69 A.D: The Year of Four Emperors

By Gwyn Morgan | Go to book overview
Save to active project

The Beginning of the End:
Vespasian through August 69

To understand the campaign by the Balkan legions that unseated Vitellius in late December 69, we must deal first with the man in whose name—if not always with whose blessing—they undertook their offensive. Discontented as these legions were, apparently from the moment Otho committed suicide in mid-April, they had no cause to embrace until Vespasian was proclaimed emperor and invited them to take up arms in his behalf. It was as well that they did so. For of the four men who became emperors in 68/69, Vespasian must have seemed to contemporaries as well as to posterity the one whose bid for power was the least likely to succeed, by reason of his birth, his age, and his career to date. Hence Tacitus' frequent references to “the luck of the Flavians,” the many stories Suetonius retails of signs portending Vespasian's elevation to the throne, and—for that matter—his insistence that Vespasian and his two sons, Titus and Domitian, believed or came to believe firmly in the workings of Fate.

To reconstruct Vespasian's activities we must rely on a relatively brief life by Suetonius, a comprehensive if eulogistic account of his campaigns in Judaea by Josephus, stray details from what remains of Dio's history, and above all, the information Tacitus chooses to provide. As usual, Tacitus is the most important of our sources, but—also as usual— he provides the information in ways that suit his purposes much better than they do ours. The bulk of the material he serves up in three segments, each set at more or less the appropriate chronological point in his overall account, the first in the survey of the empire's situation in January 69; the second where Otho and Vitellius have been brought on stage and the possibility of Vespasian's taking a hand in the game is raised; and the third where Vitellius has not yet reached Rome, but has already given what Tacitus presents as clear evidence that he is unfit to rule. In none of these segments, however, does Tacitus favor the emperor who gave him his own start in public life. Though he declares Vespasian the first man to be improved by becoming emperor, a relative judgment anyway, one of his aims throughout is to debunk the idea that Vespasian had undertaken his revolt to save the empire from Vitellius. Though the new


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
69 A.D: The Year of Four Emperors


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 322

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?