Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Today In History: Job Insecurity.

On this date in 69AD, Otho became the second emperor during that party-down year of betrayal, assassination, rioting, and civil war known as The Year Of The Four Emperors.

Understandably bitter after his wife divorced him in order to do a spot of mistressing for Emperor Nero, Otho whiled away his time as governor of Portugal building up cash, favors, and resentment. After a decade of working up a good grudge, he hopped aboard the first coup attempt to come along, that of Galba, governor of Spain.

Galba passed over Otho when it came time for naming a successor, so Otho paid to have Galba and his shiny new protege whacked by the ever-reliable Praetorian Guard. Otho then proceeded to display his emperoring skills, which mostly seemed to have been learned by watching Nero. He managed to simper and fop about Rome for almost three months before the legions on the Rhine, dragging Vitellius along as a figurehead, arrived in Italy to pick up any stray Imperial crowns that might have been left lying about. On their arrival, Otho obligingly offed himself, leaving little more than a wide spot in the road of history.

5 comments:

Hazel Stone said...

*polite applause*

Gregg said...

Wide spot or 'grease spot' ? I tend to lean toward the latter myself.

Steve Skubinna said...

Well, that year ended with Vespasian so on balance it was good. Yeah, it demonstrated that all one needed to be Emperor was support from enough troops, but that had been the case going back to Julius and eventually everyone would have figured it out anyway.

What always amazes me is how the Empire lasted so long without any constitutional, or even recognized customary process for a transfer of power.

Tam said...

As best I can tell, there were three recognized customary processes for transferring power:

1) Being a child, by blood or adoption, of the current HMFWAIC.

2) Command of one of the large border garrisons. Preferably the Rhine legions, although Syria would do in a pinch.

3) Paying the Praetorians for a lightly used, slightly bloodstained crown.

Steve Skubinna said...

Right, Tam, but all too often all three of those conditions would be satisfied at the same time. Sometimes by more than one applicant.