World History Blog Logo

Otho by Plutarch

Otho by Plutarch. This offers a biography of Otho as written by the Roman historian Plutarch. Otho was a Roman Emperor who served briefly during the Civil War of 69 AD when four different men held the throne.

The dynasty of Augustus fell when Nero died and armies from all over the Roman Empire converged on Rome. I have also admired Otho. Despite his flaws, which Plutarch highlights, he had a noble end. When his forces lost the Battle of Bedriacum, he killed himself rather than continue the war.

He had the means to continue but choose to end his own life in hopes that his death would end the fighting. It did not do this but several millennia later I can still admire the way he choose to handle the situation.

From the site: The new emperor went early in the morning to the capitol, and sacrificed; and, having commanded Marius Celsus to be brought, he saluted him, and with obliging language desired him rather to forget his accusation than remember his acquittal; to which Celsus answered neither meanly nor ungratefully, that his very crime ought to recommend his integrity, since his guilt had been his fidelity to Galba, from whom he had never received any personal obligations.

Upon which they were both of them admired by those that were present, and applauded by the soldiers. In the senate, Otho said much in a gentle and popular strain. He was to have been consul for part of that year himself, but he gave the office to Virginius Rufus, and displaced none that had been named for the consulship by either Nero or Galba.

Those that were remarkable for their age and dignity he promoted to the priesthoods; and restored the remains of their fortunes, that had not yet been sold, to all those senators that were banished by Nero, and recalled by Galba. So that the nobility and chief of the people, who were at first apprenhensive that no human creature, but some supernatural, or penal vindictive power had seized the empire, began now to flatter themselves with hopes of a government that smiled upon them thus early.

Besides, nothing gratified or gained the whole Roman people more than his justice in relation to Tigellinus. It was not seen how he was in fact already suffering punishment, not only by the very terror of retribution which he saw the whole city requiring as a just debt, but with several incurable diseases also; not to mention those unhallowed frightful excesses among impure and prostitute women, to which, at the very close of life, his lewd nature clung, and in them gasped out, as it were, its last; these, in the opinion of all reasonable men, being themselves the extremest punishment, and equal to many deaths.

But it was felt like a grievance by people in general that he continued yet to see the light of day, who had been the occasion of the loss of it to so many persons, and such persons, as had died by his means. Wherefore Otho ordered him to be sent for, just as he was contriving his escape of means of some vessels that lay ready for him on the coast near where he lived, in the neighbourhood of Sinuessa.

At first he endeavoured to corrupt the messenger, by a large sum of money, to favour his design; but when he found this was to no purpose, he made him as considerable a present as if he had really connived at it, only entreating him to stay till he had shaved; and so took that opportunity, and with his razor despatched himself.