(81) Vitellius - AE sestertius, A.D. 69, 24.44 g. (inv. 93.016).
Obverse: Draped and laureate head of Vitellius r.; A(VLVS) VITELLIVS GERMAN(ICVS) IMP(ERATOR) AVG(VSTVS) P(ONTIFEX) M(AXIMVS) TR(IBVNICIA) P(OTESTATE): Aulus Vitellius Germanicus, imperator, Augustus, pontifex maximus, with tribunician power.
Reverse: Lucius Vitellius, togate and bare-headed, seated l. on platform, clasping hand of first of three togate citizens standing before him; behind them, a togate citizen seated r.; in exergue, S(ENATVS) C(ONSVLTO): by decree of the Senate; L(VCIVS) VITELL(IVS) CENSOR II: Lucius Vitellius, censor for the second time.
Provenance: Harlan Berk, 1992.
Bibliography: C.H.V. Sutherland, The Roman Imperial Coinage I: from 31 BC to AD 69, rev. ed. (London 1984) 134.
Aulus Vitellius Germanicus was one of three men who quickly rose and fell from the rank of Augustus in A.D. 69. He initially came into high office through the influence of his distinguished father, Lucius. He was governor of Lower Germany when the revolt against Nero began, and the troops that at first supported Galba quickly switched their allegiance to him. After the death of Galba and the proclamation of Otho, his army defeated Otho's, and after Otho's suicide the Senate recognized Vitellius. He attempted to abdicate when Vespasian's troops moved against him, but the offer was refused, and he was put to death by Vespasian after only eight months in power.
Like Galba, Vitellius preferred realism in his portraits. His coins show a middle-aged man (he was fifty-six when he died) with a short military haircut. The flabby cheeks, double chin, and huge neck confirm reports of his obesity.
The emperor's father, Lucius, had married into the family of Augustus and was far more distinguished than his son. He was consul under Augustus and Claudius and was made censor in A.D. 49. His son celebrated both his father's consular and censorial offices on his coins. On the reverse of this sestertius Vitellius depicts his father in his position as censor.
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