Chapter XXI - Duo Unum Sumptus Est

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Late in the afternoon, after the Praetorians had left, and Marcus had seen to his studies, and trained with Servius and bathed, Gracchus invited Marcus to his apartments for a meal and a talk.
"Well, Marcus..... I think you may be a little confused about what's going on.", Gracchus began, smiling.
"I am, sir.
I am not familiar with all this politics, despite my history studies with old Lucius.", Marcus continued, holding up his gold cup for some more wine, which was instantly filled by one of the slave-boys waiting in attendance.
"Well, when the slaves have left us,", Gracchus continued, waving the two slave-boys away, "I will explain."
Ensuring that wine and food were all to hand for Gracchus and Marcus, the two young slave-boys quietly left the triclinium.
"As I suspected - and I think you also knew, Galba was not to last long.", Gracchus began, looking carefully to ensure that they were now quite alone.
"Yes, sir", Marcus interrupted, "but he is still Emperor !".
"But not for long !", Gracchus said, his eyes looking distinctly mischievous.
"You saw to that, when you sealed the documents that Terentius had prepared !"

"Me ?", Marcus responded, looking distinctly nervous.

"It was the seal that ratified the document, releasing the money to the Tribunes - and now, using that money, I am pretty sure that they will pay some of the Praetorian to 'get rid' of old  Galba. 
And you impressed the seal on Terentius' document - so you made the new Emperor."
"Well I wish you had told me that when you gave me the ring.", Marcus replied, just a little petulantly.
"You're not angry with me, boy ?" Gracchus asked, obviously concerned.
"No, sir.
It's just that it's hard to get used to being ....." Marcus struggled to find the words ".....well, a master and not a slave."
"I understand.", Gracchus replied warmly.
"So who is this Otho ?", Marcus asked.
"In my view...", Gracchus said, lying back on his couch, and taking a draught of wine.
"In my view he's a rather disreputable character.
He was a close friend of Nero, until they fell out about this girl, - Poppaea Sabena.
And that of course brings us to Sporus.
Poppaea Sabena
Now I have never seen Sporus, but I'm told that he strongly resembles Poppaea - which means that either Sporus is a very effeminate boy - or....", and here Gracchus stopped and smiled, "that Poppaea was a very 'masculine' looking girl - but, she was reputed to be a great beauty - so it's all very odd."
Marcus looked puzzled.
"More to the point, Nymphidius was very taken with Sporus - even 'married' him, - or should it be 'her', or 'it' - so I'm told.
Galba fancies  Sporus somewhat - although Galba's taste is for older men - Galba is very strange.
And now Otho is after Sporus.", Gracchus continued, warming to the subject.
"But there's more to this than meets the eye.", Gracchus said mysteriously.
"It has been suggested to me, that Sporus looked so much like Poppaea because they were actually related, and that Poppaea was possibly related to the Julio-Claudians - and that may be why everyone who seeks the Imperium, also seeks young Sporus - as, perhaps, a link to legitimacy ?".
"I'm afraid you've lost me there." Marcus said, shaking his head
Poppaea Sabina (AD 30 – AD 65) - known as Poppaea Sabina the Younger (to differentiate her from her mother) and, after AD 63, as Poppaea Augusta Sabina - was a Roman Empress as the second wife of the Emperor Nero. She had also been wife to the future Emperor Otho. She is described as a beautiful woman who used intrigues to become empress. Poppaea Sabina the Younger was born in Pompeii in AD 30. Poppaea's first marriage was to Rufrius Crispinus, a man of equestrian rank. They married in 44, when Poppaea was 14 years old. He was the leader of the Praetorian Guard during the first ten years of the reign of the Emperor Claudius.
Nerō Claudius Caesar 
Poppaea married Otho to get close to Nero and then, in turn, became Nero's favorite mistress. Poppaea was the reason that Nero murdered his mother. Poppaea induced Nero to murder Agrippina in 59 so that she could marry him. She bore Nero one daughter, Claudia Augusta, born on 21 January 63, who died at only four months of age. At the birth of Claudia, Nero honored mother and child with the title of Augusta. While she was awaiting the birth of her second child in the summer of 65, she quarreled fiercely with Nero over his spending too much time at the races.
Mausoleum of Augustus
In a fit of rage, Nero kicked her in the abdomen, so causing her death. When Poppaea died in 65, Nero went into deep mourning. Her body was not cremated, it was stuffed with spices, embalmed, and put in the Mausoleum of Augustus. She was given a state funeral. Nero praised her during the funeral eulogy and gave her divine honors. It is said that Nero burned a year's worth of Arabia's incense production at her funeral.
After that in 67, Nero ordered a young slave-boy, Sporus, to be castrated and then married him. Sporus bore an uncanny resemblance to Sabina, and Nero even called him by his dead wife’s name.
Marcus was still puzzled.
He didn't really understand what all the business about Poppaea and Sporus was really about.
He had heard about Poppaea vaguely, as the Empress, only in Athens, when he had listened in on some of his father's conversations.
As for Sporus, he found it quite impossible to understand how a normal man would want to have sex with a castrated boy - a boy who was not really a boy, but pretending to be a girl - so perhaps Gracchus was right - he usually was, - and this whole 'Sporus business' was really about politics, and not about sex at all, although Nero, from what Marcus had heard, was probably weird enough to have really loved Sporus in some strange way.
"So, Dominus.", Marcus began.
"Do you think that Otho will make a good Emperor, or a least a better one than Galba or Nero ?"
"It's difficult to know, Marcus.", Gracchus replied.
"The plebs, now at least, think that Nero was a good Emperor...... and some of them even think that he is not dead, but has just gone into hiding, and will return when things settle down, or the people grow tired of the present unrest.
But really - it would be difficult for an Emperor to rule as badly as Nero ruled.
As for Galba, my sources tell me that he is under the influence of his favourites.
Apparently the 'plebs' call these favourites 'The Three Pedagogues' - and I think that this is because he is too old, or maybe too lazy, to take real control.
One, Titus Vinius, Galba has made consul, another, Cornelius Laco, is now the Praetorian Prefect, and the third is a freedman - Icelus Marcianus.
If, as I expect, Galba will soon be removed by some of the Praetorians, then I don't think these three will survive.", Gracchus said, with a conspiratorial smile.
"And what about Otho ?", Marcus persisted.
"The oracle said that there would be four.
If Galba was the first, then Otho will be the second, and there will be two more before things settle down.
The question that worries me is - if Galba has  lasted such a short time, will the other two only have short reigns - because the prophecy implies that when the fourth arrives, then I will lose you - and I couldn't bear that !", Marcus looked to Gracchus with real fear in his eyes.
"Now listen , Marcus !", Gracchus said, rising to his feet, and putting a hand on Marcus' shoulder.
"You will manage without me, and you will thrive, and do well.
None of us have forever, and we must all make room for those who are to come after us.
If I die in six months, or a year, or many years, as long as I know that you will be here, to bear my name, as a true Roman, then I will be satisfied.
So let's have no more of this. !", Gracchus said, unable, however, to look Marcus in the eye.
"Yes, Dominus !", Marcus replied, obediently, but still upset.

'A Present for Marcus' - "And now I have small a gift for you.", Gracchus said, picking up an object wrapped in dark red silk, that was lying beneath his couch.
"There is no need, Dominus !
Already you have given me so much !", Marcus stammered, as Gracchus, slightly embarrassed, thrust the object into Marcus' hand.
It was heavy, and Marcus could feel the coldness through the thin silk brocade.
Marcus' Pugio
Carefully he opened the bundle, while Gracchus watched him intently.
The reason why the bundle was so heavy was because it contained a large pugio (knife).
But not just any knife.
To Marcus it was the most beautiful pugio that he had ever seen in his life.
The opulent scabbard and handle were encrusted with elaborate gold decorations.
The blade, of the finest steel, was elaborately figured, and there was the letter 'M', for Marcus, inscribed at the top of the blade, in a gold inlay.
"It's beautiful, Dominus.
But why a pugio ?", Marcus asked, feeling a little nervous that Gracchus had felt that he should have - what was obviously a weapon.
"Things are getting dangerous, Marcus - and you are growing up - and it seems appropriate that, as a young Roman, you should have such an object.
You never know, - after all - you may, sometime in the future, need to defend yourself."
And it was then that Marcus realised that - what had seemed, for so long, to be just a 'game', was now becoming serious.
Of course he had seen apparently serious things happen.
The slave-boy being crucified and impaled, on the first day he arrived at the villa, boys being killed at the munera, Atticus being killed, the deaths of the young gladiators during the games for Nymphidius , and the killings during the 'Ludis Pro Galba' - but although the deaths were real, they had all seemed to be just part of the 'Games'.
'Games' that were unreal, in that they didn't actually affect Marcus.
Now he thought back to when he had pressed the gold seal-ring into the soft, warm wax on the document granting the Praetorians the gold they needed to depose Galba, and he realised that he was not now part of a 'game'.
Undoubtedly Galba would die, very soon, and he would, in part, be responsible and, if certain people knew of his complicity then, young though he was, he could be in danger.
So Gracchus was right to give him this gift - a gift that might, some time in the future, save his life.
"I hope you like it, my boy !", Gracchus said, rather stiffly.
"Now I have an important instruction for you.
I don't very often insist on things - but this is something that you must do.
Not for me, but for yourself.
Tomorrow afternoon, when you go to see Servius, take the 'Pugio' with you, and show it to Servius.
Tell him that he must teach you how to use it properly - how to kill an man, quickly and silently.
Do you understand ?", Gracchus said intently.
"Yes, Dominus !", Marcus replied.
And for the first time in a very long time Marcus thought of his mother, and what she would think about her 'little boy' being taught how to kill someone with a pugio.
The 'pugio' (Plural: 'pugiones') was a dagger used as a sidearm.  Attempts to identify it as a utility knife are misguided as the form of the pugio is not suited to this purpose. Officials of the empire took to wearing ornate daggers in the performance of their offices, (like the dagger that Gracchus had given to Marcus, but rarely as fine), and some would wear concealed daggers as a defense against contingencies. The dagger was a common weapon of assassination and suicide; for example, the conspirators who stabbed Julius Caesar used pugiones.
The year was passing quite quickly, with September moving into October, and the cooler weather.
For a short period, during every training session, Servius got Marcus to train with his Pugio.
To begin with Marcus was loathe to use the beautiful, ornate weapon, and instead he wanted to use an ordinary, everyday knife, but Servius, wisely, insisted that Marcus must become completely familiar with the magnificent dagger's weight and size, so that using it became second nature to the boy.
There were accidents, as Servius insisted on realistic knife fights, and after a while neither Marcus, Gracchus or anybody else noticed the odd cuts and grazes that Marcus picked up during his daily workouts.
Marcus was by now, thanks to Servius, remarkably fit, and was growing in strength, but also, slightly in height, although it was likely that he would never be really tall.
Marcus and Servius met every day, for the new self defence lessons, for lessons in swordsmanship, and for general physical training, including swimming - now mainly in the pool, as the sea was getting cooler.
Marcus' erotic feeling for Servius, like the sea, had cooled significantly, and this was partly due to Servius being less encouraging to the boy since Gracchus had made it obviously clear to him that the physical relationship that Servius had with Marcus was by no means a secret.
Servius knew that if he were to take up the offer that Gracchus had suggested to him, and become Marcus' Tribune, his relationship with the new Dominus would have to be beyond reproach.
This new situation, however, was not a problem.
The post of Tribune still lay open to Servius, and Marcus still relied in many ways on the young man, and considered him a true and trustworthy friend.
In addition, there was, of course, a new 'romantic' interest in Marcus' life, and that was Petronius - but Marcus had been loath to pursue that interest while almost everything - even the politics of the Empire, seemed so uncertain.
Marcus, however, still saw Petronius on a daily basis, during the mornings at the Amphitheatre.

'The End of Galba' - Since the Games to 'celebrate' the accession of Galba, the Amphitheatre had developed a routine of displays, occurring about every twenty days.
This infrequency was because, although the weather always seemed mild and inviting in Baiae, in the Autumn and winter there were always fewer visitors.
Roman Plebs
Gracchus, of course, was in constant contact with events in Rome, through his 'clients', who in many cases acted as his 'spies'.
Reports regularly arrived at the villa, and in most cases Gracchus would invite Marcus and Terentius to his study to discuss these new developments.
It seemed clear from these reports that Galbas' popularity was in steep decline, and not only with the 'plebs'.
In Latin the word 'plebs' is a singular collective noun, and its genitive is 'plebis'. The plebs was the general body of free Roman citizens who were not patricians, as determined by the census. From the 4th century BC or earlier, known as commoners or part of lower social status. Literary references to the 'plebs', (as used here) however, usually mean the ordinary citizens of Rome as a whole, as distinguished from the elite - a sense retained by "plebeian" in English. In the very earliest days of Rome, plebeians were any tribe without advisers to the King. In time, the word – which is related to the Greek word for crowd, plethos – came to mean the 'common people'.
Roman Legion
The Senate, the Praetorians (as Gracchus already knew), and the Legions outside Rome were all concerned about the policies of the aged Emperor.
One of these reports made the telling observation, 'His power and prestige were far greater while he was assuming control of the Empire than afterwards: and though often affording ample proof of his capacity to rule, he won less praise for his good acts, than blame for his mistakes.'
The most virulent hatred for Galba, however was to be found in the Army.
Though a larger bonus than usual had been promised soldiers who had pledged their swords to Galba before his arrival in the City, he would not honour this commitment, but announced, foolishly: 'It is my custom to levy troops, not to buy them.'
Gold Sestertius of Galba
This remark infuriated the troops everywhere; and he earned the Praetorian' particular resentment by his dismissal of a number of them suspected of having been in Nymphidius' pay.
The most complaints, however, seemed to come from the Legions in Magna Germania.
Matters continued to simmer, and then Galba, towards the end of the year, thinking that he was being criticized for his childlessness rather than his senility, singled out from a group of his courtiers a handsome young man, Piso Frugi Lucianus, to whom he had already shown great favour, and appointed him perpetual heir to his name and property.
Galba took to calling this young man 'my son', and legally adopted him.
Interestingly, despite the fact that Marcus had been legally adopted by Gracchus - Gracchus never formally referred to Marcus as 'my son' - but only referred to him as 'my heir'.
It was now January of the year that we now know as 69 AD, and it was about halfway through the month that a courier arrived at the Villa Auri, bearing a scroll impressed with the seal of the Pretorian Prefect Proculus, - not the seal of the Prefect Cornelius Laco.
The slave-boy who had taken the scroll up to Gracchus' study on the first floor, was curtly told to get out, and speak to no-one about the scroll, by a very worried looking Gracchus.
Gracchus then called to one of his bodyguards, telling him to summon Marcus, Terentius and Centurion Servius to his study immediately.

The scroll contained the following information:

Augustan Temple of Apollo - Rome
On January 15th. apparently, Otho went with Galba to sacrifice at the Augustan Temple of Apollo in Rome, only to slip away from the imperial entourage, and be taken by 23 soldiers (who had been paid as a result of that document that Marcus had sealed and handed to the Praetorian Tribune) to the Praetorian Camp, where he (Otho) was welcomed and greeted warmly.
And one might ask, - was the fact that Galba was sacrificing - impiously -  at the Augustan Temple of Apollo significant, considering that the prophecy to Gracchus had come from the God Apollo at Cumae - through the Sibyl ?
Following this, Otho rallied the Praetorian Guard with little difficulty, and had Galba killed as he went through the Forum.
Apparently Galba and young Piso were slaughtered, along with any associates he had that were loyal to him.
The letter from the Tribune, now the new Prefect, concluded, after giving Gracchus and Marcus fulsome thanks for their assistance and advice, by stating that Otho had now claimed the Imperium, and had ascended the Imperial throne.
History tells us that Otho was escorted to the Praetorian headquarters, where, after a few moments of surprise and indecision, he was saluted as Imperator. With an imposing force he then returned to the Roman Forum, and at the foot of the Capitoline Hill encountered Galba, who, alarmed by rather vague rumours of treachery, was making his way through a dense crowd of wandering citizens towards the barracks of the guard. Significantly, the cohort of Praetorian Guards that was on duty at the Palatine, and which had accompanied the Emperor, instantly deserted him. Galba, his newly adopted son Piso and others were brutally murdered by the Praetorians. The brief struggle over, Otho returned in triumph to the camp, and on the same day was duly invested by the Roman Senate with the name of 'Augustus', granted the Tribunician power and the other dignities belonging to the Principate.
Gracchus grimly read the letter to Marcus, Terentius and Servius.
"Now we must be very careful !", Gracchus said seriously.
I remember when Terentius and I first discussed the oracle, - I said that we should not get involved in the upheavals to come.
Unavoidably, that is exactly what we have done - and we are now in a very dangerous position.
For myself, it matters little, but for you, younger men, with useful lives before you, things could be difficult.
Firstly, Servius, if you are in agreement, I want you to become Tribune over all my military assets, such as they are, both here, in the Villa, in Italia, and in the provinces.
Terentius has already prepared the papers, with details of remuneration, and grants of land that we spoke about earlier, and I will write to Marcellus requesting your immediate release from the Legion.
I think that it will be much safer for you to be out of the military, in these uncertain times, and both myself, and later - and more importantly - Marcus need you.
What do you say ?".
Gracchus looked up at young Servius.
"Of course, Dominus !
It would be an honour to serve you !", Servius replied, formally.
Gracchus continued.
"Terentius - it is your task to expedite matters with regard to Servius."
"Yes, Dominus !", Terentius replied.
"And also - I want you to burn all possibly incriminating documents regarding matters in Rome.
If you have any doubts - come and see me !", Gracchus ordered.
"Yes, Dominus.
Immediately !", Terentius replied, obedient and reliable as ever.
"And Marcus - when you are not with Petronius, you must be with Servius, even if you are with me.
Is that clear ?
I want someone who can handle a sword always by your side, in the immediate future !",Gracchus said, sternly and emphatically
"Of course, Dominus !", Marcus replied, somewhat nervously.
Then they were all dismissed.
Then Gracchus, following the strict rule of precedence and status, next called for Petronius.
Marcus and Servius were Roman citizens, Terentius was a freedman, but Petronius, being a slave would, in a matter of this importance, be seen by Gracchus separately.
Petronius eventually arrived after about twenty minutes, (having come from the amphitheatre).
Realising that something was wrong, Petronius greeted his master seriously and respectfully, without his usual delightful smile.
Gracchus then made a summary of the letter.
Petronius shook his head in apparent disbelief, but thought it wisest to make no comment.
Gracchus then got the main point.
"I think that it would be unwise, just at the present, to make any plans for any celebratory Munera - after all, I have certain doubts as to just how long this new Emperor will last, - considering the manner in which he came to the Imperium.", Gracchus explained to Petronius, carefully.
"Also, I need you to take special care of Marcus."
Gracchus continued, "Marcus - as well as myself - have become unavoidably involved in these unfortunate events in Rome.
Certain individuals, if they knew of this, might decide to take some action against Marcus.
You are an expert in armed combat - and are also, if you don't mind me saying - very fond of Marcus.
You are therefore ideally qualified to look after him, for me.
In addition, as you must surely realise, Marcus has enough money now to buy his own slaves.
There is little point, however, as in the future he will inherit all my slaves - including you.
In the present circumstances, though, I would like Marcus to have you as his own slave.
I could force this change on you, as you are my slave, but I am asking you if you are prepared to become Marcus' slave - legally - and in that case I would have no jurisdiction over you ?".
Petronius looked troubled.
"Have I done something to displease you, Dominus ?", he asked plaintively.
"By no means !", Gracchus replied.
"You are undoubtedly the best slave that I own.
But we have come to a time when Marcus needs you more than I do."
"If that is what you want, Dominus, then I am only here to serve you !", Petronius replied.
Petronius then took a deep breath, and smiled.
"I would gladly have Marcus as my master," he said,carefully.
"I am pleased !", Gracchus gently said, also smiling,
"And I will get Terentius to have the documents prepared immediately.
Marcus Salvius Otho Caesar Augustus

Suetonius, in 'De Vita Caesarium' (The Lives of the Caesars), comments on Otho's appearance and personal hygiene.
'He is said to have been of moderate height, splay-footed and bandy-legged, but almost feminine in his care of his person (very much like Nero).
He had the hair of his body plucked out, and because of the thinness of his locks wore a wig so carefully fashioned and fitted to his head, that no one suspected it. Moreover, they say that he used to shave every day and smear his face with moist bread, beginning the practice with the appearance of the first down, so as never to have a beard
Juvenal, in a passage in the 'Satire II' dealing with homosexuality, specifically mentions Otho as being vain, looking at himself in the mirror prior to going into battle, and "plastering his face with dough" in order to 'look good'.'

Otho (oʊθoʊ - Latin: Marcus Salvius Otho Caesar Augustus - 28 April 32 – 16 April 69) was Roman Emperor for three months, from 15 January to 16 April 69. He was the second emperor of the Year of the Four Emperors. Otho had owed his own success to the resentment felt by the Praetorian Guards, and the anger of the rest of the army at Galba's refusal to pay the promised gold to the Legions who supported his accession to the throne. The population of the city was also unhappy with Galba and cherished (?) the memory of Nero. Otho, (who had initially been a close friend of Nero), showed that he was not unmindful of these facts. He accepted the 'cognomen' of 'Nero' (!) (cognomen - an extra personal name given to a Roman citizen, functioning rather like a nickname and often passed down from father to son), conferred upon him by the shouts of the populace, whom his comparative youth (?), and the effeminacy of his appearance reminded of their lost favouriteNero's statues were again set up, his freedmen and household officers reinstalled (including the young castrated boy Sporus [see above] whom Nero had taken in marriage and Otho would also live intimately with, and the intended completion of the Golden House * was announced. At the same time the fears of the more sober and respectable citizens were allayed by Otho's liberal professions of his intention to govern equitably, and by his judicious clemency towards Marius Celsus, consul-designate, a devoted adherent of Galba. Otho soon realized that it was much easier to overthrow an Emperor than rule as one: according to Suetonius, Otho once remarked that "Playing the Long Pipes is hardly my trade" (i.e. undertaking something beyond one's ability to do so).

Domus Aurea
* The Domus Aurea (Latin, "Golden House") (the name probably 'filched' from Gracchus' well known Villa in Baiae ), was a large landscaped portico villa built by the Emperor Nero in the heart of ancient Rome, after the great fire in 64 AD had cleared away the aristocratic dwellings on the slopes of the Palatine Hill. Built of brick and concrete in the few years between the fire and Nero's suicide in 68, the extensive gold leaf that gave the villa its name was not the only extravagant element of its decor: stuccoed ceilings were faced with semi-precious stones and ivory veneers, while the walls were frescoed, coordinating the decoration into different themes in each major group of rooms. Nero also used the same architect, Severus, as Gracchus. In later years the site was occupied by the 'Amphitheatrum Flavium' (later known as the 'Colosseum'.


'A New Slave for Marcus' - That evening Marcus and Petronius were invited to Gracchus' study.
There, Marcus was handed the document (lovingly prepared by Quintus), bearing Gracchus' heavy seal, while Gracchus kept a copy for his own archive.
It was the deed transferring ownership of Petronius from Gracchus to Marcus.
Petronius then kissed Marcus' hand as a sign of his submission and fealty (from the Latin 'fidelitas' - faithfulness).
Petronius was also told that special quarters were to be made available - connected to Marcus' apartments - but that Petronius would also keep his quarters in the Amphitheatre.
In addition, while the unstable situation in Rome persisted, Petronius would be expected to sleep in quarters next to Marcus' cubiculum and, while he was in Marcus' apartments, he was to be allowed to be carry a gladius or a pugio.

So now Marcus had three personal slaves -  Adonios, and Petronius and Cleon

Back in Rome, problems were mounting for the 'New Nero'.
Any further development of Otho's policy was checked once Otho had read through Galba's private correspondence, and realized the extent of the revolution in Germany, where several legions had declared for Vitellius, the commander of the legions on the lower Rhine River, and were already advancing upon Italy.
Vitellius was the son of Lucius Vitellius Veteris and his wife Sextilia, and had one brother, Lucius Vitellius the Younger. Suetonius recorded two different accounts of the origins of the Vitellia (gens), one making them descendants of past rulers of Latium, the other describing their origins as lowly. Suetonius makes the sensible remark that both accounts might have been made by either flatterers or enemies of Vitellius - except that both were in circulation before Vitellius became emperor. Suetonius also recorded that when Vitellius was born his horoscope so horrified his parents that his father tried to prevent Aulus from becoming a consul. He married firstly before the year 40 a woman named Petronia, daughter of Publius Petronius or Gaius Petronius Pontius Nigrinus. He married secondly, around the year 50, a woman named Galeria Fundana, perhaps the granddaughter of Gaius Galerius, Prefect of Egypt in 23. They had two children, a son called Aulus Vitellius Germanicus or Novis, the Younger, and a daughter, Vitellia, who married the Legatus Decimus Valerius Asiaticus. He was Consul in 48, and assumed Proconsul of Africa in either 60 or 61, in which capacity he is said to have acquitted himself with credit. At the end of 68, Galba selected him to command the army of Germania Inferior, and here Vitellius made himself popular with his subalterns and with the soldiers by outrageous prodigality and excessive good nature, which soon proved fatal to order and discipline.
After a vain attempt to conciliate Vitellius by the offer of a share in the Empire, Otho, with unexpected vigour, prepared for war.
From the much more remote provinces, which had acquiesced in his accession, little help was to be expected; but the legions of Dalmatia, Pannonia and Moesia were to support him, the Praetorian cohorts were in themselves a formidable force, and an efficient fleet gave him the mastery of the Italian seas. The fleet was at once dispatched to secure Liguria, and on 14 March Otho, unwisely undismayed by omens and prophecies, started northwards at the head of his troops in the hopes of preventing the entry of Vitellius' troops into Italy. But for this he was too late, and all that could be done was to throw troops into Placentia, and hold the line of the Po. Otho's advanced guard successfully defended Placentia against Aulus Caecina Alienus, and compelled that general to fall back on Cremona. But the arrival of Fabius Valens altered the aspect of affairs. Vitellius' commanders now resolved to bring on a decisive battle, the 'Battle of Bedriacum', and their plans were assisted by the divided and irresolute counsels which prevailed in Otho's camp. The more experienced officers urged the importance of avoiding a battle, until at least the legions from Dalmatia had arrived. But the rashness of the Emperor's brother Titianus, and of Proculus, Prefect of the Praetorian Guards (the tribune who arranged the loan from Gracchus), added to Otho's feverish impatience, overruled all opposition, and an immediate advance was decided upon. Otho himself remained behind with a considerable reserve force at Brixellum, on the southern bank of the Po. When this decision was taken, Otho's army had already crossed the Po and were encamped at Bedriacum (or Betriacum), a small village on the Via Postumia, and on the route by which the legions from Dalmatia would naturally arrive.
Leaving a strong detachment to hold the camp at Bedriacum, the Otho's forces advanced along the Via Postumia in the direction of Cremona.
At a short distance from Cremona they unexpectedly encountered the Vitellius' troops.
The Legions of Otho, though taken at a disadvantage, fought desperately, but were finally forced to fall back in disorder upon their camp at Bedriacum.
There on the next day the victorious forces of Vitellius followed them, but only to come to terms at once with their disheartened enemy, and to be welcomed into the camp as friends.
More unexpected still was the effect produced at Brixellum by the news of the battle.
Otho was still in command of a formidable force: the Dalmatian Legions had already reached Aquileia, and the spirit of his men and their officers was unbroken.
Otho, however, was resolved to accept the verdict of the battle that his own impatience had hastened. In a dignified speech he bade farewell to those about him, declaring: "It is far more just to perish one for all, than many for one", and then retiring to rest soundly for some hours.
Early in the morning he stabbed himself in the heart with a dagger, which he had concealed under his pillow, and died as his attendants entered the tent.
Otho's ashes were placed within a modest monument. He had reigned only three months. His funeral was celebrated at once, as he had wished.
A plain tomb was erected in his honour at Brixellum, with the simple inscription 'DIIS MANIBVS MARCI OTHONIS'.
He had reigned only three months.
His funeral was celebrated at once, as he had wished.
It has been thought that Otho's suicide was committed in order to steer his country from the path of civil war.
Just as he had come to power, many Romans learned to respect Otho in his death.
Few could believe that a renowned former companion of Nero had chosen such an honourable end. Tacitus wrote that some of the soldiers committed suicide beside his funeral pyre "because they loved their emperor and wished to share his glory."
Writing during the reign of the Emperor Domitian (AD 81–96), the Roman poet Martial expressed his admiration for Otho's choice to spare the Empire from civil war through sacrificing himself:

 'Soft Otho had perhaps still a chance of winning,
He renounced fighting that would have cost much blood,
And with sure hand pierced right through his breast.
By all means let Cato in his life be greater than Julius Caesar himself;
In his death was he greater than Otho ?'

And so Gracchus got his 'Two Emperors for the price of one'.
He and Marcus had, almost unintentionally, paid for the (probably justified) death of Galba, but that had simply led to the death of Otho - and Otho died by his own hand - and Gracchus paid nothing to help Vitellius, who from the beginning, had the support of his Legions.

and the story continues -
Vitellius becomes Emperor - and Gracchus promises take Marcus to Rome
Chapter XXII

(Another Emperor ! - Anno Quattuor Imperatorum - Part VI)

Please note that this chapter contains sexually explicit and violent images and text. If you strongly object to any of these images please contact the blog author at and the offending material can be removed. Equally please do not view this chapter if such material may offend.

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