The Civil Wars. Southern Gaul (?). 68-69 AD

The Civil Wars. Southern Gaul (?). 68-69 AD


 AR Denarius, 3.60g (18mm, 7h). Diademed and draped bust of Jupiter l., with small palm branch in front / Vesta, veiled, seated l. on throne, holding patera and long torch.

Pedigree: Ex Kampmann Maison Platt 9-10 March 1982, Nicolas, 214 and Sotheby's 19-20 June 1991, Hunt IV, 707 sales. From the George C. Hopkins collection

References: C Galba 432. Martin 95 (this obverse die). RIC 125a

Grade: Very rare. Of lovely style and with a superb old cabinet tone and Good VF (re1096)

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The year following Emperor Nero’s death was filled with a quick succession of four rulers and what can only be termed as a frantic race for power. Once Nero felt the world coming down around him he took his own life, becoming the first emperor to commit suicide. The governor of Hispania Tarraconensis, Servius Sulpicius Galba, already 70 years old, became Nero’s successor. At first it was a shocking revelation that someone outside of Rome could be made emperor. Up until that point the Julio Claudian Dynasty were in power beginning with Augustus. The first five emperors were connected in some familial way. The Civil War of 69 AD brought rulers from separate families and from various parts of the Roman world. After Galba’s murder in the Forum at Rome in January 69 he was quickly replaced by Otho, a companion of Nero on the same day. Otho was governor of Lusitania under Nero, and strangely also one of the first to declare his support for the elderly Galba. Unfortunately Galba made errors in selecting a successor as his own two sons died prior to his ascending the throne. Additionally, his lack of support amongst the Praetorian Guard led to his downfall. 

The next emperor Otho already aroused suspicion amongst the Senate primarily because he was a close friend to Otho. So close were the two that Otho’s beautiful wife Poppaea, soon became the wife of Nero. Unfortunately for Poppaea, her new husband proved to be her downfall as he purportedly kicked her in the stomach while pregnant with their child, killing both her and their unborn child. Upon taking office, Otho began to restore the statues of Nero hoping to gain the allegiance of some of his surviving supporters. Around the time that Otho took office and the downfall of Galba, Vitellius rose to power amongst the Upper and Lower German armies. Tacticus speaks ill of Vitellius and suggested that “seldom has the support of the army been gained by any man through honourable means to the degree that he (Vitellius) won it through his worthlessness”. Vitellius apparently was a man at the right place at the right time. He had no military accomplishments and this may have been precisely the reason why he was selected. Vitellius was not a leader and took full advantage of his newfound power. At the same time of his accession, the armies of the East selected Vespasian as their chosen emperor. Eventually Vespasian and his men entered Rome and had Vitellius killed. So came the end of the Civil War that last one year almost to the day. Vespasian started the Flavian Dynasty that lasted until the death of his son Domitian in 96 AD.