius:

Proconsul in Africa.
Made commander of the lower Rhine by Galba. Popular with troops due to indulgence.
Proclaimed emperor by legions in Gaul, on the death of Galba. Defeated rival Otho at Bedriacum.
After a short and gluttonous reign, Vitellius is deposed by Vespasian.

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Imperial Glutton  in  Pictures from Roman Life and Story  by  Alfred J. Church
Burning of the Capitol  in  Pictures from Roman Life and Story  by  Alfred J. Church
Siege of Jerusalem  in  The Story of the Romans  by  H. A. Guerber
Reign of a Glutton  in  Historical Tales: Roman  by  Charles Morris

Image Links

 in Pictures from Roman Life and Story

Vitellius Torn by the Mob
 in Greatest Nations - Rome

Short Biography
Galba Declared emperor after Nero was deposed. Served less than a year.
Otho Emperor for three months in 69 A.D. Committed suicide rather than continue civil war.
Vespasian First emperor of humble origins. Founder of Flavian dynasty.
Flavius Sabinus Brother of Sabinus who tried to negotiate surrender of Vitellius.
Valens and Caecina Commanders of legion of the lower Rhine. Supporters and advisors of Vitellius.