Roman Emperor Vitellius Museum Sculpture Head Bust 23". After Bust of Emperor Vitellius in Louvre Museum. Aulus Vitellius Germanicus, born Aulus Vitellius and commonly known as Vitellius (24 September 15 22 December 69), was a Roman Emperor who reigned from 2 January 69 to 22 December of the same year. Vitellius acceded to this position following the quick succession of the previous emperors Galba and Otho, in a year of civil war known as the Year of the Four Emperors. Vitellius was the first to add the honorific cognomen Germanicus to his name instead of Caesar upon his accession; the latter name had fallen into disrepute in many quarters because of the actions of Nero. His claim to the throne was soon challenged by legions stationed in the Eastern provinces, who proclaimed their commander Vespasian emperor in his place. War ensued, leading to a crushing defeat for Vitellius at the Second Battle of Bedriacum. When he realised his support was wavering, Vitellius prepared to abdicate in favour of Vespasian, but was executed in Rome by Flavian forces on December 22 of 69.