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Plutarch has a number of stories of Vinius' early life, all to his discredit. He says that when as young man he was serving in his first campaign he brought his commander's wife into the camp by night disguised as a soldier, and had sex with her in the general's quarters. He was imprisoned for this by Caligula, but on that emperor's death was released.
Later on, again according to Plutarch and Tacitus, when he was invited to supper by the emperor Claudius he stole a gold drinking cup. Claudius was told of this, and invited him to supper again the following evening. When Vinius came, Claudius made his point by having his attendants set earthenware plates before him instead of silver. Nevertheless, Tacitus, who elsewhere describes him as "the most worthless of mankind", says that as proconsul of Gallia Narbonensis he administered the province with strict integrity.
Vinius was commander of one of the legions in Spain when Galba was governor there. When Galba was proclaimed emperor in 68, Vinius accompanied him to Rome, where Galba chose him to be his colleague as consul. Vinius quickly came to have great influence, indeed it was said that he and two others, Cornelius Laco the commander of the Praetorian Guard and Galba's freedman Icelus Martianus, virtually controlled the emperor. The three were called "the three pedagogues" because of their influence on Galba. According to Suetonius and Plutarch Vinius was exceedingly greedy for money, prepared to do anything in return for a bribe. In particular he protected Tigellinus, who was blamed for having corrupted Nero, from retribution in exchange for a large bribe.
Support for Otho, and death
In early 69 Galba was faced with the need to designate an heir. Titus Vinius supported Otho, having already secretly agreed that Otho should marry his daughter. Galba however for once refused to follow Vinius' advice and instead selected Piso Licinianus as his adopted son and designated heir. Otho responded by persuading the Praetorian guard to proclaim him emperor instead of Galba. With turmoil in the streets, Titus Vinius advised Galba to remain in the palace and to arm the slaves in the palace to help defend it. Laco and Icelus however advised Galba to go out and show himself. Galba followed their advice, and was killed by the Praetorians. Vinius tried to run away, calling out that Otho had not ordered him killed, but was run through with a spear.
- Life of Galba (Plutarch; English translation)
- Titus Vinius Quotes from Tacitus (www.romansonline.com)
Titus Catius Asconius Silius Italicus,
and Publius Galerius Trachalus
|Consul of the Roman Empire
and Arrius Antoninus