Europe 69 AD: Year of the Four Emperors: Otho
Galba’s short reign came to a bloody end in mid-January 69 AD when he was murdered by the Praetorian Guard at the instigation of his lieutenant Otho. Denouncing Otho’s usurpation, the Gallic provinces rallied behind the rebel Vitellius, whose forces invaded Italy and defeated Otho at the Battle of Bedriacum in April.
??–Mar 69 AD Nero of Cythnus▲
Some time in late 68 or early 69 AD a man claiming to be the recently deceased emperor Nero appeared in the Roman province of Achaia (Greece). Gathering together a group of army deserters, this false Nero set out to sea but was blown by storm to the island of Kythnos, where he supposedly established himself as a pirate. His reign here lasted for a month or so before he was arrested and executed by Lucius Nonius Calpurnius Asprenas, who was traveling east to take up the governorship of Galatia and Pamphylia.
15 Jan–Apr 69 AD Otho’s Gallic campaign▲
Otho’s assassination of Galba persuaded the Gallic Roman provinces of Aquitania and Narbonensis to side with Vitellius, placing all Gaul in the latter’s hands. The Spanish provinces at first declared for Otho, then Vitellius, with the Mauretanian provinces of North Africa joining them in the last days. Having lost the Alpine passes but retaining a navy, Otho launched an inconclusive naval invasion of Narbonensis and Alpes Maritima.
15 Jan–16 Apr 69 AD Principate of Otho▲
On 15 January 69 AD, at the behest of the 36-year-old Marcus Salvius Otho, the Praetorian Guard turned on the Roman emperor Galba, killing him along with his co-consul Titus Vinius and successor Lucius Calpurnius Piso. Their heads were displayed on poles and Otho was proclaimed emperor. Although popular with the people due to his relative youth and resemblance to Nero, Otho’s reign was brought to an abrupt end when he was defeated by Vitellius at Bedriacum and chose to stab himself through the heart with a dagger.
69 AD Roxolani War of 69▲
Emboldened by civil war in the Roman Empire, the Roxolani—a Sarmatian people who had massacred two cohorts in the winter of 68 AD—crossed the Danube into Moesia with 9,000 horsemen early in 69. Heavily armored and having burdened themselves with plunder, they were caught off guard by the arrival of the Third Legion and cut down en masse as they tried to maneuver in deep snow. The victory pleased Emperor Otho, who decorated those involved.
14 Apr 69 AD First Battle of Bedriacum▲
In early spring 69 AD Aulus Caecina and Fabius Valens led Vitellius’ armies invaded Italy via the Great St Bernard Pass. When Caecina was repulsed by the garrison of Placentia, the Roman emperor Otho—against the advice of his generals, including Boudica’s defeater Gaius Suetonius Paulinus—decided to attack. Marching to meet the Vitellian forces between Cremona and Bedriacum, the Othonian army was defeated with heavy casualties and fled the field.