First English edition of the Nuremberg chronicle: being the Liber chronicarum of Dr. Hartmann Schedel…

Galba, a man of ancient noble lineage, was the seventh Roman emperor. Although the royal line ended with Nero, and this Galba was in no degree related to the imperial family, nevertheless he was chosen emperor by the army in Iberia. When he learned of Nero’s death he journeyed to Rome. In the beginning he was assiduous in the study of the liberal arts and the furtherance of justice. During his singular career he was esteemed for his knowledge of military and home affairs. He was often in the consulship, and many times a leader in the weightiest engagements. He was erect in stature, bald headed, had dark green eyes and a curved nose. He was awkward in hands and feet, and could not endure any footwear, nor turn over the pages of a small book, nor hold it. A hump grew out of his right side. He was accustomed to eat much food, and in the wintertime ate before daybreak. He was inclined to licentiousness. He offended everyone by his avarice and lack of consideration. He was secretly ambushed by Otho (Ottonis) at Rome, and together with his adopted son Piso, a noble youth, was strangled near the Lacus Curtius, in the seventy-third year of his age and the seventh month of his reign. It was Galba who brought Marcus Fabius Quintilianus, the celebrated rhetorician, from Spain to Rome.[Ser. Sulpicius Galba was Roman emperor from June 68 to January 69 CE. He was born near Terracina on December 24, 3 BCE. Both Augustus and Tiberius are said to have told him that some day he would be at the head of the Roman world; from which we must infer that he was a young man of more than ordinary talents. From his parents he inherited great wealth. He was invested with the curule offices before attaining the legitimate age. He was praetor in 20 CE and consul in 33. After his consulship he had the government of Gaul, where he carried on a successful war against the Germans, and restored discipline among the troops. On the death of Caligula many of his friends urged him to seize the empire, but he preferred to live in private station. In 45 Claudius entrusted him with the administration of Africa, which he governed with wisdom and integrity. In the reign of Nero he lived in retirement for several years through fear of being the victim of the tyrant’s suspicion; but in 61 Nero gave him the government of Hispania Terraconensis, where he remained for eight years. In 68 Vindex rebelled in Gaul. About the same time Galba was informed that Nero had sent secret orders for his assassination. For that reason he at once resolved to follow the example of Vindex; but he did not assume the imperial title, and professed to act only as the legate of the Roman senate and people. Shortly afterwards Nero was murdered. Shortly after that Galba proceeded to Rome, where he was acknowledged as emperor. But his severity and avarice soon made him unpopular with his new subjects, and especially with the soldiers. His power had also become enfeebled by age, and he was completely under the sway of favorites, who perpetrated many enormities in his name. Perceiving the weakness of his government, he adopted Piso Licinianus, a noble young Roman, as his successor. But this only hastened his ruin. Otho, who had hoped to be adopted by Galba, formed a conspiracy among the soldiers, who rose in rebellion. Galba was murdered and Otho was proclaimed.]

Otho, the eighth Roman emperor, was born of a noble father and a lowly mother. Yet by his mother he was nobler than through his father. From youth he was of profligate and immoderate ways. By the grace of Livia Augustus, in whose house he grew up, he was made a consul. He was a relative of Nero and participated in his councils; and so in the course of revolts and dissensions he secretly aspired to the empire. And although in three engagements he was victor over Vitellius, who in Germany had been proclaimed emperor, he was defeated in the fourth. In despair he laid hands upon himself. He wounded himself below the nipple of his left breast, and died. In accordance with his wishes he was buried in Volaterrana, in Etruria, in the thirty-eighth year of his age and the ninety-fifth day of his reign. He was (as one finds) a small person, deformed in his legs, bald, and of feminine fastidiousness; but others write that he was a strong man and a singular ruler in military affairs.[M. Otho was Roman emperor from January 15th to April 16th 69 CE. He was the younger son of L. Otho and was born in the early part of 32. He was one of the companions of Nero in his debaucheries; but when the emperor took possession of his wife, the beautiful but profligate Poppaea Sabina, Otho was sent as governor to Lusitania, which he administered with credit during the last ten years of Nero’s life. Otho attracted hope of being adopted by him and succeeding to the empire. But when Galba adopted L. Piso, Otho formed a conspiracy against Galba, and was proclaimed emperor by the soldiers at Rome, who put Galba to death. Meanwhile Vitellius had been proclaimed emperor at Cologne by the German troops, and his generals immediately set out for Italy to place their master on the throne. When the news reached Otho, he marched into the north of Italy to oppose the generals of Vitellius. The fortunes of war were at first in his favor, but his army was subsequently defeated in a decisive battle. For that reason Otho put an end to his own life at the age of thirty-seven.]

Vitellius, the ninth Roman emperor, of honorable rather than noble offspring, came to Rome, where he spent his childhood and early youth among the unchaste Tiberine women, marring his subsequent years with every vice. He was a favorite of Caius as a result of prophecy, of Claudius as a devotee of the gaming board, and to some extent of Nero. Through the graces of these three princes he attained to great honors, to the consulship of Africa and the office of public works. Galba afterwards sent him into Lower Germany; and there, in civilian garb, he was greeted as an emperor because he denied no one in the encampment anything. When he became emperor he sank into all manner of wantonness, cruelty and gluttony, for he was such a gourmand that he frequently ate during the day. At one evening meal two thousand fish and seven thousand birds were served up at his command. They say he had a very florid face and a fat belly. He burned Sabinus, the brother of Vespasian in the capitol at Rome with the Flavians. Therefore Vespasian ordered Vitellius to be cut up into small pieces and thrown into the Tiber, and he, together with his brother, passed away in the fifty-seventh year of his age.[A. Vitellius, the ninth Roman emperor, of honorable rather than noble lineage, held office from January 2, to December 22, 69 CE. He was the son of L. Vitellius, and was consul during the first six months of 48. He had some knowledge of letters and possessed some eloquence. His vices made him a favorite of Tiberius, Caius Caligula, Claudius, and Nero, who loaded him with favors. People were much surprised when Galba chose such a man to command the legions in Lower Germany, for he had no military experience. His great accomplishments were eating and drinking. The soldiers proclaimed him emperor at Colonia Agrippinensis (Cologne) on January 2, 69. His generals marched into Italy, defeated Otho’s troops at the decisive battle of Bedriacum, and thus secured for Vitellius the undisputed command of Italy. Vitellius reached Rome in July. Though he showed moderation toward his enemies, he showed none in his expenses. He was a glutton and an epicure, and his chief amusement was the table, on which he spent enormous sums. Meantime Vespasian, who had at first taken the oath of allegiance to Vitellius, was proclaimed emperor at Alexandria. He was speedily recognized by the entire East; and the legions of Illyricum entered northern Italy and declared for Vespasian. Vitellius dispatched powerful forces under his generals, one of whom proved unfaithful. The Vitellians were defeated in two battles, and Primus at the head of the troops of Vespasian marched into Rome. Vitellius was seized, led through the streets, and dragged to the Gemoniae Scalae, where he was killed with repeated blows. A few days before his death, the Capitol had been burnt by his soldiers, and it was there that Flavius Sabinus, Vespasian’s brother, had taken refuge.]

Vespasian Flavius was the tenth Roman emperor. Although the empire, in consequence of dissension and war between the three princes, was in a doubtful and uncertain state, it was finally reestablished by the Flavians. Vespasian married Flavia Domitilla, and of her were born to him Titus and Domitian. Before he became emperor, Claudius sent him into Germany and Britain. Two years before his (Nero’s) death he was sent forth by Nero to conquer the land of Judea. There he conducted many battles; and, therefore, on the death of Nero the army proclaimed him emperor. He ordered his son Titus to continue the war, while by way of Alexandria he returned to Rome. And this same city of Rome (whose customs, laws and public works he found in disorder), he embellished. He was a mild and gifted man, and when he received the empire, which had declined in public welfare, he again restored it. He was cherry-red in complexion, strong and pronounced in limb, and of a smooth and shining countenance, thoughtful not to give offense, but too assiduous in the accumulation of money. Although he did not take it from strangers, yet he used it liberally and generously. Finally he died of diarrhea of the stomach. He said that it becomes an emperor to die standing. And as he stood up he died in the hands of those who held him, at the age of fifty-nine years, being the tenth year of his reign.[T. Flavius Sabinus Vespasianus, Roman emperor, 70-79 CE, was born in the Sabine country on the 17th of November 9 CE. His father came from Reate, in the country of Sabini. His mother, Vespasia Polla, was the daughter of a praefectus castrorum (‘camp prefect,’ the rank above a centurion) and the sister of a Roman senator. She was left a widow with two sons, Flabius Sabinus and Vespasian. Vespasian served as tribunus militum (‘tribune of the soldiers,’ a senior legionary officer) in Thrace, and was quaestor in Crete and Cyrene. He was afterwards aedile and praetor. About this time he married Flavia Domitilla, the daughter of a Roman eques, by whom he had two sons, both of whom succeeded him. In the reign of Claudius he was sent into Germany as legatus legionis (‘general of the legion,’ an ex-praetor given command of one of Rome’s elite legions); and in 43 he held the same command in Britain, and reduced the Isle of Wight. He was consul in 51, and proconsul of Africa under Nero. He was at this time very poor, and was accused of getting money by dishonorable means. But he had a great military reputation, and he was liked by the soldiers. Nero afterwards sent him to the East to conduct the war against the Jews. His conduct of the Jewish war had raised his reputation when the war broke out between Otho and Vitellius after the death of Galba. He was proclaimed emperor at Alexandria on the 1st of July 69, and soon after all through the East. Vespasian came to Rome in the following year, leaving his son Titus to continue the war against the Jews. Titus took Jerusalem after a siege of five months; and a formidable insurrection of the Batavi, headed by Civilis, was put down about the same period. Vespasian, on his arrival at Rome, worked with great industry to restore order in the city and in the empire. He disbanded some of the mutinous soldiers of Vitellius, and maintained discipline among his own. He cooperated in a friendly manner with the senate in the public administration. The simplicity and frugality of his mode of life formed a striking contrast with the profusion and luxury of some of his predecessors, and his example is said to have done more to reform the morals of Rome than all the laws that had ever been enacted. He lived more like a private person than a man who possessed supreme power: he was affable and easy of access to all persons. The personal anecdotes of such a man are some of the most instructive records of his reign. He was never ashamed of the meanness of his origin, and ridiculed all attempts to make out for him a distinguished genealogy. When Vologeses, the Parthian king, addressed to him a letter commencing in these terms, "Arsaces, king of kings, to Flavius Vespasianus," the answer began, "Flavius Vespasianus to Arsaces, king of kings." If it be true, as it is recorded, that he was not annoyed at satire or ridicule, he exhibited an elevation of character almost unparalleled in one who occupied such a position. He knew the bad character of his son Domitian, and as long as he lived he kept him under restraint. The stories that are told of his avarice and of his modes of raising money, if true, detract from the dignity of his character; and it seems that he had a taste for little savings, and for coarse humor. Yet it is admitted that he was liberal in all his expenditure for purposes of public utility. In 71 Titus returned to Rome, and both father and son triumphed together on account of the conquest of the Jews. The reign of Vespasian was marked by few striking events. The most important was the conquest of North Wales and the island of Anglesey by Agricola, who was sent into Britain in 78. The next summer Vespasian, whose health was failing, went to spend some time at his paternal house in the mountains of Sabini. By drinking cold water excessively, he damaged his stomach, which was already disordered. But he still attended to business, just as if he had been in perfect health; and on feeling the approach of death, he said that an emperor should die standing; and in fact he did die standing in this attitude, on the 24th of June 79, being 69 years of age. According to Suetonius ( 23.4), his last words were: Vae, puto, deus fio (‘Dammit – I think I’m becoming a god.’).]