gigatos | November 16, 2021
Titus Flavius Vespasianus (Latin: Titus Flavius Vespasianus, November 17, 9 – June 24, 79), who went down in history as Vespasian, was a Roman emperor in 69-79, the founder of the Flavius dynasty, who came to power in the “year of the four emperors.
Vespasian was the first ruler of Rome who did not belong to the aristocracy: he was the grandson of a peasant and the son of a horseman. Under Julius Claudius Titus Flavius had a military and political career. Under Caligula he held the posts of aedile and praetor (presumably in 38 and either 39 or 40 respectively), under Claudius he participated in the conquest of Britain as a legion commander (in 43) and reached consulship (in 51). Under Nero Vespasian retired, but was later appointed proconsul of Africa, and in 66 he led an army to put down a rebellion in Judea. In the civil war that began in 68 he initially took a wait-and-see attitude. In the summer of ”69 he proclaimed himself emperor with the support of all the eastern provinces. At that time Rome was controlled by Avlus Vitellius, whose army was defeated at the second battle of Bedriake (October 69). In December Flavius” supporters occupied the capital and Vitellius was killed.
Vespasian”s accession to power brought an end to the civil war. The new emperor strengthened control over the army and the Praetorian Guard, brought the financial system out of crisis through austerity and tax changes, and stabilized the situation in the provinces. During his reign, the rebellious Jews were defeated (the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed and the “dispersion” of Jews throughout the empire began), the revolt of the Batavians, led by Julius Civilis, was suppressed, but the imperial authorities compromised (70). Rome”s presence in Germany was strengthened, in the East Commagene became a province. The entire population of Spain received Latin law; about 350 local communities became municities. In the Roman Senate the positions of the Italian municipal nobility and provincials (primarily Spaniards) were strengthened.
Vespasian developed a constructive relationship with the Senate. Nevertheless, under his rule the “stoic opposition” was defeated and its most prominent representatives became victims of repression. The extended powers of the emperor were fixed in a special senate resolution, which took the force of law. The strengthening of the dynastic principle found its expression in the fact that Vespasian was succeeded by his own son Titus.
The earliest sources on Vespasian”s life and reign include the memoirs he wrote of the Judean War. They are mentioned by Josephus Flavius in his autobiography. Because Josephus did not use these memoirs when working on his Judean War, published by A.D. 75, scholars suggest that they were written in the last years of Vespasian”s life. Their text is entirely lost. The text of two of the emperor”s messages has survived (one immortalized as an inscription in Betica, the other in Corsica), as well as a fragment of a speech he made in honor of Titus Plautius Silvanus in the Senate.
Josephus Flavius, in Books III-VI of The Jewish War, gives much valuable information about Vespasian”s governorship of Judea. This writer belonged to the circle of Titus Flavius and was an eyewitness to many of the events he described. But he owed much to Vespasian: the latter had spared him during the war, and later gave him his freedom and Roman citizenship in gratitude for the prophecy. So Josephus tried to write what would be pleasing to his benefactor. In addition, in The Jewish War, the author polemicizes with other Jewish historians, becoming even more partial as a result. This work was finished after the construction of the Temple of Concord in Rome, and Josephus presented it to Vespasian; thus it was between 75 and 79.
Vespasian”s rise to power and his reign are recounted in Tacitus” History. This work, originally written presumably by the year 109, covered the entire reign of the Flavian dynasty, but of the ten or twelve books only the first four in full and the fifth about a third have survived. They deal with the events of ”69 and ”70, and for this period Tacitus is the main source; in addition, only he reveals the reasons for Vespasian”s rebellion in ”69. Being a contemporary of Flavius, Tacitus used in his work information from eyewitnesses as well as the works of other historians – presumably Marcus Cluvius Rufus, Fabius Rusticus, Vipstanes Messala, Pliny the Elder (the latter”s work, History from Aufidius Bassus, is mentioned in thirty-one books by his nephew.
Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus included in his Life of the Twelve Caesars, written under the first Antonians, a small biography of Vespasian in which he gave many notable and unique facts about the personality and reign of this emperor. Vespasian”s reign was also the subject of Dion Cassius”s Roman History, written after 211. But of the relevant part of this work only the epitome compiled by John Xiphilinus remains; besides, the text of Dion Cassius was used by the Byzantine historian John Zonara. Separate mentions of Titus Flavius occur, Eutropius, Sextus Aurelius Victor, Paul Orosius.
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Titus Flavius belonged to an ignorant family from the city of Reate in Latium. His grandfather Titus Flavius Petron is rumored to have been a native of Trans-Padan Gaul and to have come every year to the land of the Sabines as part of an agricultural artel; he eventually settled in Reate and married. Suetonius, however, writes that he has not found any evidence to support this version. It is well known that Petron was a centurion or even a common soldier in the army of Gnaeus Pompey the Great. After the battle of Pharsalus in 48 B.C., he retired, returned to his small homeland, and was able to get rich on sales. His wife”s name was Tertulla, and she owned an estate near the city of Cosa in Etruria.
Petron”s son, Titus Flavius Sabinus, is said to have been a simple centurion or primipilian, and after retirement for health reasons became a tax collector in the province of Asia. Later he lived in the Helvetic lands, where he engaged in usury. His wife, Vespasius Polla, was a more noble person: her father Vespasius Pollion was three times elected military tribune and held the honorary position of chief of the camp, while his brother in his career reached the praetorship and sat in the Roman Senate. Flavius Sabinus may have become so rich that he was accepted into the horsemen”s class. By a successful marriage he secured senatorial status for his sons; thus Vespasian, unlike all previous rulers of Rome, had no senatorial ancestors.
Titus Flavius Sabinus had three children. The first was a girl, who soon died; then a son was born who took his father”s name. Finally, the third was Titus Flavius Vespasianus.
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The Early Years and the Beginning of a Career
According to Suetonius, Titus Flavius Vespasian was born in a village called Falacrina near Reata “on the evening of the fifteenth day before the December calendar in the consulate of Quintus Sulpicius Camerinus and Gaius Poppeius Sabinus, five years before the death of Augustus”, that is, on 17 November 9 AD, the year of the death of the 3 legions in the Teutoburg Forest. He spent his childhood on the estate of his grandmother Tertulla in Etruria. Suetonius reports that after coming to power Vespasian often visited those places, “and he honored the memory of his grandmother so that at feasts and celebrations he always drank only from her silver cup.”
Vespasian had long preferred a private life to a career in the military and politics. Only his mother”s reproaches forced him to start wearing a senatorial toga (young sons of horsemen were entitled to this distinction) and to aspire to public office. Titus Flavius had a long military-administrative career, and in this connection scholars place him on a par with one of his predecessors, Servius Sulpicius Galba; the latter, however, faced fewer difficulties due to his membership in the Nobility. It is known that Vespasian was a military tribune in Thrace. Vespasian later held the office of quaestor and governed the province of Crete and Cyrenaica. When he ran for the Aedile, with great difficulty he was placed sixth on the list of winners (but he “received the praetorship easily and at the first request”. Both these posts Titus Flavius held under Caligula, presumably in 38 and 39 years respectively. He tried in every way to please the emperor: in particular, Vespasian demanded the senate to arrange games out of turn on the occasion of his victory in Gaul; he suggested that the bodies of the conspirators, Gnaeus Cornelius Lentulus Getulicus and Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, be left without burial (he replied with a thank you speech before the senate to the imperial invitation to dinner. It is known that, as an Aedile, Titus Flavius did not keep order in the capital of the empire, and Caligula, as a punishment, ordered to put mud on his sinuses.
Claudius, Caligula”s successor, placed Vespasian at the head of the II Augustus legion, stationed at Argentoratum, in the province of Upper Germany, in 41 or 42 on the recommendation of his close associate Narcissus. Presumably Titus Flavius had to fight the Germans; at any rate, Josephus Flavius writes that Vespasian “returned to Rome the West shaken by the Germans”. In 43, II Legion together with its commander was part of Claudius” army, which landed in Britain. According to Suetonius, Titus Flavius participated in thirty battles during this campaign, subjugated two strong nations to Rome, and conquered the island of Vectis; Josephus Flavius states that it was Vespasian who had the main credit for the conquest of Britain; Tacitus writes that then Vespasian “was first seen by an all-powerful fate”.
As a reward, Titus Flavius was rewarded on his return to Rome with triumphant insignia and membership in two priestly colleges, presumably the pontiffs and the augurs. He took the next step in his career in ”51, becoming consul-successor for November and December. But in 54 Claudius and Narcissus died, and Vespasian”s life changed abruptly. Power over the empire passed to Claudius” adopted son Nero and the latter”s mother Agrippina, who hated Narcissus” friends; besides, Claudius had left a native son by his previous wife, Britannicus, and Vespasian was presumably one of his supporters. Already in 55, Britannicus was poisoned by his half-brother, and Titus Flavius had to resign. Before Agrippina”s assassination he lived not only away from business, but, according to Suetonius, in poverty. However, this may have been an exaggeration due to the desire of the Flavian historians to portray Vespasian as a victim of Nero.
In 59 or 6364 Titus Flavius was appointed proconsul of Africa. There are contradictory accounts of his rule in that province: Tacitus reports that the locals later recalled Vespasian “with hatred and malice”, Suetonius that he “ruled honestly and with great dignity, except that once in Hadrumet they threw turnips at him during a revolt”. His new position did not make him rich: on his return to Rome, Vespasian had to mortgage his estates to his brother and take up the mule trade, an occupation which the Romans considered degrading. For this he earned the nickname “Donkeyman.
In 66 Titus Flavius was among those senators who went with Nero to Greece. There the emperor, who considered himself a talented musician and singer, took part in all the local competitions. Vespasian differed from the other courtiers in that during Nero”s performances he either went out or fell asleep, and thus “incurred a cruel displeasure”. However, it is believed that he fell into disgrace because of his friendship with prominent representatives of the “stoic opposition”, Publius Claudius Traceius Petus and Quintus Marcius Barea Soranus, who just in ”66 were forced to commit suicide. As a result Vespasian had to flee to a small town, and there he lived in fear for his life until he learned of his new appointment.
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The Jewish War
Under Nero, tensions gradually increased in Judea, a small eastern province of Rome with an unclear status. The taxation policy of the empire, the arbitrariness of the governors, the development of Romanization in the region and the strengthening of the religious and political grouping of the Zealots, whose radical wing was the Sycarians, led to a revolt that began in 66. The governor of Syria, Gaius Cestius Gallus, who tried to restore order, was defeated, and after that Nero decided to send a new general to Judea with a large army. He chose Vespasian, an experienced military man who, because of his lowly background, seemed unthreatening.
Titus Flavius became a legate with the power of propretor. Having crossed the Hellespont, he arrived by land in Syria, which became a base for action against the rebels. Vespasian”s army included three legions, another twenty-three cohorts of infantry, six ala cavalry and auxiliary troops sent by vassal kings – a total of up to 60,000 soldiers. With this force, Titus Flavius invaded Galilee in the spring of ”67. He demonstrated his willingness to spare those rebels who would submit to Rome without a fight, and to punish severely all those who continued to resist. Thus, the Romans burned the city of Gabara, which they had taken, and sold all its inhabitants into slavery. After this (May 26) Vespasian besieged Jotapata, the most fortified city in the region, whose defense was led by Joseph ben Mattathias, head of the defense of Galilee.
The defenders of Jotapata repelled several assaults with heavy losses for the Romans and regularly made successful sorties. In one skirmish Vespasian himself was wounded by a stone in the knee and several arrows plunged into his shield. Then Titus Flavius switched to a tactic of exhaustion. Only on July 2, 67 thanks to the treachery of one of the besieged the city was taken; Romans have killed all its inhabitants male, except for babies, so, according to sources, 40 thousand people were lost. Joseph ben Mattathias surrendered and was spared. When he met Vespasian he foretold the legate of imperial power and so became one of his cronies; he subsequently received Roman citizenship and the name Josephus Flavius.
While Vespasian besieged Jotapata, his subordinates took Jaffa and slaughtered the Samaritans who had gathered on Mount Garizim. Titus Flavius stationed two legions for the winter in Caesarea, and with the remaining troops moved into the possessions of King Agrippa II to subdue the cities that belonged to him. He subdued Tiberias without a fight and stormed Tarichea. Of the Jews captured there, 30,000 were sold into slavery and another 6,000 were sent to Nero at Isthmus. Then the Romans laid siege to Gamala. The defenders of the city repulsed the first assault, with Vespasian in “the greatest danger” during the battle, as his soldiers turned to flight. On October 20 the city was taken. After that there was only one city left in Galilee, Gishalah, but it surrendered without a fight.
Vespasian spent the winter of 6768 in Caesarea. During this time he was busy setting up government in Galilee and preparing for the next campaign. The plan was to end the war in 68 by first subduing the periphery of Judea to Rome and then striking at Jerusalem, where the struggle between the various rebel factions had broken out. The Romans conquered the territories that surrounded the city on different sides – Idumea, Perea, and the Dead Sea lands. Vespasian stopped at Jericho and was about to march toward Jerusalem when he learned of Nero”s death. This news made him stop the hostilities.
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Seizure of power
In 68-69 the Roman Empire was gripped by a massive crisis that turned into a civil war. In March 68, Gaius Julius Vindex, viceroy of Lugdun Gaul, rebelled; in April he was supported by Servius Sulpicius Galba, viceroy of Tarragon Spain, who was proclaimed emperor. Vindex was already defeated and killed in May, but revolts spread to a number of other provinces. In June 68 Nero, deserted by all, committed suicide. Galba entered Rome in the fall and took control of the entire empire, but in January 69 was killed by Praetorians, who made Emperor Marcus Salvius Othon. Soon another pretender appeared – the governor of Lower Germany, Avlus Vitellius, who had the support of several provinces of the West. In April his army defeated the Othonians at the first battle of Bedriack. Othon then committed suicide, and in July Vitellius established himself in Rome.
Vespasian did not take part in these events until a certain point, although his position was very strong (his powerful army stood at the borders of Egypt, which supplied Rome with bread, and his brother Titus Flavius Sabinus was the prefect of the capital and in this capacity controlled the city in the emperor”s absence). Vespasian immediately recognized Galba as emperor, and in January 69 he sent his eldest son to him. It was rumored that the real purpose of Titus Flavius was to get the old and childless Caesar to adopt Vespasian the Younger. In any case, the legate”s son learned of Galba”s murder on the way to Corinth and turned back afterwards. At the end of the winter Vespasian brought his army under oath to Othonus, and in the summer to Abel Vitellius. But in the meantime his legions were ripe with discontent that the armies of the western provinces were deciding the fate of the empire: the soldiers and officers wanted to make Caesar their commander. The governor of neighboring Syria, Gaius Licinius Mucianus, who had four legions under his command, was ready to support Vespasian, as was the prefect of Egypt, Tiberius Julius Alexander. Mucianus may have secretly contributed to the growth of rebellious sentiments in the Jewish army.
While Othon and Vitellius fought each other, the eastern viceroys awaited the outcome of this fight, and when they learned of Othon”s death, they met on Mount Carmel. According to Tacitus, there the viceroy of Syria convinced his colleague of the need to start a war of power. Mucianus was always “more willing to cede power to others than to use it himself”, and in this case his lack of sons may have played an important role, since his eldest son Vespasian had already proved himself to be a very able general. In addition, Mucian hoped to become the most influential man in the new emperor”s entourage, and he succeeded in doing so.
The first open step was made by the governor of Egypt: on July 1, 69, in Alexandria, he proclaimed Vespasian as emperor and swore in his two legions. The troops of Titus Flavius, stationed in Caesarea, learned of this on July 3 and immediately took a similar oath. On July 15 the Syrian army joined the rebellion. Thus, already at the first stage nine legions supported Vespasian; so did the local vassal kings – Herod Agrippa of Judea, Antiochus IV of Commagene, Soemus of Emesa. In the following weeks the new emperor was recognized by “all the coastal provinces up to the borders of Asia and Achaia and all the inland provinces up to Pontus and Armenia,” so that Titus Flavius established control over the whole East.
A new meeting between Vespasian and Mucianus took place in Berit, where further plans were discussed. From there Titus Flavius headed for Alexandria, while Gaius Licinius, at the head of the main force, headed for Asia Minor. It was assumed that the first will cut off the supply of Egyptian bread to Rome, while the second, having crossed the Balkans to Byzantium, will reach Dyrrhachium and from there organize a naval blockade of the Italian coast. With such a development, the Vitellians should have capitulated without a fight. But everything went against this plan because of the legions of Moesia, Pannonia and Dalmatia: these troops were betrayed by Oton, and therefore in the new situation quickly moved to the side of Vespasian and at the initiative of their commander Mark Antony Primus invaded Italy from the north-east (autumn 69).
The Western viceroys for the most part were effectively neutral: they did not send troops to help Vitellius, waiting to see how things would end, and the legate of Africa, Gaius Valerius Festus, secretly supported Vespasian. As a result, Vitellius could only rely on his Italian army. Titus Flavius nevertheless ordered Antony Primus to stop at Aquileia and wait there for Mucianus, but this order was ignored. On October 24, 69, the second battle of Bedriac took place: in it the Vitellian army was defeated and the next day surrendered. On learning of this, the viceroys of Gaul and Spain defected to Vespasian”s side. The combined forces of the Flavians approached Rome, and on December 15 the last army of Vitellius surrendered. The emperor himself expressed his willingness to surrender in exchange for mercy, but at the last moment he changed his mind. Fighting broke out in Rome between supporters of Vitellius and people of Titus Flavius Sabinus, the latter entrenched on the Capitol, but was unable to hold it and died. The very next day, on December 20, the forces of the Flavian generals stormed into the capital; Vitellius was killed.
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After Vitellius” death, according to Tacitus, “the war ended, but peace did not come”: military anarchy reigned in Rome and Italy. Flavian soldiers rampaged through the capital, the army of Lucius Vitellius (the dead emperor”s brother) stood to the south of the city, and local communities in Campania openly feuded with each other. Nominal control of the capital belonged to Antony Primus and the prefect of the praetorium, Arrius Varus, appointed by him. Gradually the situation stabilized: Lucius Vitellius surrendered and was soon killed, and an army under Sextus Lucilius Bassus was sent to pacify Campania. Gaius Licinius Mucianus arrived in Rome and took power. Antony Primus was forced to leave the city; he went on to Egypt to Vespasian, “but was received with less hospitality than he had expected. Thereafter, this military commander no longer interfered in politics.
The consuls appointed by Vitellius were removed from their posts. The Senate resolved to restore the memory of Galba and his adopted son Lucius Calpurnius Pisonus Frugi Licinianus, formed a special commission to put the records of laws in order, obtain the return to rightful owners of property lost in the war, and reduce public expenditure. Many denunciators who had prospered under Nero were condemned, and their victims returned from exile. Further measures to bring the country out of crisis were taken by the emperor himself, who finally arrived in his capital.
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Formation of Dominance
Having declared himself emperor in July 69, Vespasian immediately adopted a new name: Emperor Titus Flavius Vespasian Caesar. At the end of August of the same year, a new version was adopted: Emperor Caesar Vespasian Augustus. Thus, by abandoning the old names, the new ruler emphasized his continuity with the founder of the principate, Octavian Augustus. Researchers pay attention to the fact that the name Augustus was adopted without the approval of the Senate, since the latter was then supporting Aulus Vitellius. Later official propaganda put Vespasian and the first emperor in the same line as the people who liberated Rome from tyrants (Vitellius and Mark Antony respectively) and established peace throughout the empire. The reign of Titus Flavius accounted for a century since Octavian”s victory at the battle of Actium, the conquest of Egypt, and the “restoration of the Republic” (in 70, 71 and 74), and all these anniversaries were marked by the minting of special coins.
Immediately after the Flavians gained control of Rome, the senators conferred on Vespasian “all the honors and ranks due to the princeps” (presumably this was a resolution approved by the popular assembly and accordingly given the force of law (lex de imperio Vespasiani). This document gave Vespasian the power to convene the Senate and preside over its sessions, to recommend candidates for high office, to enlarge the sacred boundaries of the city of Rome, to conclude treaties. All the laws extending the powers of Augustus, Tiberius and Claudius (the odious Caligula and Nero are not mentioned in the document) applied to him: “And that whatever he considers necessary for the benefit and greatness of the state from divine, human, public and private affairs, let him have the right and power to do as it was allowed to divine Augustus, Tiberius Julius Caesar Augustus, Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus”. The will of Titus Flavius was equated with the will of “the Senate and people of Rome”, and all legislative acts contradicting this ruling were declared legally void in this part.
There is no consensus among scholars as to the significance of the lex de imperio Vespasiani. There are no similar documents related to other emperors at the disposal of scholars; moreover, the provisions on the priority of this law over others and on equating the will of Vespasian with the will of the Senate and people of Rome contain no references to predecessors, which may indicate that they are new in principle. On the other hand, all Caesars, beginning with Tiberius, received their powers at one time. Some scholars consider the adoption of such a law a relative success of the Senate: references in the text only to the most legitimate Caesars may be interpreted as a limitation of Vespasian power. Opponents of this view believe that there are no restrictions in this context: the law was simply a step in transforming the personal and informal power of the emperor into institutionalized and formalized power. This decree could become the legal basis for all those powers of the emperor which lay outside the execution of his old republican offices (consulate, tribunate, censorship, pontificate).
Vespasian was consul more often than any of his predecessors. During the ten years of his reign he held the office of ordinal consul eight times (in 70-72, 74-77 and 79), including seven times with his eldest son and once with his youngest. The latter was also consul-supreme several times; this position was also held by Vespasian”s nephew and brother-in-law. This practice may indicate Vespasian”s desire to take advantage of the republican tradition and ensure his family”s secure control over Rome proper and Italy. In 73 Vespasian became censor (also with his eldest son). He was also proclaimed emperor twenty times in the original sense of the word.
Vespasian”s power had a pronounced dynastic character. His eldest son Titus was not only his father”s colleague in consulships and censorship: he led the army in the Judean War, which he brought to a victorious end; from ”71 he shared tribunal power with Vespasian; later he directed the main palace services, read out his father”s speeches in the Senate, was prefect of praetorium. By 79 he had been proclaimed emperor fourteen times, bearing the titles of Caesar and Augustus. Titus” brother Domitian held the title of “leader of the youth” (princeps iuventutis) and was also Caesar. Both younger Flavians minted their own coinage and were members of the three main priestly collegia – the pontiffs, the augurs, and the Arvalic brothers. Vespasian openly declared in the Senate “that he would inherit either his sons or no one.
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Relationships with the upper classes
The surviving sources say nothing directly about how the Roman horsemen regarded the Flavian regime. But it is known that Vespasian actively developed non-Roman ways of government, using horsemen rather than freemen; in addition, by the time Domitian came to power, horsemen had some privileges in the same scope as senators. Hence scholars conclude that the horsemen had reason to sympathize with Titus Flavius.
Vespasian sought a peaceful coexistence with the Senate. There were no repressions against the Nobility under him. From the beginning of his reign Titus Flavius tried to contrast his moderation with the arbitrariness of Nero: he emphasized relations with senators as equals, cared about their property status and respect for them from other estates, ignored informers. The legends on Vespasian coins often include the word “libertas. At the same time, the dominance of the princeps himself and his sons in the highest positions worsened the career prospects even for the most prominent members of the aristocracy. The Nobilians were generally wary of Vespasian, both for this reason and because of his low origin.
The Senate attempted to take over financial powers, but Vespasian would not allow it. Suetonius writes of “unceasing conspiracies”; scholars attribute this to senators” dissatisfaction with the fact that Titus was imposed on them as their successor. The emperor”s eldest son had a bad reputation during his lifetime and was compared to Nero because of his cruelty, tendency to luxury and debauchery, and love affair with the Jewish queen Berenice. Specific information is available only about the conspiracy of Titus Clodius Eprius Marcellus and Aulus Caecina Aliena (it is not known whether it was two conspiracies or one). Aeprius Marcellus committed suicide after being condemned by the Senate, and Caecina was murdered without trial by order of Titus.
Vespasian was also confronted with “stoic opposition. The philosophy of Stoicism called for a virtuous life and, in particular, for a revival of the old Roman values of viti boni (in this context emperors became objects of criticism as perpetrators of “deterioration of morals. Such sentiments were widespread in the Roman Senate in the second half of the first century. Under Nero the informal leader of the “stoic opposition” was Traceius Petes, eventually forced to commit suicide, and under Vespasian the son-in-law of Traceius, Gaius Helvidius Priscus. The latter is the only senator who appears in the extant sources as a permanent and irreconcilable opponent of Titus Flavius. It is not possible to understand to the end the nature of this confrontation because of the loss of the relevant books of Tacitus” Histories. It is only known that Priscus welcomed the princeps as a private man, never mentioned Vespasian in his edicts during his praetorship, and argued with him publicly and in a very impudent manner. Some sources consider him a republican, others a supporter of the principate, but put in a rigid framework (elective, nonhereditary, with active participation of the senate in government). Eventually Helvidius Priscus was exiled and then killed. According to Suetonius, Vespasian, even when he gave the order to kill Priscus, “tried his best to save him: he sent to call off the assassins and would have saved him had it not been for the false report that he was already dead.
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After the civil war Italy found itself flooded with soldiers from a number of frontier armies. These were the Germanic legions brought in at one time by Aulus Vitellius, the legions from Pannonia, Dalmatia and Mercia commanded by Antony Primus, and the eastern legions of Mucianus. They posed a serious potential threat to the new regime, and solving this problem, together with the subordination of the warlords to the civil administration, was one of the important tasks of the new government. Mucian had already in early ”70 secured the departure of Antony Primus from Rome and from Italy. He went to Vespasian, but met with a cold reception. After that he retired from business and lived at rest in his native Tolosa. Antony”s legion, the VII Galban, was sent back to Pannonia by Mucian. The praetorian prefect, Arrius Varus, Antony”s protégé, was deposed by Mucianus, and the III Gallic legion, sympathetic to him, was sent to Syria. Three more Danubian legions, VIII, XI and XIII, Gaius Licinius sent to the Rhine border, using as a convenient excuse revolt of the Gauls. There was also XXI Legion, once subordinated to Vitellius, and a legion formed from the sailors of the Equinox fleet (they went over to the side of Antony Primus in autumn 69). The Rhenish army was led by Appius Annius Gallus (one of the most consistent supporters of Otho) and Quintus Petilius Cerialus, who enjoyed the confidence of Vespasian; the Vitellian legions were subsequently disbanded.
There were a total of thirty legions in the Empire at that time. Of these Vespasian disbanded at least three or four. Three new legions appeared: II Auxiliary, IV Lucky Flavius, XVI Steady Flavius; VII Galban Legion was renamed VII Paired. Vespasian paid increased attention to maintaining discipline in the troops and his popularity. All these measures were successful: there were only two cases of open discontent in the legions during the Flavian era, and both were local in nature. On the whole, soldier rebellions ceased for a century – until the time of Marcus Aurelius.
To the reign of Titus Flavius researchers attribute the beginning of provincialization of the army: from this time legions were recruited mainly outside Italy, from the inhabitants of the provinces. Some scholars believe that this was due to the emperor”s preferences, who did not trust Italian legionnaires; others believe that Italy”s human resources were simply exhausted by the 70s. There is an opinion that both factors took place. In addition, under Vespasianism the importance of auxiliary troops, recruited from provincials without Roman citizenship, increased. For the first time the idea emerged that such units could be the backbone of an army rather than an adjunct to the legions. The auxiliary units were joined by Roman centurions as role models. The sad experience of the Batavian Rebellion, when auxiliary troops became the main driving force of the rebellion, was taken into account: such units were now sent to serve far from their homeland.
The Praetorian Guard, whose numbers reached sixteen cohorts under Vitellius, was disbanded by Vespasian. According to Tacitus, the bloodshed was avoided with great difficulty. Titus Flavius recruited nine new cohorts (4500 men) from the praetorians who had served under Galba and Othon, as well as from his veterans, and from among the latter he recruited anyone who wished. The Praetorians remained loyal to the end, both to him and to his two sons.
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Provincial Politics in the East
The victory of Vespasian, who relied on Egypt, Judea, Syria, and the Danubian region, convinced the Romans for the first time of the importance of the Eastern provinces. At the same time, Titus Flavius, according to some scholars, still showed a certain disregard for the East; it manifested itself in his reluctant distribution of civil rights in this part of the empire.
By the beginning of Vespasian”s reign a number of provinces were extremely unstable due to the civil war and the weakening of control from the center. At the same time the new emperor must have been well aware of the importance of a calibrated provincial policy: during the events of 68-69 the position of individual parts of the empire became a factor in many ways in determining the chances of each contender for power in Rome. Accordingly Vespasian had to make concessions to the provinces in many cases and finally abandoned the idea of pitting the city of Rome or Italy against the rest of the empire.
The destabilization of 69 covered Pontus in particular. There the freedman Anicetus declared himself a supporter of Vitellius, seized Trapezund with the warriors of the border tribes, and began to pirate the Black Sea. Vespasian sent an army against him under the command of Virdius Geminus; Anicetus was defeated and killed. It was about that time that the Dacians raided Myosia. Gaius Licinius Mucianus, who was marching on Italy at the time, was forced to stop his campaign for a while and send the VI legion to the enemy. Later the governor of Asia, Fontaeus Agrippa, was transferred to Moésia to protect the province, but he was defeated in 70 AD during the next enemy raid. The situation here was stabilized by Rubrius Gallus.
Vespasian himself halted the war in Judea for the sake of a power struggle, and as a result the rebels received a two-year respite. During this time, radicals took power in Jerusalem, who massacred supposed supporters of surrender to Rome and strengthened the city on the eve of the decisive battle. In April 70, Titus Flavius the Younger, who led the provincial army in his father”s absence, laid siege to Jerusalem. Taking the city was an extremely difficult task because of the three lines of fortifications and the large number of defenders who fought fiercely, but the Romans still broke the resistance. In early May the outer wall was taken, in June the Tower of Antonia, in August the Temple, and in September the Upper City, the last line of defense, fell. The capital of Judea was completely destroyed, the Romans looted the treasures of the Temple and enslaved about 100 thousand people. In the following years all other pockets of resistance were destroyed, the last of which was Masada (73).
The First Jewish War resulted in great loss of life, the destruction of Jewish religious autonomy, and the development of the Diaspora. From the time of Vespasian, Judaea was governed not by a procurator but by a legate; a legion was permanently stationed in the province, and Roman colonies appeared in Caesarea and Emmaus, which had been renamed Nicopolis. The Jews were forbidden to rebuild the Temple, the office of high priest was abolished, and the descendants of King David were forbidden to live in Judea. The return of Titus to Rome in 71 was the occasion for a magnificent triumph, in which all three Flavians took part: the emperor and his eldest son rode in a chariot, and Domitian rode behind them on a white horse. One of the leaders of the revolt, Simon bar Giora, was executed in the forum after the solemn procession. Later there was also a triumphal arch called the Arch of Titus. The same objective was pursued by the solemn closing of the Temple of Janus, which symbolized the end of the wars throughout the Roman Empire.
A serious problem was the insecurity of the eastern borders: in 66 Nero withdrew his troops from Armenia and recognized the Parthian protégé as king of that country. The barbarian raids on Cappadocia in 68-69 demonstrated the vulnerability of this region, remote from Syria with its strong army. Presumably Vespasian united Cappadocia with Galatia, appointed a legate there with the rank of consul and stationed two legions in that province. In 7172 the annexation of Armenia Minor, which was also attached to Cappadocia, took place; after that the building of roads began, which connected that region with the Black Sea coast, Syria, and the eastern border. In 72 Antiochus IV of Commagene was accused of trying to pass under the protectorate of Parthia, after which the Syrian governor Lucius Junius Cesennius Pete occupied the kingdom and annexed it to his province along with the mountainous part of Cilicia. A legion was stationed in the capital of Commagene, Samosata, renamed Flavius Samosata. The result of all these measures was the strengthening of the eastern frontier, which prepared the massive conquests of Trajan. In the face of this process, the Parthians were forced to keep the peace, although Vespasian”s refusal to help them in their war with the Alans created certain tensions.
Changes in provincial boundaries and status also took place in the interior of the empire, but there Vespasian undertook fiscal optimization. Lycia and Pamphylia were united into one territorial unit; Achaea came under the Senate, but Epirus and Acarnania were removed from it and became a separate imperial province. The Province of Hellespont was established.
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Provincial Politics in the West
In the western part of the empire, the least stable situation by ”69 was in the least Romanized provinces – in Britain, in both Germany, and on the Danube. In particular, in Lower Germany a revolt of the Batavian tribe, led by the local chief Julius Civilius, began even during the civil war. The latter declared himself a supporter of Vespasian and was supported by the Frisians, Kanninephates and a number of other Rhine tribes. Eight Batavian cohorts, part of the Roman provincial army, also sided with him. After Vitellius” death, Civilis continued the fighting. He received support from the Gallic tribes Treviers and Lingones, so that the revolt spread over a vast territory; the rebels” goal was to free themselves from Roman rule and establish a “Gallic empire” (imperium Galliarum).
The armies of the two Germanic provinces, which had good memories of Avle Vitellius, sided with Civilius. Alarmed at what was happening, Mucianus (Vespasian was still in the East at the time) moved eight legions against the rebels, at whose approach the Romans under Civilius” command “returned to their duty”. In two major battles, at the Colonia Treveri and at the Old Camps, the Roman commander Petilius Cerialus was victorious. Soon after, Civilius surrendered and the other leaders of the rebellion fled across the Rhine. The war did not end there, but nothing is known of further events: the surviving part of the only source, Tacitus” Histories, breaks off at the surrender of Civilius. Researchers speculate that the Batavians were able to secure an honorable peace from Rome.
The surviving sources also tell us nothing about Vespasian”s policy in Gaul in later years. The Romanization of the region seems to have continued; the increase in the number of people from Narbonne Gaul in the Roman Senate in particular is considered proof of this. The Prine provinces, which had become a hotbed of two large-scale rebellions within a year, were finally pacified, and their outer frontier strengthened by the victory over the Brukters in 78 and the construction of a number of forts on the right bank of the Rhine. In addition, the Romans built a new road from the upper reaches of this river to the Danube (through the territory of the future Decumata Fields) to shorten the route from Upper Germany to Rethia. There is an opinion in historiography that even under Vespasian a course of expansion in Germany was outlined, continued later by Domitian.
Under Vespasian action was taken to Romanize the provinces on the middle Danube. Thus, colonies were withdrawn to Sirmium and Sicium in Pannonia, military camps appeared at Vindobon and Carnuntum. Sources mention several municipalities in Dalmatia that bore the name of Flavia.
In the far northwest of the empire, in Britain, the Flavian viceroys had to lead the province out of the crisis that had begun under Nero with the Boudicca rebellion. After long battles Quintus Petilius Cerialus submitted to Rome the tribe of Brigantes (71-73), his successor Sextus Julius Frontinus defeated the Silurians in 76, and Gnaeus Julius Agricola (father-in-law of Tacitus) – the Ordovicians, who lived in northern Wales (77). The Romans actively built forts and roads, took hostages from local communities, and strengthened contacts with the tribal nobility. Relying on a pacified province, they began new conquests: Agricola took the island of Mona, then fought his way across Caledonia and even apparently landed in Hibernia, but most of these successes belong to the reign of Titus and Domitian. Under Agricola Roman forums appeared in three cities in Britain, the number of documents in Latin and earthenware with Latin inscriptions increased.
Another hotbed of instability in 69 was Africa: a tribe of Garamantes raided vast territories, and the proconsul Lucius Calpurnius Pison was suspected of sympathizing with the Vitellians. The governor was assassinated by order of Mucian, and the Garamantes were defeated; only unconditional supporters of Flavius were thereafter placed at the head of the region. Vespasian ended the practice of sharing power between the governor and the commander of the only local legion. He divided Africa into two provinces – Old Africa and New Africa, the border between which coincided with the border between Carthage and the Numidian kingdom of the second century B.C. In this region under Titus Flavius new Roman colonies and municipalities appeared, the number of Roman citizens increased, but at the same time local non-romanized tribes retained their independence: in particular they were governed by chiefs (under the control of imperial officials, though). Apparently, Vespasian found the tactic of concessions more convenient and economical than the tactic of permanent military occupation and building a defensive system along the borders.
Vespasian”s activities in the three Spanish provinces were particularly extensive. Pliny the Elder reports that this emperor “granted to the whole of Spain … the Latin law, common in state distempers. The granting of this privilege meant that some 350 communities received (at once or over a period of time) the status of municios and that magistrates of Spanish cities began to acquire Roman citizenship; rapid urbanization and the spread of Roman culture and the Latin language began. However, it was a long process, which bore fruit somewhat later. Moreover, the Romanization of Spain was uneven: the greatest successes are recorded on the Mediterranean coast, in Betic and the Lusitania plains, while in the center and the north of the Iberian Peninsula the Roman cultural influence in the age of the Flavians was still very weak.
The purpose of Vespasian”s Spanish policy was to expand the support of his power and consolidate the empire. The emperor may have been aware of the political importance of the Spanish provinces, evident in the civil war, and the importance of their role in the economy of the empire. Vespasian”s immediate aim may also have been to incorporate the Spanish nobility into the shrinking senate. Representatives of the latter did indeed form an influential “faction” in the Roman Senate during the quarter-century rule of Flavius; in 98 Spanish-born Marcus Ulpius Trajan even became emperor (the first emperor born outside Italy), and this was made possible largely by Vespasian policy.
On the other hand, the emperor took measures to increase the revenues of the treasury, not shying away from any source. He abolished the tax exemptions which Galba had granted to a number of communities in Gaul for their support of Gaius Julius Vindex (the arrears thus created were recovered. Vespasian deprived Achaea of the freedom granted by Nero (73), began levying taxes in Samos, Byzantium, Rhodes and Lycia. He created the Province of Hellespont and planned to create a Province of the Islands; presumably both of these administrative units were to become financial districts under procurators, and scholars consider the main purpose of these transformations to be to increase tax collection. Sources report a general increase in the taxation of the provinces (in some cases taxes were doubled), the introduction of “new heavy taxes”, including those in Italy and Rome, and the transformation of mining into an imperial monopoly.
Titus rebuked his father for taxing the latrines, too; he took a coin from the first profit, held it up to his nose, and asked if it stank. “No,” replied Titus. “And yet it is piss money,” said Vespasian.
Suetonius tells a number of other stories of how Titus Flavius filled the treasury. The emperor bought things to resell at a markup, sold government posts, and took bribes for making certain judgments in court. “The most rapacious officials, it is believed, he purposely promoted to higher and higher places to let them profit and then sue them,” it was said that he used them like sponges, letting the dry get wet, and squeezing out the wet. The extant sources mention only one extortion trial (the trial of Julius Bassus), but in reality there may have been more such trials: Tacitus may have written about them in the lost part of his Histories.
The rich eastern provinces were the subject of the emperor”s special attention. They were the first to suffer increased tax oppression in 69, when Vespasian was raising money for the war with Vitellius. Later, the empire”s coffers and the Flavian family gained enormous resources through the plunder of Judea and the sale of property seized there; the local population had to pay two drachmas per person per year in favor of Jupiter Capitolus after the defeat of the revolt. In Rome under Vespasian there appeared two specialized private emperor”s coffers controlled by his freedmen: the Asiatic fisk, which could receive funds from the collection of per capita tax in rich Asia, and the Alexandrian fisk, presumably connected with the sales of Egyptian grain. In Alexandria Titus Flavius, according to Dion Cassius, enriched himself “not missing any way, neither petty nor reprehensible, and extracting money equally from all secular and religious sources” as early as 69. On this basis, some scholars suggest that it was Vespasian who instituted the exemption of local priests from the per capita tax and undertook an inventory of temple property; a general census in Egypt was definitely carried out under him.
Little is known of Vespasian”s tax-related activities in the west of the empire. Censuses were carried out in Spain and possibly in Italy; Rutilius Gallicus, viceroy of Africa, earned the praise of Stacius the poet for being able to increase significantly the revenues from his province to the imperial treasury. On the whole Vespasian”s financial policy speaks of his desire to unify the population of the empire in terms of taxation, to concentrate administration in Rome and in his own hands.
Apparently, Vespasian”s financial policy did not harm wealthy individuals. Dion Cassius notes: “He did not kill anyone because of money, but saved many of the givers.” Vespasian was characterized on the one hand by his economy of himself, his officials, and his army, and on the other by his willingness to spend lavishly on festivals and other specific needs, which demonstrates the success of his efforts to fill the treasury. “He gave the worst of what he had gained to the best use.” Thus Titus Flavius revived ancient performances and rewarded artists; often gave lavish feasts; in 71 organized a magnificent triumph on the occasion of the victory over the Jews; gave gifts to men on the Saturnalia and to women on the March calendars; began to pay annual salaries to rulers, both Latin and Greek; appointed a cash grant to consulars who needed it. Under Vespasian, extensive construction was carried out in Rome, and many cities, damaged by fires and earthquakes, were rebuilt. Researchers note that all these measures were taken on behalf of the princeps and contributed to the growth of his popularity, the consolidation of the power of the Flavian dynasty and, ultimately, the strengthening of the monarchical principle.
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At the beginning of Vespasian”s reign, the capital of the empire was not at its best: it was severely damaged by the fires of ”64 and ”69. The new emperor began an ambitious building program. He allowed anyone who wished to occupy and develop the vacant lots, if the owners of the land did not build anything on it. By 71 the temple of Jupiter the Capitol was rebuilt, followed by the rebuilding of the Theater of Marcellus, the Temple of Claudius founded by Agrippina the Younger and destroyed by Nero, the Temple of Vesta (a victim of fire in 64), the Temple of Honos and Virtus, located near the Capen gate. The latter was decorated by order of the emperor with works by the artists Cornelius Pina and Attius Priscus. Finally, a number of residential quarters were restored. Suetonius reports that at the beginning of the work on the Capitol Vespasian “first began with his own hands to clear away the rubble and carry it out on his own back.” Three thousand copper boards with records of legislation, melted in the last fire, were restored by order of the emperor from the lists, and “it was the oldest and finest aid in the affairs of state.”
Under Vespasian the construction of a number of new sites began. These included the Temple of Peace (or Forum Vespasianum), which adjoined the Roman Forum from the north, the new thermae, the Flavius Amphitheatre (later known as the Colosseum), which appeared on the site of the lake at the Golden House of Nero. The amphitheater, which was built in 75-82, was Rome”s first permanent venue for performances. It was a huge building, could accommodate about 50,000 spectators, on its arena could simultaneously go 3090 pairs of gladiators. On the example of his experts fix certain features of Flavian architecture: a predilection for all grandiose, high technical level and decline of taste. In addition, this era was characterized by the priority of public buildings over private ones.
Antique authors praised the efforts of Titus Flavius: his building activities are mentioned even in the authors of the breviaries, even though these writers chose only the most important information and usually concentrated on describing the wars. In general, it was under Flavius that Late Antique Rome received its final shape.
During Vespasian”s reign, roads were actively built in Italy, Greece (78), Sardinia (79), and Betica (70).
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The Religious Sphere
The religious policy of Vespasian is characterized in historiography as traditionalist: Titus Flavius tried to use Roman religion to consolidate his power, which he seized without any legal rights. The absence of kinship with Julius-Claudius determined the peculiarity of the imperial cult in this epoch: its formalization and transformation of the individual cult of the emperor into the veneration of the Roman state as such began.
Under Vespasian, the imperial cult became universal and compulsory and was planted throughout the Roman Empire. A number of new temples appeared, and the unification of priestly offices began. The sanctuaries located in the administrative centers of the provinces became the main ones for the whole region, and their priests received the title sacerdos, while the priests in the other cities of the province were only flamins (flamens). A certain hierarchy presumably emerged within the category of the flamens: at any rate, sources mention the “first flamen in Baetica” (flamen Augustalis in Baetica primus).
Following the example of Augustus, Vespasian began to introduce the joint cult of Roma and the living emperor; following Nero, he revived the practice of veneration of the living princeps and his deified predecessors. Titus Flavius himself did not claim kinship with the gods and scoffed at attempts to invent an appropriate genealogy for him, but at the same time the official propaganda actively developed the theme of his divinity. Sources report numerous omens that foretold Vespasian”s great destiny, the disposition of Egyptian deities toward him, and the miraculous cure of two crippled men at Alexandria. The initial religious legitimization of his reign, immediately after his arrival in the capital in the fall of ”70, was accomplished by emphasizing the connection with Serapis, whose instrument and messenger Titus Flavius was regarded as. The night before the Jewish triumph in 71 both Vespasian and his son Titus spent in the temple of Isis, whose cult was closely related to that of Serapis. During this period, the image of the temple of Isis appears on Roman coins, which marked a change in the emperors” religious policy: since the time of Augustus, Egyptian cults were not encouraged by the supreme power, because they were identified with Mark Antony and Cleopatra.
Under Vespasianism there was a spontaneous spread of local religious cults into new regions; in connection with this process C. Ando recognized the Flavian era as one of the most productive in terms of religious unification of the Roman power. In particular, Christianity makes progress: the creation of the Gospels begins, the transition of Christians to the Episcopal Church, the spread of this religion in Asia Minor, its penetration into the higher spheres of Roman society. Presumably under Vespasian the imperial authorities did not persecute Christians, but the destruction of Jerusalem was a remarkable event for the latter, which greatly influenced the development of their doctrine.
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Death and Inheritance of Power
Vespasian died in the summer of ”79. While in Campania, he felt the first attacks of fever and returned to Rome, and from there he soon went to Aquila Coutilii in the land of the Sabine, where he usually spent the summer. There the illness worsened – among other things because of too frequent bathing in the cold water. Nevertheless, the emperor did not lose his sense of humor: it is known that the appearance in the sky of a comet, which foreshadowed, according to popular belief, the death of the ruler, he associated with the fate of the Parthian king who had long hair. Feeling his worsening, Vespasian joked, “Alas, I seem to be becoming a god.
As his illness progressed, even while lying in bed, Titus Flavius continued to attend to affairs of state – working with documents and receiving ambassadors. In his last hour “he declared that the emperor must die standing up; and, trying to rise and straighten himself up, he died in the arms of those who supported him.
Dio Cassius mentions rumors that Vespasian was poisoned at a feast by his own son Titus; among others, the emperor Hadrian said so. Nevertheless, the transfer of power to Titus (the first transfer of imperial power in Roman history from father to native son) took place without any excesses. It is supposed that the official propaganda presented this event not as the beginning of a new principate, but as a continuation of Titus” rule with Vespasian.
Vespasian was married once, to Flavius Domitilla. By the time of his marriage (in the 1930s) he had not yet begun his exaltation, so his wife was not distinguished by nobility: her father, Flavius Liberalus of Ferentina, was only a scribe to the quaestor, and she herself obtained official status as a freeborn and Roman citizenship only through a court. Before her marriage, Flavia was the mistress of the Roman horseman Statilius Capella of Sabrata in Africa; one source refers to her as a freedwoman.
Two sons and a daughter were born to this marriage. The eldest son, named after his father, was born, according to Suetonius, on “the third day before the January Calendar” of the year “memorable for the death of Gaius”, that is December 30, 41, but on the basis of other sources, scholars believe the more likely date to be December 30, 39. The second son, Titus Flavius Domitianus, was born on December 24, 51. Nothing is known about the time of life of the daughter, another Flavius Domitilla, except that she died, like her mother, before the year 69. At the time of her death Vespasian”s daughter was married (the name of the spouse is unknown), and she had a daughter who received the same name and became the wife of her third cousin Titus Flavius Clement.
When Vespasian was widowed, he made his former mistress Antonia Cenida, a freedwoman of Antonia the Elder, his concubine. The emperor lived with Cenida as his lawful wife, and she was able to amass a large fortune by selling out positions and privileges. She died before Vespasian.
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In the sources
Vespasian was the first emperor after Augustus to receive a generally positive appraisal from ancient authors. For example, Tacitus wrote of him with deep sympathy. Suetonius regarded Vespasian”s reign as an era of stabilization and strengthening of an empire weakened by strife. He reports on the emperor”s efficiency, his thrift, practicality, accessibility to the common people, sense of humor, and indifference to personal grievances. Tacitus notes that he was the only emperor who changed for the better during his reign. Sextus Aurelius Victor praises Vespasian for his concern for all the cities where Roman law existed.
The only negative reaction of antique authors was the financial reforms of Vespasian, because of which the emperor was accused of being greedy and stingy. According to Suetonius, Vespasian”s love of money was “the only thing of which he was justly reproached”; Tacitus also criticized the emperor for his choice of friends, but linked this to the financial theme. Already during his lifetime Vespasian had a reputation for avarice. For example, the Alexandrians nicknamed him “the herring-breeder,” “after the nickname of one of their kings, a dirty miser,” and at his burial Vespasian”s thrift was the subject of jokes:
…Even at his funeral, Tabor, the main mime, appearing as is customary, wearing a mask and portraying the words and deeds of the deceased, asked the officials at the top of his voice, how much did the funeral procession cost? And when he heard that it was ten million, he exclaimed: “Give me ten thousand and throw me in the Tiber!”
The same Suetonius was ready to justify Titus Flavius, noting: “To extortions and extortions he was forced by the extreme scarcity of the state and imperial treasury. Other authors also acknowledge that Vespasian had no other choice; moreover, they were softened by the emperor”s prudent expenditure of the funds he received, his willingness to economize on himself, and his own jocular excuses.
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Antiquarian scholars hold different opinions on the causes of the civil war of 68-69 and, in particular, Vespasian”s rebellion. Two main trends stand out: some scholars speak of the provinces” struggle with Rome as the main component of this war, while others speak of the rivalry between the provincial armies. In Soviet historiography, in accordance with the prevailing ideology, the view of the socio-economic crisis as the driving force behind the events (the population of certain parts of the empire rebelled against the government and was supported by the army) was widespread.
The Soviet anti-cultural scholar S. Kovalev sees the civil war of 69 as evidence, on the one hand, of the fragility of the Julius-Claudian social base and, on the other hand, of the rise of the provinces, which had recovered from the civil wars of the first century B.C. The uprisings of viceroys, including Vespasian, were the first manifestation of separatist tendencies, which ultimately destroyed the empire. German scholar B. Ritter believes that the rebellions of 68-69 were “experiments and improvisations” related to the lack of understanding by Roman society of what imperial power was based on. Previously it had passed from hand to hand within one family; now the Romans were experimentally figuring out who could “make princeps: “the senate and the people of Rome,” the Praetorians, or the provincial armies. One such attempt was organized by Vespasian and his associates.
The reason for Vespasian”s victory in the civil war researchers see in his sober mind, prudence and frugality, his desire not for glory and ostentatious brilliance, characteristic of the aristocracy, but for efficiency, his outstanding military and administrative abilities, polished during a long and difficult career. Titus Flavius”s accession to power meant that the empire was out of the hands of the nobility, and it is argued that this was a more significant event than the proclamation of the provincial emperor Trajan thirty years later.
Scholars note that the age of the Flavians and, in particular, the rule of the first of them, was a time of major change for the Roman Empire. The civil war of 68-69, the first since the time of Mark Antony, showed the weakness of the principate regime and the need to change the policy toward the provinces. As a result a new dynasty came to power, not connected with Julius-Claudius or with the old nobility at all. The latter finally lost its position in the Senate, which was actively recruited at the expense of the nobility of the Italian municipalities and some provinces; in particular, a strong Spanish representation was formed, thanks to which a native of Spain was soon able to achieve supreme power. This change in the Senate eliminated the contradiction between the broad power of the princeps, who ruled the world power, and the narrow interests of the elite, which under the last Julius-Claudians were still mainly connected with the capital. In historiography there is a statement that under Flavius Rome ceased to exist as a civic community at all.
The role of auxiliary units in the imperial army under Vespasian increased, and control over the Praetorian Guard was strengthened. And the increase of discipline in the provincial armies is considered one of the main merits of this emperor.
The imperial powers under Vespasian continued to expand; in general under Flavius the princeps finally transformed from a partner of the senate and “first among equals” into a de facto monarch, but during the founder of the dynasty this transformation was successfully veiled. The officials who were subordinated not to the Senate but to the emperor grew in importance. They were no longer freemen, as under the previous emperors, but horsemen, and thanks to this, the non-Emperor”s administration became the official state apparatus. In addition, there was an institutionalization of imperial powers, which prepared the Antoninus era.
Under Vespasian the creation of a centralized financial system, controlled by the princepsus, began. The provinces were for the first time recognized as fundamentally important parts of the empire. In this context Titus Flavius began a systematic fortification of borders and an intensive Romanization of the West (especially Spain). He was more active than Julius-Claudius in distributing Roman citizenship to provincials and the status of municipality to extra-Italian communities. As a result, the foundations were laid for the rapprochement of Italy with the Western provinces. Vespasian”s innovations in the administrative and financial spheres largely prepared the flourishing of the empire under Antoninus. According to S. Kovalev, the “golden age” began already under Titus Flavius.
The Jewish triumph of the Flavians became the subject of a number of paintings. Thus, Giulio Romano, one of the founders of Mannerism, painted a painting on this subject in 1540. On his canvas Vespasian and Titus stand in a chariot drawn by four horses and ride under the triumphal arch. An angel holds crowns over the heads of both triumphants. In the Victorian painter Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1885), the Flavius family descends the stairs on foot, and the viewer sees them through the eyes of a man standing at the foot. Vespasian walks in front, followed by his sons; the Menorah is carried in the background.
Titus Flavius Vespasian acts in Lyon Feuchtwanger”s novels The Jewish War and Sons. Among the winged Latin expressions is the saying “Money does not smell” (Aes non olet). It is attributed to Vespasian in connection with the story of the tax on public latrines that displeased Titus.
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