The Portraiture of Vitellius Home

  Photos by Bill Storage and Laura Maish
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Aulus Vitellius, born about 14 A.D. was a consul under Claudius. He was sent by Galba to Germany where the troops saluted him as emperor on January 2, 69. After Galba was murdered, Vitellius's troops marched into Italy and defeated Otho's troop, after which the Senate officially recognized Vitellius as emperor. Troops in the eastern empire, loyal to Vespasian, refused to recognize Vitellius, invaded Rome and defeated Vitellius. Effective Flavian imperial propaganda, assisted by writers such as Suetonius, fully vilified Vitellius. His portraiture was thereafter almost completely destroyed, or recarved into portraits of Vespasian. The best known remaining portrait of Vitellius is now in the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen. The famous bust shown below (famous in the sense that it is one of the pieces most copied by sculpture students), in the Capitoline Museum, was long regarded as a portrait of Vitellius, but this identification is now generally regarded as incorrect.

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Preceded by Otho

Succeeded by Vespasian


(Probably not Vitellius)

Coin of Vitellius in the Palazzo Massimo, Rome


Copyright 2007 Bill Storage and Laura Maish. Created 2/1/2007