The Spanish army, under an officer named Galba, who was seventy-two years old, but to whom Augustus had said when he was a little boy, “You too shall share my taste of empire,” began to move homewards to attack the tyrant, and the army from Gaul advanced to join it. Nero went nearly wild with fright, sometimes raging, sometimes tearing his hair and clothes; and the people began to turn against him in anger at a dearth of corn, saying he spent everything on his own pleasures. As Galba came nearer, the nobles and knights hoped for deliverance, and the Praetorian Guard showed that they meant to join their fellow-soldiers, and would not fight for him. The wretched Emperor found himself alone, and vainly called for some one to kill him, for he had not nerve to do it himself. He fled to a villa in the country, and wandered in the woods till he heard that, if he was caught, he would be put to death in the “ancient fashion,” which he was told was being fixed with his neck in a forked stick and beaten to death. Then, hearing the hoofs of the horses of his pursuers, he set a sword against his breast and made a slave drive it home, and was groaning his last when the horsemen came up. He was but 30 years old, and was the last Emperor who could trace any connection, even by adoption, with Augustus. He perished A.D. 68.
THE FLAVIAN FAMILY.
The ablest of all Nero’s officers was Titus Flavius Vespasianus, a stern, rigid old soldier, who, with his son of the same name, was in the East, preparing to put down a great rising of the Jews. He waited to see what was going to happen, and in a very few weeks old Galba had offended the soldiers by his saving ways; there was a rising against him, and another soldier named Otho became Emperor; but the legions from Gaul marched up under Vitellius to dethrone him, and he killed himself to prevent other bloodshed.
When the Eastern army heard of these changes, they declared they would make an Emperor like the soldiers of the West, and hailed Vespasian as Emperor. He left his son Titus to subdue Judea, and set out himself for Italy, where Vitellius had given himself up to riot and feasting. There was a terrible fight and fire in the streets of Rome itself, and the Gauls, who chiefly made up Vitellius’ army, did even more mischief than the Gauls of old under Brennus; but at last Vespasian triumphed. Vitellius was taken, and, after being goaded along with the point of a lance, was put to death. There had been eighteen months of confusion, and Vespasian began his reign in the year 70.