Vespasian   [9 - 79 CE]

Titus Flavius Vespasianus was a career officer, whose victories & prudent administration restored the Roman empire from the political & economic chaos left by Nero's reign. He came from the Roman class of knights [equites] rather than the patrician nobility. His father had been a tax collector under Tiberius & his older brother served as prefect of Rome under Nero. 

Vespasian distinguished himself as commander of the 2nd legion in Claudius' invasion of Britain (43 CE), for which he was appointed consul of Rome (51 CE). He earned a reputation for such rigorous financial management as proconsul of North Africa (63 CE) that he was not a favorite of extravagant Nero. But when Roman troops suffered 2 disastrous defeats during the first year of the Jewish revolt (66 CE), Nero was persuaded that Vespasian was the safest general to put in command of restoring Roman control over Palestine. Vespasian had little difficulty in subduing Galilee, where he took the Jewish commander Josephus---who predicted that he would become emperor---hostage. Then his troops occupied most of Judea & laid siege to Jerusalem before the death of Nero 68 CE).

While Vespasian was waiting for further instructions from the new emperor [Servius Sulpicius Galba], he learned that he had been murdered by the Praetorian guard (69 CE). As civil war spread between the next emperor [Marcus Salvius Otho, first husband of Nero's consort, Poppea] & the Roman commander in Germany [Aulus Vitellius] the eastern Roman legions rallied to support Vespasian. After Otho committed suicide, the troops proclaimed Vespasian emperor---first in Egypt, then Syria & Judea. When Vespasian's brother, Flavius Sabinus, who had long been prefect of Rome, closed the city to Vitellius, the Roman legions on the Danube came to his aid, so decisively defeating Vitellius' forces that the Praetorian guard murdered him. The Senate was left with no alternative but to confirm the victorious army's non-patrician candidate for emperor [December 69].

Vespasian was officially granted complete autocratic authority, which he used not only to reverse Nero's liberal grants but to impose heavy new taxes to replenish the imperial treasury. The Jewish tax that had supported the temple was diverted to his own coffers. He tore down Nero's golden palace & in its place erected the Colosseum & the Temple of Peace. He reorganized & enlarged the army, which he recognized was his real power base. He reorganized the provinces, extending Roman citizenship to all provincial magistrates, a tactic that both added to the imperial treasury & offset the influence of the old Roman aristocracy in the Senate. Overall his policies led to a transformation of the empire into an order that was at once more democratic & more military, in which non-aristocrats & non-Romans had greater access to positions of authority but with ultimate power vested solely in the army's commander-in-chief. Romans, recognizing that he had saved the empire & restored civic peace, officially declared him a god immediately after his death.

References: Josephus, War 3.3-8, 29-34 132-134, 141-504, 522-544;
                                           4.11-87, 366-376 410-419, 441-450 486-498, 588-657;
                                           7.21-22, 59-75, 123-162.
                  Tacitus, Histories 1.10; 2.1-7, 67, 73-74, 78-87, 96-99;
                                                3.1-7, 48-49, 52, 69; 4.3-9, 38-40, 81-82; 5.1, 10, 13.  
                  Suetonius, Twelve Caesars: Vespasian 1-25.
                  Cassius Dio, Roman History 66.1-17.

For other primary sources & more information see:


Bronze Roman sestertius [quarter denarius] struck in 71 CE bearing laureate image of Vespasian with Latin inscription (reading clockwise from bottom): Imp[erator] Caes[ar] Vespasian[us] Aug[ustus] P[ontifex] M[aximus] Tr[ibunis] P[otentia]... The obverse side commemorates the conquest of Jerusalem the preceding year by portraying a woman mourning under a palm with the inscription Iudaea Capta.

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