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For other uses, see Otho (disambiguation).

Marcus Salvius Otho (28 April 32[1] – 16 April 69), also called Marcus Salvius Otho Caesar Augustus,[2] was Roman Emperor for three months, from 15 January to 16 April 69. He was the second emperor of the Year of the four emperors.


Birth and lineage

Otho belonged to an ancient and noble Etruscan family, descended from the princes of Etruria and settled at Ferentinum (modern Ferento, near Viterbo) in Etruria. His paternal grandfather, Marcus Salvius Otho, whose father was a Roman knight but whose mother was of lowly origin and perhaps not even free-born, was raised in Livia's household and rose to senatorial rank through her influence, although he did not advance beyond the rank of praetor. His father was Lucius Otho.

Early life

The future emperor appears first as one of the most reckless and extravagant of the young nobles who surrounded Nero. This friendship was brought to an end in 58 because of his wife, the noblewoman Poppaea Sabina. Otho introduced his beautiful wife to the Emperor upon Poppaea's insistence, who then began an affair that would eventually lead to her premature death. After securely establishing this position as his mistress, she divorced Otho and had the emperor send him away to the remote province of Lusitania (which is now parts of both modern Portugal and Extremadura).

Otho remained in Lusitania for the next ten years, administering the province with a moderation unusual at the time. When in 68 his neighbor the future emperor Galba, the governor of Hispania Tarraconensis, rose in revolt against Nero, Otho accompanied him to Rome. Resentment at the treatment he had received from Nero may have impelled him to this course, but to this motive was added before long that of personal ambition. Galba was childless and far advanced in years, and Otho, encouraged by the predictions of astrologers, aspired to succeed him. He came to a secret agreement with Galba's favourite, Titus Vinius, agreeing to marry Vinius' daughter in exchange for his support. However, in January 69, his hopes were dissipated by Galba's formal adoption of Lucius Calpurnius Piso Licinianus, whom Galba had previously named a recipient in his will.

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