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Helene A. Guerber

Two Short Reigns

G ALBA, the new emperor, was more than seventy years old at the time of his election; and he soon discovered that he could not do all that he wished. He tried very hard to curb the insolence of the soldiers, to punish vice, and to fill the empty state treasury; but he was not able to accomplish any of these ends.

He had several favorites, and according to their advice he was either too severe or too lenient. His lack of firmness soon gave rise to discontent and revolts. As he had no son to succeed him, Galba wished to adopt a fine young man named Piso Licinianus, but the senate and soldiers did not approve of this choice.

Otho, a favorite of Galba, had hoped to be adopted as heir; but when he saw that another would be selected, he bribed the soldiers to uphold him, with money which he stole from Galba's treasury. The mob believed all that Otho told them, and declared that he should be emperor in Galba's stead.

Rushing off to the Forum, they met the emperor, and struck off his head. This was then placed on a lance, and carried around the camp in triumph, while the deserted body was carried away and buried by a faithful slave.

After a very brief reign, Otho heard that the Roman legions on the Rhine had elected their commander Vitellius as emperor, and were coming to attack him. He bravely hastened northward to meet them, and in the first encounters his army had the advantage.

In the great battle at Bedriacum, however, his troops were completely defeated, and two days later Otho killed himself to avoid falling into the enemy's hands. Soon Vitellius entered Rome as emperor, and as the successor of Galba and Otho, whose combined reigns had not lasted even one year.