31 Facts About Vitellius


Vitellius was proclaimed emperor following the quick succession of the previous emperors Galba and Otho, in a year of civil war known as the Year of the Four Emperors.


Vitellius was the first to add the honorific cognomen Germanicus to his name instead of Caesar upon his accession.


Vitellius was a noble companion of Tiberius' retirement on Capri and there befriended Caligula.


Vitellius was elected consul in 48, and served as proconsular governor of Africa in either 60 or 61.


Vitellius was later proclaimed emperor by the armies of Germania Inferior and Superior, beginning a revolt against Galba.


Galba was assassinated by Otho, and Vitellius then faced Otho in battle.


Vitellius defeated Otho at the Battle of Bedriacum, and was recognized emperor by the Roman Senate.


Once he realised his support was wavering, Vitellius prepared to abdicate in favor of Vespasian.


Vitellius was not allowed to do so by his supporters, resulting in a brutal battle for Rome between Vitellius' forces and the armies of Vespasian.


Suetonius recorded that when Vitellius was born his horoscope so horrified his parents that his father tried to prevent Aulus from becoming a consul.


Shortly thereafter, Vitellius was able to befriend the young Caligula, due to their common passion for chariots and games of dice.


Vitellius was consul in 48, and proconsular governor of Africa in either 60 or 61, in which capacity he is said to have acquitted himself with credit.


In 62 he apparently supported the death penalty against Antistius Sosanius, and was notedly flattering to Nero At the end of 68, Galba, to the general astonishment, selected him to command the army of Germania Inferior, and here Vitellius made himself popular with his subalterns and with the soldiers by outrageous prodigality and excessive good nature, which soon proved fatal to order and discipline.


Vitellius owed his elevation to the throne to Caecina and Fabius Valens, commanders of two legions on the Rhine.


Vitellius was proclaimed emperor at Cologne on the following day, and then again on the day after.


Suetonius additionally remarks that Vitellius' besetting sins were luxury and cruelty.


Furthermore, Vitellius continued Otho's policies in regard to Nero's memory, in that he honored the dead emperor and sacrificed to his spirit.


Vitellius had Nero's songs performed in public, and attempted to imitate Nero, who remained extremely popular among the lower classes of the Roman Empire.


Vitellius, now deserted by many of his adherents, prepared to abdicate the title of emperor.


Tacitus' Histories state that Vitellius awaited Vespasian's army at Mevania.


Vitellius was eventually dragged out of a hiding-place, driven to the fatal Gemonian stairs, and there struck down by Vespasian's supporters.


Vitellius's body was thrown into the Tiber according to Suetonius; Cassius Dio's account is that Vitellius was beheaded and his head paraded around Rome, and his wife attended to his burial.


Vitellius was in fact abnormally tall, with a face usually flushed from hard drinking, a huge belly, and one thigh crippled from being struck once by a four-horse chariot, when he was in attendance on Gaius as he was driving.


Vitellius married secondly, around the year 50, a woman named Galeria Fundana, perhaps the granddaughter of Gaius Galerius, Prefect of Egypt in 23.


The last type of coin minted by Vitellius were aurei and denarii with the goddess Victory building a trophy, likely alluding to his hopeful victory against the incoming armies of Vespasian.


Much as the appearance of Vitellius prefigured approaching doom in earlier centuries, Thomas Couture pictures him in shadow to the left of centre in the painting The Romans in their Decadence.


The earliest fictional appearance of a Vitellius was of the Roman Consul in Syria, Lucius Vitellius, who intervened in Judaean affairs in the time of Pontius Pilate.


The son of Lucius, Aulus Vitellius, played a minor part in Henryk Sienkiewicz's novel Quo Vadis, set at the end of Nero's reign.


Naturally Vitellius is a character in the rash of recent novels dealing with the Year of the Four Emperors.


Vitellius is in the background in Kate Quinn's novel Daughters of Rome, and shares a section of Steven Saylor's Empire: The Novel of Imperial Rome.


Vitellius's fall features in M C Scott's Rome, The Art of War, and he appears in James Mace's two-part series, The Year of the Four Emperors.