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Tuesday, October 27, 2020

The Rule and Life of Vespasian (69 – 79 AD)

Titus Flavius Vespasianus, 69- 79, known as Vespasian, Roman Emperor proclaimed by the army July 1, 69, was the founder of the Flavian dynasty, one of the most active and successful rulers of the 1st century.

Vespasian was known for his sense of humor, open and friendly character, commanding attitude and military capabilities. He helped impoverished senators and the cities and areas affected by natural disasters. He was particularly generous with writers. Nevertheless, Vespasian did not like philosophers, considering them as an unkempt gang. He was also very intolerant of political opponents. He spoke openly and joked with his friends.

Early years and coming to power

He came from the middle class of Italy. Vespasian started his military career in Thrace, occupied the posts of quaestor and praetor in the province of North Africa. During the reign of Nero, he successfully fought in Britain and Germany. For this, he received the post of consul in 51, and then the post of Viceroy of Africa. When an uprising arose in Judea, Vespasian was sent to his destroy it.

Nero ordered Vespasian to be one of his official companions; so Vespasian followed the emperor when he went on a trip to Greece, where he was singing and playing. On one such occasion, Vespasian had fallen asleep, causing Nero to become angry. Still, Nero forgave him.

The death of Nero started the “Year of Four Emperors”. On July 1, 69 in Alexandria, Vespasian was proclaimed Emperor. He was supported by the legions in Syria and Judea and soon was recognized by the troops in Pannonia and Mesia. He was in the richest province of Rome in the east and he controlled the flow of grain to Rome, and time was on his side. He gained support and in short time managed to control the situation. Vespasian left the siege of Jerusalem and arrived in Rome in the summer of 70.


Vespasian was distinguished by the same simplicity and contentment for the simple life, as at the time when he was still a simple citizen. He directed all his efforts to restore discipline in the army, preserve peace and improve governance, especially finance, to heal the wounds inflicted by the state during the internal wars. He did not wage wars, except in the British lands, which he inherited from his predecessors.
The war in Judea lasted from 66 until Vespasian’s eldest son, Titus, whom Vespasian entrusted command in the war against the Jews and who finally broke the resistance after a heavy and bloody siege and took over Jerusalem and destroyed a second Jewish temple. Jews were killed and displaced throughout the empire. This is one of the greatest tragic events of Jewish history.


The empire’s finances were in very bad condition. In order to replenish the budget, Vespasian increased taxes; a great mockery erupted from the taxation of public toilets, in response to which the Emperor said: “Money does not smell.” The emperor used any, even unlawful methods to replenish the treasury, and these measures yielded results.
Despite his thoroughness, he spent a lot of money on public buildings; he rebuilt the Capitol (the state symbol – the temple of Jupiter), built the Temple of Peace at the Peace Forum, which was one of the largest structures of antiquity. During his reign, he built the construction of a huge amphitheater – Amphitheatrum Flavium – which can accommodate 80,000 spectators. This amphitheater, known as the Colosseum, is now a public center of Rome.


But the main accomplishment of Vespasian’s rule was strengthening and improving the internal order. At the same time, he showed great moderation, although sometimes he was very cruel. He eliminated the privileges of the cities in Greece (obtained from Nero); he expelled philosophers and astrologers from Rome.
During his reign, all the cities of Spain and many cities in the western provinces received the rights of Latin citizenship, and several cities in Gaul and the eastern part of Spain even received Roman citizenship.
In 73, Vespasian assumed the power of the sensor, which allowed him to change the composition of the Senate. However, the opposition in the Senate existed. Most of all, his opposition was expressed by philosophers, especially the Stoics.
Historians claim that Vespasian was met with constant conspiracies against him. Only one conspiracy is known specifically, though. In 78 or 79, Eprius Marcellus and Aulus Caecina Alienus attempted to kill Vespasian. Why these men turned against Vespasian is not known


Vespasian died at age 79, leaving two sons, Titus and Domitian. At age 69, while in Campania, he felt relatively light attacks of fever and hastened to return to Rome. Here the disease seemed to dissipate, and Vespasian decided not to betray the old habit of spending the summer in his estates. But after leaving Rome, the anxiety intensified, besides, drinking cold water on the road he “cramped his abdomen,” and fell to debilitating diarrhea.

However, the state affairs did not leave, and, even lying in bed, he remained active and granted an audience to visitors. Meanwhile, the disease continued to aggravate a once-solid body. Attacks of weakness were more and more common. Frightened that he would leave Rome to someone unworthy of the position of Emperor, he told his relatives that he had to die standing and asked them to help him rise. He was truly one of the greatest Roman Emperors. His rule was marked with stability and order. He managed to maintain and improve the finances and army and the state in general. His military personality with a strong spirit lifted the state from the sorry state that Nero had left. He was a realist and a strong leader who shaped Rome and our memories of it. The Flavian dynasty that he started was one of the most successful in Roman history. He left the Empire to his son Titus. After his death in Rome, the Vespasian Temple (79 – 96 years) was erected.

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