The Year of Four Emperors, so the ancient sources assure us, was one of the most chaotic, violent, and frightening periods in all Roman history. It was a time of assassinations and civil war, of armies so out of control that they had no qualms about occupying the city of Rome, and of ambitious men who ruthlessly seized power only to have it wrenched from their grasps.
In 69 AD, Gwyn Morgan offers a fresh look at this period, based on two considerations to which insufficient attention has been paid in the past. First, that we need to unravel rather than cherry-pick between the conflicting accounts of Tacitus, Plutarch and Suetonius, our three main sources of information. And second, that the role of the armies, as distinct from that of their commanders, has too often been exaggerated. The result is a remarkably accurate and insightful narrative history, filled with colorful portraits of the leading participants and new insights into the nature of the Roman military.
A strikingly vivid account of ancient Rome, 69 AD is an original and compelling account of one of the best known but perhaps least understood periods in all Roman history. It will engage and enlighten all readers with a love for the tumultuous soap opera that was Roman political life.
Nero's suicide in June of A.D. 68 touched off a tumultuous year in the Roman Empire, full of political intrigue, social upheaval and military disorder. With judicious historical insight, Morgan, who teaches classics and history at the University of Texas Austin, provides a first-rate history of this chaotic year while challenging many of the reigning theories. Unlike earlier books, Morgan's incorporates the versions of Tacitus, Plutarch, Suetonius and Dio in his quest for a balanced account. Galba was the first of four emperors to rule in this one-year span. But he never achieved popularity, and Otho, one of Nero's closest companions, murdered him in January 69 and took the reins. A civil war erupted between Otho's supporters and those of Vitellius, leading to Otho's suicide in April. The Senate then confirmed Vitellius as emperor, though his nine-month reign was marked by great extravagance. In December, the Senate acclaimed Vespasian, who had murdered Vitellius, as emperor, and he brought an end, temporarily, to the civil strife in the empire. Despite its turbulence, Morgan prudently points out that the year 69 was not the period of total anarchy that others have claimed. Although at times pedantic and even turgid, Morgan's book provides a superb portrait of this enigmatic and intriguing year. 4 maps.