Vespasian’s Rise to Power

The Year of the Four Emperors (69 AD):

After the death of Nero, four different men, Galba, Otho, Vitellius, and Vespasian, were in a position to become his successor. In an attempt to promote themselves through propaganda, show their power and authority, and gain support of the people, each minted their own coins:

Galba coin
Galba Aureus, GALBA IMPERATOR / ROMA RENASCENS

Galba claimed the throne right after the death of Nero and  reigned from June, 68 AD to January, 69 AD. His coin above represents his victory in obtaining the throne, depicting his own portrait on the obverse and Roma being crowned by Victory on the reverse. The inscriptions proclaim Galba as emperor and translate to ‘Rome Reborn’ on the reverse.

Otho coin
Otho Denarius, OTHO CAESAR AUG TR P / PAX ORBIS TERRARUM

Galba is murdered by the praetorians, paving the way for Otho to claim the throne. Although only reigning from January to April 69 AD, he minted a series of coins to demonstrate his authority. One such mint promoted a period of peace as a result of his reign. Displaying his portrait on the obverse and the personification of Peace on the reverse, he inscribed ‘peace of the entire world’ to indicate peace for the Roman Empire under his reign.

Vitellius coin
Vitellius As, A VITELLIUS IMP GERMAN / VICTORIA AUGUSTI S-C

Unfortunately, Otho ends up committing suicide. As a result, Vitellius is named emperor and reigns from April to September 69 AD. The coin above shows the portrait of Vitellius facing left on the obverse and victory holding a shield, inscribed with SPQR on the reverse. The inscription on the reverse translates to ‘the victory of Augustus’; thus, Vitellius claims his victory in acquiring the throne.

Victory with Vespasian
Vespasian Aureus, IMP CAESAR VESPASIANUS AVG / COS VIII

Vespasian, with his army in the west fully supporting him after his campaigns in Judaea, marches into Rome after his army defeated and killed Vitellius. As the new emperor, Vespasian proves to be both successful and well-liked, reigning from 69 – 79 AD. He brought a period of peace and prosperity to the empire, much of which is displayed on his coinage. Almost all of Vespasian’s portraiture on his coinage shows him face right, wearing a laureate to symbolize military glory.

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