Remarks on Vitellius

AFTER the extinction of the race of the Caesars, the possession of the imperial power became extremely precarious; and great influence in the army was the means which invariably led to the throne. The soldiers having arrogated to themselves the right of nomination, they either unanimously elected one and the same person, or different parties supporting the interests of their respective favourites, there arose between them a contention, which was usually determined by an appeal to arms, and followed by the assassination of the unsuccessful competitor. Vitellius, by being a parasite of all the empelors from Tiberius to Nero inclusively, had arisen to a high military rank, by which, with a spirit of enterprise, and large promises to the soldiery, it was not difficult to snatch the reins of government, while they were yet fluctuating in the hands of Otho. His ambition prompted to the attempt, and his boldness was crowned with success. In the service of the four preceding emperors, Vitelliis had imbibed the principal vices from them all: but what chiefly distinguished him was extreme voraciousness, which, though he usually pampered it with enormous luxury, could not yet be gratified by the vilest and most offensive garbage. The pusillanimity discovered by this emperor at his death forms a striking contrast to the heroic behaviour of Otho.

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