The Info List - Otho

(/ˈəʊθəʊ/; Latin: Marcus Salvius Otho
Caesar Augustus;[2][3] 28 April 32[4] – 16 April 69 AD) was Roman emperor for three months, from 15 January to 16 April 69. He was the second emperor of the Year of the Four Emperors. A member of a noble Etruscan family, Otho
was initially a friend and courtier of the young emperor Nero
until he was effectively banished to the governorship of the remote province of Lusitania
in 58 AD following his wife Poppaea Sabina's affair with Nero. After a period of moderate rule in the province, he allied himself with Galba, the governor of neighbouring Hispania Tarraconensis, during the revolts of 68 AD. Accompanying Galba
on his march to Rome, he aspired to succeed the aged emperor, but revolted and murdered Galba
on being passed over for the succession. Inheriting the problem of the rebellion of Vitellius, commander of the army in Germania Inferior, Otho
led a sizeable force which met the Vitellius
army at the Battle of Bedriacum. After initial fighting resulted in 40,000 casualties, and a retreat of his forces, Otho committed suicide rather than fight on and Vitellius
was proclaimed emperor.


1 Birth and lineage 2 Adulthood

2.1 Overthrow of Emperor Galba

3 Decline and fall

3.1 War with Vitellius 3.2 Death

4 Reasons for suicide 5 Physical appearance 6 References 7 External links

7.1 Primary sources 7.2 Secondary material

Birth and lineage[edit] Otho
belonged to an ancient and noble Etruscan family, descended from the princes of Etruria
and settled at Ferentinum (currently Ferento, near Viterbo) in Etruria. Adulthood[edit]

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The future emperor appears first as one of the most reckless and extravagant of the young nobles who surrounded Nero.[5] This friendship was brought to an end in 58 AD because of his wife, the noblewoman Poppaea Sabina. Otho
introduced his beautiful wife to the emperor upon Poppaea's insistence, who then began an affair that would eventually lead to her premature death. After securely establishing this position as his mistress, she divorced Otho
and had the emperor send him away as governor to the remote province of Lusitania
(which is now parts of both modern Portugal
and Extremadura, Spain). Otho
remained in Lusitania
for the next 10 years, administering the province with a moderation unusual at the time.[5] In 68 AD, when his neighbor the future emperor Galba, the governor of Hispania Tarraconensis, rose in revolt against Nero, Otho
accompanied him to Rome. Resentment at the treatment he had received from Nero
may have impelled him to this course, but to this motive was added before long that of personal ambition. Galba
was childless and far advanced in years, and Otho, encouraged by the predictions of astrologers, aspired to succeed him. He came to a secret agreement with Titus
Vinius, Galba's favourite, agreeing to marry Vinius' daughter in exchange for his support. However, in January 69 AD, his hopes were dashed by Galba's formal adoption of Lucius Calpurnius Piso Licinianus, whom Galba
previously had named a recipient in his will.

Overthrow of Emperor Galba[edit] After this, Otho
decided to strike a bold blow. Desperate as was the state of his finances, due to his previous extravagance, he found the money needed to purchase the services of some 23 soldiers of the Praetorian Guard. On the morning of 15 January, only five days after Galba
adopted Piso, Otho
attended as usual to pay his respects to Galba, and then hastily excused himself on account of private business and hurried from the Palatine Hill
Palatine Hill
to meet his accomplices. He was then escorted to the Praetorian camp, where, after a few moments of surprise and indecision, he was saluted as imperator. With an imposing force he returned to the Roman Forum, and at the foot of the Capitoline Hill
Capitoline Hill
encountered Galba, who, alarmed by rather vague rumors of treachery, was making his way through a dense crowd of wandering citizens towards the barracks of the guard. The cohort that was on duty at the Palatine, which had accompanied the emperor, instantly deserted him. Galba, his newly adopted son Piso and others were brutally murdered by the Praetorians. The brief struggle over, Otho
returned in triumph to the camp, and on the same day was invested by the senators with the name of Augustus, the tribunician power and the other dignities belonging to the principate. Otho
had owed his own success to the resentment felt by the Praetorian guards and the rest of the army at Galba's refusal to pay the promised gold to the ones who supported his accession to the throne. The population of the city was also unhappy with Galba
and cherished the memory of Nero. Otho's first acts as emperor showed that he was not unmindful of these facts. Decline and fall[edit]


of Otho.

He accepted, or appeared to accept, the cognomen of Nero
conferred upon him by the shouts of the populace, whom his comparative youth and the effeminacy of his appearance reminded of their lost favourite. Nero's statues were again set up, his freedmen and household officers reinstalled (including the young castrated boy Sporus
whom Nero
had taken in marriage and Otho
also would live intimately with[6][7]), and the intended completion of the Golden House announced. At the same time the fears of the more sober and respectable citizens were allayed by Otho's liberal professions of his intention to govern equitably, and by his judicious clemency towards Aulus Marius Celsus, consul-designate, a devoted adherent of Galba. Otho
soon realized that it was much easier to overthrow an emperor than rule as one: According to Suetonius[8] Otho
once remarked that "Playing the Long Pipes is hardly my trade" (i.e. undertaking something beyond one's ability to do so). War with Vitellius[edit]

by Robert Van Voerst after Titian.

Any further development of Otho's policy was checked once Otho
had read through Galba's private correspondence and realized the extent of the revolution in Germany, where several legions had declared for Vitellius, the commander of the legions on the lower Rhine River, and were already advancing upon Italy. After a vain attempt to conciliate Vitellius
by the offer of a share in the Empire, Otho, with unexpected vigor, prepared for war. From the much more remote provinces, which had acquiesced in his accession, little help was to be expected, but the legions of Dalmatia, Pannonia
and Moesia
were eager in his cause, the Praetorian cohorts were in themselves a formidable force and an efficient fleet gave him the mastery of the Italian seas. The fleet was at once dispatched to secure Liguria, and on 14 March Otho, undismayed by omens and prophecies, started northwards at the head of his troops in the hopes of preventing the entry of Vitellius' troops into Italy. But for this he was too late, and all that could be done was to throw troops into Placentia and hold the line of the Po. Otho's advanced guard successfully defended Placentia against Aulus Caecina Alienus, and compelled that general to fall back on Cremona, but the arrival of Fabius Valens altered the aspect of affairs. Vitellius' commanders now resolved to bring on a decisive battle, the Battle of Bedriacum, and their designs were assisted by the divided and irresolute counsels which prevailed in Otho's camp. The more experienced officers urged the importance of avoiding a battle until at least the legions from Dalmatia
had arrived. However, the rashness of the emperor's brother Titianus and of Proculus, prefect of the Praetorian Guards, added to Otho's feverish impatience, overruled all opposition, and an immediate advance was decided upon. Otho
remained behind with a considerable reserve force at Brixellum
on the southern bank of the Po. When this decision was taken, Otho's army already had crossed the Po and were encamped at Bedriacum
(or Betriacum), a small village on the Via Postumia, and on the route by which the legions from Dalmatia
would naturally arrive. Leaving a strong detachment to hold the camp at Bedriacum, the Othonian forces advanced along the Via Postumia in the direction of Cremona. At a short distance from that city they unexpectedly encountered the Vitellian troops. The Othonians, though taken at a disadvantage, fought desperately, but finally were forced to fall back in disorder upon their camp at Bedriacum. There on the next day the victorious Vitellians followed them, but only to come to terms at once with their disheartened enemy, and to be welcomed into the camp as friends. Death[edit] More unexpected still was the effect produced at Brixellum
by the news of the battle. Otho
was still in command of a formidable force: The Dalmatian legions had reached Aquileia
and the spirit of his soldiers and their officers was unbroken. He was resolved to accept the verdict of the battle that his own impatience had hastened. In a dignified speech, he bade farewell to those about him, declaring: "It is far more just to perish one for all, than many for one",[9] and then retiring to rest soundly for some hours. Early in the morning he stabbed himself in the heart with a dagger, which he had concealed under his pillow, and died as his attendants entered the tent. Otho's ashes were placed within a modest monument. He had reigned only three months. His funeral was celebrated at once as he had wished. A plain tomb was erected in his honour at Brixellum, with the simple inscription Diis Manibus Marci Othonis. His 91-day reign would be the shortest until that of Pertinax, whose reign lasted 86 days in 193 during the tumultuous Year of the Five Emperors. Reasons for suicide[edit] It has been thought that Otho's suicide was committed in order to steer his country from the path to civil war. Just as he had come to power, many Romans learned to respect Otho
in his death. Few could believe that a renowned former companion of Nero
had chosen such an honourable end. Tacitus
wrote that some of the soldiers committed suicide beside his funeral pyre "because they loved their emperor and wished to share his glory". [10] Writing during the reign of the Emperor Domitian
(AD 81–96), the Roman poet Martial
expressed his admiration for Otho's choice to spare the empire from civil war through sacrificing himself:

Although the goddess of civil warfare was still in doubt, And soft Otho
had perhaps still a chance of winning, He renounced fighting that would have cost much blood, And with sure hand pierced right through his breast. By all means let Cato in his life be greater than Caesar himself; In his death was he greater than Otho?[11]

Physical appearance[edit] Suetonius, in The Lives of the Caesars, comments on Otho's appearance and personal hygiene.

He is said to have been of moderate height, splay-footed and bandy-legged, but almost feminine in his care of his person. He had the hair of his body plucked out, and because of the thinness of his locks wore a wig so carefully fashioned and fitted to his head, that no one suspected it. Moreover, they say that he used to shave every day and smear his face with moist bread, beginning the practice with the appearance of the first down, so as never to have a beard.

Juvenal, in a passage in the Satire II
Satire II
dealing with homosexuality, specifically mentions Otho
as being vain, looking at himself in the mirror before going into battle, and "plaster[ing] his face with dough" in order to look good. References[edit]

^ Otho's regal name has an equivalent meaning in English as "Commander Otho
Caesar, the Emperor". ^ Classical Latin spelling and reconstructed Classical Latin pronunciation:

MARCVS SALVIVS OTHO CAESAR AVGVSTVS IPA: [ˈmar.kʊs ˈsaɫ.wi.ʊs ˈɔ.tʰoː ˈkae̯.sar au̯ˈgʊs.tʊs]

^ Rives, Otho
Note 4, The Twelve Caesars translated by Robert Graves, revised and notes by James B. Rives ^ Suetonius, Otho
3.2 ^ a b Suetonius. The Twelve Caesars. Penguin. pp. 255–262. ISBN 978-0-14-045516-8.  ^ Smith, Willian (1849). Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology. 3. C. C. Little and J. Brown; [etc., etc. ]. pp. 897, 2012. LCCN 07038839.  ^ Champlin, Edward (2005). Nero. Harvard University Press. pp. 147–148. ISBN 978-0-674-01822-8.  ^ " Suetonius
• Life of Otho". penelope.uchicago.edu. Retrieved 29 September 2017.  ^ "Cassius Dio — Epitome of Book 63". penelope.uchicago.edu. Retrieved 29 September 2017.  ^ Tacitus, Cornelius. "Otho's Suicide : The Histories [of Ancient Rome] by Tacitus". www.ourcivilisation.com. Retrieved 29 September 2017.  ^ Martial, Epigrams VI.32, translated by D. R. Shackleton Bailey

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Otho, Marcus Salvius". Encyclopædia Britannica. 20 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 365–366. 

External links[edit]

has original text related to this article: Life of Otho
by Plutarch

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Otho.

Primary sources[edit]

Life of Otho
(Suetonius; English translation and Latin original) Life of Otho
(Plutarch; English translation) Cassius Dio, Book 63 Tacitus, Histories (esp. 1.12, 1.21–90)

Secondary material[edit]

Biography on De Imperatoribus Romanis Otho
entry in historical sourcebook by Mahlon H. Smith Otho
by Plutarch Juvenal; Satire II
Satire II

Political offices

Preceded by Galba, and Lucius Cornelius Sulla
Felix as Ordinary consuls Suffect Consul of the Roman Empire 33 with Gaius Octavius Laenas Succeeded by Paullus Fabius Persicus, and Lucius Vitellius as Ordinary consuls

Preceded by Galba Roman Emperor 69 Succeeded by Vitellius

v t e

The works of Plutarch


Parallel Lives Moralia Pseudo-Plutarch


and Coriolanus1 Alexander the Great
Alexander the Great
and Julius Caesar Aratus of Sicyon
Aratus of Sicyon
/ Artaxerxes and Galba
/ Otho2 Aristides
and Cato the Elder1 Crassus and Nicias1 Demetrius and Antony1 Demosthenes
and Cicero1 Dion and Brutus1 Fabius and Pericles1 Lucullus
and Cimon1 Lysander
and Sulla1 Numa and Lycurgus1 Pelopidas
and Marcellus1 Philopoemen
and Flamininus1 Phocion
and Cato the Younger Pompey
and Agesilaus1 Poplicola and Solon1 Pyrrhus and Gaius Marius Romulus
and Theseus1 Sertorius and Eumenes1 Agis / Cleomenes1 and Tiberius Gracchus
Tiberius Gracchus
/ Gaius Gracchus Timoleon
and Aemilius Paulus1 Themistocles
and Camillus

Translators and editors

Jacques Amyot Arthur Hugh Clough John Dryden Philemon Holland Thomas North

1 Comparison extant 2 Four unpaired Lives

v t e

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Principate 27 BC – 235 AD

Augustus Tiberius Caligula Claudius Nero Galba Otho Vitellius Vespasian Titus Domitian Nerva Trajan Hadrian Antoninus Pius Marcus Aurelius
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with Geta Macrinus
with Diadumenian Elagabalus Severus Alexander

Crisis 235–284

Maximinus Thrax Gordian I
Gordian I
and Gordian II Pupienus
and Balbinus Gordian III Philip the Arab
Philip the Arab
with Philip II Decius
with Herennius Etruscus Hostilian Trebonianus Gallus
Trebonianus Gallus
with Volusianus Aemilianus Valerian Gallienus
with Saloninus and Valerian II Claudius
Gothicus Quintillus Aurelian Tacitus Florian Probus Carus Carinus
and Numerian

Gallic Emperors: Postumus (Laelianus) Marius Victorinus (Domitianus II) Tetricus I
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with Tetricus II
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as Caesar

Dominate 284–395

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(East) and Maximian
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II) Constantius III Joannes Valentinian III Petronius Maximus
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Arcadius Theodosius II Pulcheria Marcian Leo I the Thracian Leo II Zeno (first reign) Basiliscus
with son Marcus as co-emperor Zeno (second reign) Anastasius I Dicorus Justin I Justinian the Great Justin II Tiberius
II Constantine Maurice with son Theodosius as co-emperor Phocas Heraclius Constantine III Heraklonas Constans
II Constantine IV
Constantine IV
with brothers Heraclius
and Tiberius
and then Justinian II as co-emperors Justinian II
Justinian II
(first reign) Leontios Tiberios III Justinian II
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(second reign) with son Tiberius
as co-emperor Philippikos Anastasios II Theodosius III Leo III the Isaurian Constantine V Artabasdos Leo IV the Khazar Constantine VI Irene Nikephoros I Staurakios Michael I Rangabe
Michael I Rangabe
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Michael II
the Amorian Theophilos Michael III Basil I
Basil I
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Constantine VII
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Constantine IX Monomachos
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Constantine Laskaris Theodore I Laskaris John III Doukas Vatatzes Theodore II Laskaris John IV Laskaris

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Michael VIII Palaiologos Andronikos II Palaiologos
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with Michael IX Palaiologos
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as co-emperor Andronikos III Palaiologos John V Palaiologos John VI Kantakouzenos
John VI Kantakouzenos
with John V Palaiologos
John V Palaiologos
and Matthew Kantakouzenos as co-emperors John V Palaiologos Andronikos IV Palaiologos John VII Palaiologos Andronikos V Palaiologos Manuel II Palaiologos John VIII Palaiologos Constantine XI Palaiologos

Italics indicates a co-emperor, while underlining indicates an usurper.

Authority control

WorldCat Identities VIAF: 84036319 LCCN: n50049609 ISNI: 0000 0000 6633 4629 GND: 118787357 SELIBR: 291054 SUDOC: 074517910 BNF: cb15146436d (data) SN