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Otho
Augustus  AD 69 (15 January - 17 April AD 69)

Marcus Salvius Otho.
Husband of Poppaea.

Marcus Salvius Otho hailed from an upstart knightly family that had risen to prominence since the time of Octavian Augustus as useful officers of the Principate. His own promotion to the imperial dignity, however, had to do with the old grudge he held against Nero who, infatuated with Otho’s beautiful wife Poppaea, took her for himself and sent Otho away as the governor of Lusitania. Perhaps because of this Otho was one of the first leading men in the empire to declare against Nero and for Galba when Galba rose in revolt in 68. He evidently hoped to be appointed Galba’s successor and courted favor with the army and, once in Rome, with the praetorians and the Romans. His hopes were dished as Galba adopted Piso Licianus instead. Otho decided to reap the fruits of his generosity and organized a successful plot. On January 15, 69, Galba got murdered by the praetorians and Otho became emperor. The Senate acquiesced, even though news came immediately that the Rhine legions had acclaimed Vitelius and he was marching toward the capital. It is reported that Otho hoped to avoid a civil war—his coins future the “Universal Peace” legend—but as Vitelius’ generals crossed the Alps, he had to summon the Danubian and eastern legions and figure out ways to hold up his opponents’ troops until those loyal to him arrive. For unknown reasons, the expedition that was initially designed to only slow the advance of Vitelius’s generals in northern Italy and give time to the Danubians to arrive was quickly transformed into a full-scale encounter. Against the advice of his best generals, Otho followed the arguments of his brother and the Praetorian Prefect, who were determined to give a pitched battle as soon as the two armies came into sight with each other in the vicinity of Cremona. They might have feared that Otho’s soldiers might melt away, or that the imminent arrival of Vitelius will strengthen his troops’ morale. The first encounter ended with heavy casualties for Otho’s army, but not anywhere near a total disaster. Otho, who stayed behind, got the bad news at the same time as he learned that his Danubian relief army is nearby and making ready to join his depleted forces. Otho could have withdrawn and sought a second chance. Instead, he rejected the implorations of his advisers and committed suicide on April 16, 69.

Mints: Rome.

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