The Year of the Four Emperors Explained

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Kelly Macquire
by and
published on 15 June 2023

During the Year of the Four Emperors (69 CE), the fight between Vitellius and Vespasian would ultimately bring about the demise of four legions, the XV Primigenia, I Germanica, IIII Macedonica, and XVI Gallia. All four of these legions had previously served the Roman Empire with distinction under such leaders as Pompey and Octavian but made what turned out to be the wrong choice in 69 CE. While there remains a question concerning the loyalty of XV Primigenia, three of the legions made the mistake of supporting Vitellius.

Despite a somewhat inglorious ending, the legionaries exemplified what a good soldier should be and had previously served the empire well. However, during the Year of the Four Emperors, they made the ill-fated choice to support Vitellius against the other candidates for the Roman throne. Had Vitellius won, history would be praising them for their valor and fortitude. Unfortunately, they made a fatal mistake. All four, although Primigenia was reformed, met their demise and are relegated to the forgotten and dishonored legions of the Roman Empire.



0:00​ Introduction
0:51 The Year of the Four Emperors
2:07 Emperor 1 – Galba
4:11 Emperor 2 – Otho
5:04 Emperor 3 – Vitellius
6:05 Emperor 4 – Vespasian
7:28 Outro

The Year of the Four Emperors & the Demise of Four Roman Legions–the-demise-of-four/

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About the Author

Kelly Macquire
Kelly is a graduate from Monash University who has completed her BA (Honours) in Ancient History and Archaeology, focussing on iconography and status in Pylos burials. She has a passion for mythology and the Aegean Bronze Age.

Cite This Work

APA Style

Macquire, K. (2023, June 15). The Year of the Four Emperors Explained. World History Encyclopedia. Retrieved from

Chicago Style

Macquire, Kelly. "The Year of the Four Emperors Explained." World History Encyclopedia. Last modified June 15, 2023.

MLA Style

Macquire, Kelly. "The Year of the Four Emperors Explained." World History Encyclopedia. World History Encyclopedia, 15 Jun 2023. Web. 19 Jul 2024.