Vespasian

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Vespasian

Vespasian (Titus Flavius Vespasianus) (vĕspā´zhən), AD 9–AD 79, Roman emperor (AD 69–AD 79), founder of the Flavian dynasty. The son of a poor family, he made his way in the army by sheer ability. He served in Germany and in Britain (where he conquered the Isle of Wight) and was made consul (AD 51). Later he was proconsul in Africa under Nero. In AD 66, Nero put him in charge of the war against the Jews, and he was in Judaea when the emperor died. He recognized Otho and then Vitellius, but when he himself was proclaimed emperor by the soldiers in Judaea and Alexandria, he set out to make good his claim. He arrived in Italy late in AD 69. He set about restoring the state and its finances and gave an example of frugal living that contrasted greatly with the life of Nero. His son Titus, whom he had left to prosecute the Jewish war, destroyed Jerusalem and returned to Rome to enjoy the triumph with his father. To commemorate the beginning of an era of peace (which lasted a century), Vespasian closed the gates of the temple of Janus and built the temple of Pax. He also erected the Colosseum. The principal external events of Vespasian's reign were the revolt of the Batavii (see Civilis) and the campaigns and administration of Agricola in Britain. He was succeeded by his son Titus; his other son, Domitian, later succeeded Titus. The reign of Vespasian was noted for its order and prosperity.

See B. W. Henderson, Five Roman Emperors (1927, repr. 1969); M. W. McCrum and A. G. Woodhead, Select Documents of the Principates of the Flavian Emperors (1961).

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