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Lucius Vitellius

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Proclaimed Roman Emperor by the soldiers at Cologne during the civil war of A.D. 69; d. at Rome, 21 Dec., 69. The Emperor Galba had placed Vitellius at the head of the army of the Lower Rhine, because he considered Vitellius, who lived only for the pleasures of the table, incapable of conspiring. After Galba's death, when Otho proved incapable of maintaining his position, the soldiers of Lower Germany proclaimed Vitellius as Caesar, while the adjoining provinces also acknowledged him. The two vigorous legates, Alienus Caecina and Fabius Valens, led the armies of the Upper and Lower Rhine towards Italy, the troops robbing and plundering the provinces through which they marched. Otho transferred to his generals the command of the imperial army then being collected in northern Italy. Otho's army was completely defeated and the greater part of his troops killed at the battle of Bedriacum (Cremona). Meanwhile Vitellius was advancing with the last of the army of the Rhine by way of Lugdunum (Lyons) in Gaul towards Italy. With an undisciplined force of 60,000 men he marched towards Rome. Here his generals ruled with unlimited sway. The news from the East constantly grew more ominous, for Vespasian was proclaimed emperor and received the homage of his soldiers at Berytus, while the legions in Egypt and the Danubian provinces swore loyalty to him. Vitellius saw himself forced to prepare for war against Vespasian and sent Caecina to northern Italy. Here the latter divided his forces and entered into negotiations with Vespasian's generals, opening the way for the defeat of the adherents of Vitellius in the battle of Cremona. Vitellius made a few attempts to check the victorious advance of his opponent, and even tried to collect a new army at Rome, but both officers and soldiers soon laid down their arms. When the emperor saw that all was lost he abdicated. A desperate struggle arose in Rome between the contending parties and the Capitoline temple and many palaces were destroyed by fire. Vespasian's adherents captured Rome and Vitellius was killed by his enemies. As the Emperor Vespasian and his army were still a long way from Rome, the government was carried on for a time by Vespasian's son, Titus Flavius Domitianus.


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