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69 A.D.

The Year of Four Emperors

Gwyn Morgan

Publication Date - 02 March 2007

ISBN: 9780195315899

336 pages
6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

In Stock


The Year of Four Emperors, so the ancient sources assure us, was one of the most chaotic, violent, and frightening periods in all Roman history. It was a time of assassinations and civil war, of armies so out of control that they had no qualms about occupying the city of Rome, and of ambitious men who ruthlessly seized power only to have it wrenched from their grasps.
In 69 AD, Gwyn Morgan offers a fresh look at this period, based on two considerations to which insufficient attention has been paid in the past. First, that we need to unravel rather than cherry-pick between the conflicting accounts of Tacitus, Plutarch and Suetonius, our three main sources of information. And second, that the role of the armies, as distinct from that of their commanders, has too often been exaggerated. The result is a remarkably accurate and insightful narrative history, filled with colorful portraits of the leading participants and new insights into the nature of the Roman military.
A strikingly vivid account of ancient Rome, 69 AD is an original and compelling account of one of the best known but perhaps least understood periods in all Roman history. It will engage and enlighten all readers with a love for the tumultuous soap opera that was Roman political life.

About the Author(s)

Gwyn Morgan is Professor of Classics and History at the University of Texas at Austin.


"Morgan's book is a fresh and accessible look at a period that has been discussed, with sometimes horrified fascination, since antiquity itself."--Times Literary Supplement

"Morgan's acute analyses and wry judgments on each episode as well as the whole year are indispensable, however one might differ on details, for he is never satisfied with the obvious or even the ingenious; his analysis of Othonian strategy before Bedriacum is particularly striking."--The International History Review

"A superb portrait of this enigmatic and intriguing year."--Publishers Weekly

"Few people rival Gwyn Morgan in knowledge of Tacitus' Histories. The result is a fine narrative, cogent and convincing, of this momentous year."--Herbert W. Benario, author of Tacitus Germany

"This important book on the Histories of Tacitus surpasses earlier works on the civil wars that shook Rome and its empire in the year of 69. Like Tacitus, Morgan illuminates the universal themes that make the history of this one year significant for all time--the political and social upheavals consequent on a contested transfer of power; the nature of military and political leadership, the psychology of the military and civilian masses who are involved in, or spectators of, civil war. General readers will be enlightened and moved by Morgan's narrative, while specialists will appreciate the solid scholarship on which it is founded."--Mark Morford, Professor of Classics Emeritus, University of Virginia

"Gwyn Morgan has produced a long-awaited and engagingly written account of the Year of Four Emperors that is unfailingly instructive and a pleasure to read. Not surprisingly, since it is based on a careful reconsideration of all the sources, while it will provide enjoyment for many, it will also prove controversial in some quarters."--Leslie Murison, author of Galba, Otho and Vitellius: Careers and Controversies

Table of Contents

    1. The Fall of Nero and the Julio-Claudian House
    2. The Reign of Galba
    3. Adoption and Assassination
    4. The Opening of the Vitellian Offensive (January-February)
    5. Otho Prepares for War (January-February)
    6. The War between Otho and Vitellius (March-April)
    7. The Reign of Vitellius (April-September 69)
    8. The Beginning of the End: Vespasian through August 69
    9. The Opening of the Flavian Offensive (August-October)
    10. End-Game (November-December)

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