Nero

The Pisonian Conspiracy. April 19, 65 AD.

Gaius Calpurnius Piso, a leading Roman statesman, benefactor of literature, and orator, intended to have Nero assassinated, and replace him as Emperor through acclamation by the Praetorian Guard. He enlisted the aid of several prominent senators, equestrians, and soldiers with a loosely conceived plan. Nero had been Emperor since 54 AD, and the ruling class had grown weary of his tyrannical reign. Although the conspiracy ended a failure, it sowed the seeds for the downfall of Nero, his suicide and the ensuing chaos of the Year of Four Emperors. The fact that senators, soldiers, and equestrians were willing to work together outlines the widespread hatred of Nero. It seems as if only Piso and perhaps Plautius Lateranus were driven to participate for the love of Rome. Others plotters, such as...

Caligula Emperor. March 28, 37 AD.

When Tiberius died on 16 March 37 AD, his estate and the titles of the principate were left to Caligula and Tiberius’s own grandson, Gemellus, who were to serve as joint heirs. Although Tiberius was 77 and on his death bed, some ancient historians still conjecture that he was murdered. Tacitus writes that the Praetorian Prefect, Macro, smothered Tiberius with a pillow to hasten Caligula’s accession, much to the joy of the Roman people. Seneca the Elder and Philo, who both wrote during Tiberius’s reign, record Tiberius as dying a natural death. Backed by Macro, Caligula had Tiberius’s will nullified with regard to Gemellus on grounds of insanity, but otherwise carried out Tiberius’s wishes. Caligula accepted the powers of the principate as conferred by the sena...

The death of Septimius Severus. February 4, 211.

By 210, Septimius Severus‘ campaigning had made significant gains in Britain, despite Caledonian guerrilla tactics and heavy Roman casualties. The Caledonians sued for peace, which Severus granted on condition they gave up control of the Central Lowlands. The Caledonians, short on supplies and feeling their position was becoming desperate, revolted later that year along with the Maeatae. Severus prepared for another protracted campaign within Caledonia. He was now intent on exterminating the Caledonians, telling his soldiers: “Let no-one escape sheer destruction, no-one our hands, not even the babe in the womb of the mother, if it be male; let it nevertheless not escape sheer destruction”. Severus’ campaign was cut short when he fell fatally ill. He withdrew to Eboracum a...

Otho, Emperor of Rome. January 15, 69 AD.

Galba was childless and far advanced in years, and Otho, encouraged by the predictions of astrologers, aspired to succeed him. He came to a secret agreement with Galba’s favourite, Titus Vinius, agreeing to marry Vinius’ daughter in exchange for his support. However, in January 69 AD, his hopes were dashed by Galba’s formal adoption of Lucius Calpurnius Piso Licinianus. Desperate as Otho was because of the state of his finances, he found the money needed to purchase the services of some twenty-three soldiers of the Praetorian Guard. On the morning of 15 January, Otho attended as usual to pay his respects to Galba, and then hastily excused himself and hurried from the Palatine Hill to meet his accomplices. He was then escorted to the Praetorian camp, where he was saluted a...

Roman Provinces

The Roman Empire was sprawling and massive as they assimilated regions they conquered and mostly kept the population and cultures intact to a degree. In order to keep all of the provinces running smoothly, local mints were established to produce (mostly) base-metal coins. Over the course of the empire, more than 600 provincial mints provided the means for those not living in the large cities to conduct trade, while showcasing important themes, buildings or religious icons. Some large provincial mints, such as Tyre in Phoenicia, were allowed to strike silver coins. But mostly the provincial cities and towns featured their flavor on copper and bronze. This is the Roman Provincial Coinage. Interestingly, some Roman provincial issues are the only way to collect some of the family members, such...

Great Fire in Rome – July 18/19, 64 AD

Written by Publius Cornelius Tacitus c.116 AD, “Ab Excessu divi Augusti Historiam Libri” includes this account of the devastating fire which consumed most of the capital of the Roman Empire in 64 AD (translated by Michael Grant in his 1989 edition of “The Annals of Imperial Rome”): “…Now started the most terrible and destructive fire which Rome had ever experienced. It began in the Circus, where it adjoins the Palatine and Caelian hills. Breaking out in shops selling inflammable goods, and fanned by the wind, the conflagration instantly grew and swept the whole length of the Circus. There were no walled mansions or temples, or any other obstructions, which could arrest it. First, the fire swept violently over the level spaces. Then it climbed the hills – but returned to r...

Titus Begins Sole Reign – June 23, 79 AD

During the reign of Claudius (41-54 AD), Vespasian was held in high esteem, allowing his son, Titus to be raised in the company of the royal court. Titus was taught along side Britannicus, Claudius’s son. They became close friends and Titus was at the dinner party at which Britannicus was fatally poisoned by Nero in 55. It is said Titus even drank some of the poison and became very ill, but recovered. Nero continued to rule, Vespasian had retired in 51 and Titus was sent to Germania. From c.57-59, Titus was a military tribune in Germania, arriving in Britannia c.60 with reinforcements after the revolt of Boadicea. Titus married twice, the first to Arrecina Tertulla, the daughter of one of Caligula’s praetorian prefects, when he returned to Rome in c.63. The were married until Tertulla’s de...

Otho and The Three-Month Reign – April 16, 69 AD

Marcus Salvius Otho was born to a wealthy family, descending from the princes of Etruria. His noble connections found him in the company of the Roman elite from the beginning, and he is noted as one of the most extravagant nobles in the company of the emperor Nero. He was married to Poppaea Sabina and she insisted Otho introduce her to Nero in 58 AD. He did so, and Nero and Poppaea began an affair which ended the friendship between Nero and Otho. Nero assigned Otho the governorship of the Roman province of Lusitania (modern-day parts of Portugal and Extremadura, Spain), where he administered with moderation, as opposed to his previous nature.  You can see the history through Etruscan coins. In 68 AD, his governor neighbor in Hispania Tarraconensis, Servius Sulpicius Galba, rebelled against...

Domitia Longina – February 11, 50-55 AD

Domitia Longina was born on February 11, but in which year is unclear – sources place it between 50-55 AD. Although not much is documented about her before her marriage to the Roman emperor, Domitian, in 71, her lineage is well connected. Domitia was the youngest daughter of Nero’s most renowned general, Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo and his wife, Cassia Longina. She was also the direct descendant of Augustus through her mother’s side, as a great-great-great-great-granddaughter. As such, she was one of the last living members of the Julian line. Domitia’s father was not only an accomplished general, he was also a senator and consul under Caligula. During the reigns of Claudius and Nero, Corbulo conducted military campaigns in Parthia and Germania. However, black clouds formed over the fami...

Galba Born – December 24, 3 BC

Servius Sulpicius Galba was born on December 24, 3 BC in Terracina, Italy to C. Sulpicius Galba and Mummia Achaica. His family was well-connected – his paternal grandfather was Servius Sulpicius Galba, praetor in 54 BC and his maternal grandfather was politician Quintus Lutatius Catulus. Galba’s mother died shortly after his birth and his father remarried Livia Ocellina, a distant relative of the Roman empress Livia. Livia adopted Galba and he changed his name to Lucius Livius Ocella Sulpicius Galba. In his youth, Galba was remarked by both Augustus and Tiberius to have great abilities and destined to be important.  This  is a category of  silver denarius. Galba married Aemilia Lepida, who was connected through the marriages of some of her relatives to various members of the house of Julii...

The Flavian Dynasty – July 1, 69 AD

In 66 AD, a revolt was occurring in the Roman province of Judaea. Jews were rebelling and the governor of the province was killed in the fighting. Cestius Gallus, governor of Syria arrived in September with Legio XII Fulminata to restore order. He was able to take back parts of Judaea, but failed to take the Temple Mount after a nine-day siege and fell back to the coast. He was ambushed on the way, and of the 30,000 troops at his disposal when he arrived, escaped with heavy losses and died in Syria in 67, leaving Judaea lost as a Roman province. Nero replaced Gallus after his death with Gaius Licinius Mucianus as governor of Syria, and charged Titus Flavius Vespasianus, who was stationed in the area of Judaea with crushing the rebellion. Vespasian arrived in 68 AD with two legions, eight s...

Britannicus and Nero – February 11, 55 AD

Tiberius Claudius Germanicus was the son of Roman emperor Claudius, and his third wife, Valeria Messalina. He was born on February 12, 41 AD, less than a month after Claudius had begun his reign. Two years later, Claudius was offered the title of “Britannicus” by the senate, to honor him for his invasion of Britain. He declined the offer, instead passing it on to his two-year old son, who would then be known as Tiberius Claudius Caesar Britannicus. Suetonius records that Claudius loved Britannicus greatly, picking him up during public events and saying “Good luck to you, my boy!”, to which the viewers would echo the sentiment. All seemed to be going well for the heir-apparent, until 48 AD. This is a category of  nero coins. Valeria Messalina, while still wife of Claudius, married Gaius Sil...

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