Vitellius in Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities

Aulus, Roman emperor from January 2 to December 22, A.D. 69. He was the son of No. 1. He was consul during the first six months of 48, and his brother Lucius during the following six. He had some knowledge of letters and some eloquence. His vices made him a favourite of Tiberius, Gaius Caligula, Claudius, and Nero, who loaded him with favours. It caused great surprise, however, when Galba chose such a man to command the legions in Lower Germany, for he had little military talent. Both Upper and Lower Germany had been attached to Virginius Rufus, and disliked the rule of Galba; the two legions at Moguntiacum (Mayence) had not taken the oath of allegiance to him. Accordingly, they had already been disposed to find a nominee of their own, and when the news of Galba's death arrived, the legions of both Germanies combined to acknowledge Vitellius as Imperator, and he was proclaimed at Colonia Agrippinensis (Cologne) on the 2d of January, 69. His generals Fabius Valens and Caecina marched into Italy, defeated Otho's troops at the decisive battle of Betriacum, or Bedriacum, and thus secured for Vitellius the undisputed command of Italy. The soldiers of Otho, after his death, took the oath of fidelity to Vitellius. (See Otho.) Vitellius reached Rome in July. He disturbed no one in the enjoyment of what had been given by Nero, Galba, and Otho, nor did he confiscate any person's property; and though some of Otho's adherents were put to death, he let the next of kin take their possessions. Yet though he showed moderation in this part of his conduct, he showed none in his expenditure. He was a glutton and an epicure, and his chief amusement was the table, on which he spent enormous sums of money. Meantime Vespasian, who had at first taken the oath of allegiance to Vitellius, was proclaimed emperor at Alexandria on the 1st of July. Vespasian was speedily recognized by all the East; and the legions of Illyricum under Antonius Primus entered the north of Italy and declared for Vespasian. Vitellius despatched Caecina with a powerful force to oppose Primus; but Caecina was not faithful to his master. Primus defeated the Vitellians in two battles, and afterwards took and pillaged the city of Cremona. Primus then marched upon Rome, and forced his way into the city, after much fighting. Vitellius was seized in the palace, led through the streets with every circumstance of ignominy, and dragged to the Gemoniae Scalae, where he was killed with repeated blows. His head was carried about Rome, and his body was thrown into the Tiber; but it was afterwards buried by his wife, Galeria Fundana. A few days before the death of Vitellius, the Capitol had been burned in the assault made by his soldiers upon this building, where Flavius Sabinus, the brother of the emperor Vespasian, had taken refuge ( Hist. ii. Hist., iii.; Vitell.; Dio Cass. lxv.).