The brief reign of Otho


Marcus Salvius Otho: born 28 April AD 32. Governor of Lusitania AD 58 - 68. Married Poppaea Sabina, future wife of Nero. Became emperor on 15 January AD 69. Committed suicide on 14 April AD 69.

Otho on a coin

Coin of Otho. (Suzanne Cross)

Otho returned to Rome after having performed creditably in Lusitania. His immediate task was to overcome the threat of Vitellius. The armies of Upper and Lower Germany advanced into Italy, each by a different route. Otho crossed the Po and was outflanked. His army surrendered and he killed himself.


Pen portrait of Otho

“He was quite small, with bow legs, and feet that stuck out at each side. He was almost as fastidious as a woman. His body was plucked and because his hair was so thin, he wore a wig, so well made and closely fitting that no one suspected. (Suetonius, Otho 12)

Believe it or not:

According to Suetonius, Otho’s bid to become emperor was motivated by his need to pay off his enormous personal debts.