Birthday: April 28, 32
Died At Age: 36
Sun Sign: Taurus
Also Known As: Marcus Salvius Otho Caesar Augustus, Marcus Salvius Otho
Born Country: Roman Empire
Born in: Ferentium, Italy
Famous as: Emperor
Emperors & Kings
Ancient Roman Men
Spouse/Ex-: Poppaea Sabina (m. ? – div. 58 AD)
father: Lucius Otho
mother: Terentia Albia
Died on: April 16, 69
place of death: Brescello, Italy
Who was Otho?
Marcus Salvius Otho Caesar Augustus, popularly known as Otho, was a Roman emperor who ruled for a brief period in 69 AD. Otho was the second Roman emperor out of the four to rule in the famous ‘Year of the Four Emperors’. A capable person in governance, Otho lived a lavish lifestyle considered extravagant even among the Romans who were known for their love for luxuries. Otho was a member of the Etruscan family of Roman consuls that was active during the rule of Roman emperor Augustus Caesar. Otho worked for Emperor Nero and fell in love with and married one of the emperor’s mistresses. Nero sent him to Lusitania as a governor as a punishment for marrying one of the emperor’s favourite mistresses. Not able to handle the insult, he partnered with Governor Servius Sulpicius Galba of Hispania Tarraconensis, and rebelled against the emperor. In a series of events, Otho not only turned against his own ally Galba, but he also conspired with the Praetorian Guard in a bid to become the Roman emperor. However, he ruled for just three months before losing a battle against Vitellius, who went on to succeed him as the ruler.
Childhood & Early Life
Marcus Salvius Otho Caesar Augustus was born on April 28, 32 AD, in Ferentium, Italy, to Lucius Salvius Otho, whose father was a senator during the rule of Emperor Claudius, and Albia Terentia.
Otho belonged to a non-aristocratic family and was introduced to Emperor Nero who appointed him in his court.
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Marrying Poppaea Sabina & Exile
Otho fell in love with one of the emperor’s mistresses, Poppaea Sabina, whom the emperor himself liked the most. The two got married, which angered the emperor and he forced Otho to divorce her. Emperor Nero married Poppaea Sabina and exiled Otho to the Roman province of Lusitania as its governor.
Otho felt very insulted and humiliated with the turn of events, but he made the best of his chances. Being a capable person and the grandson of a senator, governance came naturally to him.
Otho worked hard for the entire decade he held the position of the governor and formed a good relationship with Servius Sulpicius Galba, the governor of Hispania Tarraconensis.
Rebellion Against the Empire
Galba rebelled against the Roman Empire in 68 AD and Otho didn’t let go off an opportunity to take revenge. However, Emperor Nero committed suicide before the battle and Galba was announced the new emperor by the senate. His entourage entered Rome in October 68 AD and fought with Nero’s army that had been prepared by the deceased emperor for the battle.
Galba officially became the emperor and sat on the throne on the very first day of the year 69 AD. Galba appointed Titus Vinius as his general and assigned him a lot of powerful roles.
However, things were not easy for Galba as the fourth and twenty second legions of Germania Superior, an imperial province of the Roman Empire, refused to pledge loyalty to the emperor. This encouraged the soldiers of the Germania Inferior to follow the same path and demand that a new emperor be chosen.
Legions from both provinces pledged their support for Governor Aulus Vitellius. Galba tried to keep things under control by announcing Lucius Calpurnius Piso Licinianus as his successor; this angered Otho as he expected to succeed Galba.
Feeling betrayed by Galba, Otho conspired with the Praetorian Guards and on January 15, killed the emperor along with his general Titus Vinius and successor Piso Licinianus. To make a statement, the three heads were hung on poles as Otho was proclaimed the emperor.
Fall of Otho & Death
Otho erected statues of Emperor Nero to gain the trust of the noblemen and also reinstated the office bearers. Sporus, the young boy with whom Emperor Nero shared a romantic relationship, became a love interest of Otho as well.
Governing a province was one thing and ruling an entire kingdom was another—Otho realised this very quickly after becoming the emperor. He grew concerned with the growing rebellion in Germany as with each passing day, Vitellius was gaining more popularity among the legions.
Otho tried to lure Vitellius with an offer to share the power to rule several provinces, but failed to stop a raging war. Otho received a great deal of help from the legions of Dalmatia, Moesia, and Pannonia, as well as the Praetorian Guards, giving him the confidence that he was building a formidable force.
However, Otho was not aware that the Vitellian forces were far stronger and experts in superior warfare. Otho was advised against going to war but he rejected the sane advice.
Otho’s forces could stop General Aulus Caecina Alienus in Placentia, but that was all they could do. He remained under heavy protection at Brixellum while his forces marched in the direction of Cremona.
The two forces came face to face and the Othonian forces had to fall back despite showing vigour. The Dalmatian forces then tried to stop the Vitellian forces at Aquileia but failed due to Otho’s impatience and novice strategies.
Otho wrote a speech addressing his loved ones and committed suicide by stabbing himself in the chest in the early morning of April 16. His ashes were buried inside a monument in Brixellum and a simple tomb was erected.
Many scholars state that Otho’s death brought the civil war to an end. A few soldiers even sacrificed themselves in honor of their emperor who had gained a great deal of respect due to the way he ended his life to bring the war to an end.
Roman poet Marcus Valerius Martialis believed that Otho, in sacrificing himself, became a blessing in disguise for the Roman Empire.