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Home>Catalog>RomanCoins>TheTwelveCaesars>Vitellius

Vitellius, 2 January - 20 December 69 A.D.

Aulus Vitellius was declared emperor by his troops in 69 A.D. After defeating the forces of Otho, he took control of Rome, but then spent more time at the banquet table then in governance. General Vespasian was then declared emperor in Alexandria, and the legions stationed along the Danube frontier marched against Vitellius. His forces were defeated, the emperor slain and his body dragged through the streets of Rome and dumped in the Tiber.


Click for a larger photo Lucius Vitellius, depicted on the reverse of this coin, was father of the emperor Vitellius, a Roman senator, three times consul, and governor of Syria from 35 to 39 A.D.

In 36 A.D. Lucius Vitellius fired Pontius Pilate, the infamous prefect of Judaea. A Samaritan, claiming to be Moses reincarnate, gathered an armed following. Pilate dispersed the crowd by killing some and taking many prisoners. After he executed the ringleaders, the Samaritans appealed to Vitellius, complaining that Pilate's response was excessive. Vitellius, agreed, sent Pilate back to Italy and appointed Marcellus.

In support of Claudius and Agrippina, Vitellius invented arguments why the old rule that an uncle and his niece should not marry did not apply to the emperor. The new empress returned the favor. When Vitellius was accused of high treason by the senator Junius Lupus, she made sure that Claudius exiled the accuser.

Vitellius died unexpectedly from a paralytic stroke and received a statue on the speaker's platform on the Roman Forum, with the inscription "Of unwavering loyalty to the emperor." His unwavering loyalty was later criticized by Tacitus:

"The man, I am aware, had a bad name at Rome, and many a foul story was told of him. But in the government of provinces he acted with the virtue of ancient times. He returned and then, through fear of Caligula and intimacy with Claudius, degenerated into a servility so base that he is regarded by an after-generation as the type of the most degrading adulation. The beginning of his career was forgotten in its end, and an old age of infamy effaced the virtues of youth." [Tacitus, Annals, 6.32; tr. A.J. Church and W.J. Brodribb]

SH65988. Gold aureus, RIC I 94, BMCRE I 23, BnF III 54, F, weight 7.029 g, maximum diameter 18.8 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, Apr - 20 Dec 69 A.D.; obverse A VITELLIVS GERM IMP AVG TR P, laureate head right; reverse L VITELLIVS COS III CENSOR, Lucius Vitellius (emperor's father) togate, seated left on curule chair, extending right, in left eagle-tipped scepter, feet on stool; very rare (RIC R2); SOLD

Click for a larger photo High relief portrait and nice style. Some of the best Roman engravers worked at the Rome Mint from the late reign of Nero to the early reign of Vespasian. Apparently their ranks were thinned by the Civil Wars of 69 A.D., because the bronze coinage of Vespasian is, by comparison, pedestrian in style.
SH37568. Orichalcum dupondius, SRCV I 2213, RIC I 162, Cohen 15, BMCRE I 65, Paris 116, gVF, weight 13.643 g, maximum diameter 28.7 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, 69 A.D.; obverse A VITELLIVS GERMA IMP AVG P M TR P, laureate and draped bust right; reverse CONCORDIA AVGVSTI S C, Concordia seated left holding patera and cornucopia, lit garlanded altar before; scarce; SOLD

Click for a larger photo
SH08073. Gold aureus, RIC I 104, BMCRE I 30, F, weight 6.94 g, maximum diameter 20.1 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, 69 A.D.; obverse A VITELLIVS GERM IMP AVG TR P, laureate head right; reverse LIBERTAS RESTITVTA, Libertas standing facing, head right holding pileus and long rod; some nicks and finder scrapes; "S" and "C" shaped banker's marks in fields; very rare (R3); SOLD


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Obverse legends:

AVITELLIVSGERMAIMPAVGPMTRP
AVITELLIVSGERMANICVSIMP
AVITELLIVSGERMANIMPAVGPMTRP
AVITELLIVSGERMANIMPTRP
AVITELLIVSGERMIMPAVGTRP
AVITELLIVSGERIMPAVGPMAXTRP
AVITELLIVSIMPGERMAN
AVITELLIVSIMPGERMANICVS




Average well preserved denarius weight 3.30 grams.
Catalog current as of Friday, October 31, 2014.
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Roman Coins of Vitellius