Roman Empire

Otho, Emperor AD 69

RIC 3; BN 2; BMC 1; Calicó 524, Superb Nearly Mint State

Rome. IMP M OTHO CAESAR AVG TR P, laureate head of Otho right. Reverse:PAX ORB-IS TERRARVM, Pax standing facing, head left, holding olive branch and long caduceus. Beautiful reddish-purple Boscoreale toning.

Ex Metropolitan Museum of Art (Sotheby’s, Zurich, 10 November 1972), 49; 1895 Boscoreale Hoard

As the world began to collapse around Galba on January 1, AD 69, he attempted to shore up his failing regime by adopting the respected young nobleman L. Calpurnius Piso Frugi Licinianus as his heir. Alas, this only served to ignite the rage of M. Salvius Otho who thought he should have been elevated from his post as governor of Lusitania to imperial heir. Hatching a plot with the disgruntled Praetorian Guard, Otho had Galba and Piso killed on January 15 and was proclaimed emperor in Rome. Meanwhile, Vitellius, who had been named emperor by the German legions, was marching on Rome to challenge Otho. On April 14 the Othonian and Vitellian forces met in battle on the road between Bedriacum and Cremona. The Othonians were defeated at Bedriacum, but Otho still possessed a strong army easily capable of continuing the struggle against Vitellius. However, he did not choose to follow this path. Instead he committed suicide in order to spare his men and the people of Rome the horrors that would surely come from prolonging the civil war. Otho was that greatest of rarities: the tyrant with a heart of gold.