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Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Why Vespasian the Roman Soldier Become the Nineth Emperor

Vespasian
I had to do a blog on Vespasian because he is one of my most favourite Roman Emperors. I think it is because I knew of his name long ago, though I did not know too much concerning him. I sort of stumbled upon things of interest when Vespasian was a soldier and thus he was propelled into my Retro Brit sphere of interest. He was about during some remarkable historical events and lived through the reign of some of the more dreadful times of Tiberius, the chief prefect Sejanus, Caligula, Claudius, Nero and the first three of the emperors during the 'Year of Four Emperors.' Vespasian was the fourth in the year of 'Four Emperors' and would have a non-threatening ten-year reign until his death in 79AD at the age of 69. He would be the first emperor to be succeeded by his son too.

Vespasian, as a man, was forth right and amiable and had a commanding presence. Perhaps overbearing among his equals.  He seems to have been a very hands on person and won the respect of his men in the Roman Army. He had little time for philosophers or artists and regarded them as unmanly dodgers of responsibility. Perhaps his opinion of Nero might have been guarded during that emperor's reign. He was also said to be quick witted and enjoyed off the cuff jokes.

He was born in 9AD and as a young man his family acquired status through senatorial bodies but were not connected to the ruling Julio/Claudian families. He went into the military and served for three years in Thrace (around Greece and Slavonic's areas) This was when he was around 18 to 21 years of age. He returned to Rome in 30 AD. It was during the reign of Emperor Tiberius, but the head of the Praetorian Guard was a virtual regent ruler. His name was Sejanus and this was one year before the over ambitious Prefect met his grisly end for all but trying to usurp his Emperor Tiberius.

After Emperor Tiberius came the dreadful reign of Caligula, though Vespasian was overseas in Crete and was able to stay out of this emperor's notice. After this short reign, a new emperor named Claudius came into power, and it was at this point that Vespasian's career began to take off.


He was made a Legate in the 2nd Legion in 41AD and was stationed on the German frontier. He saw some action here and was becoming well respected by his men. In 43 AD he led the 2nd Legion during the invasion of Britain and saw a great deal of campaigning including a siege of one of the many British hill forts. He won great acclaim for his command during this important historical period in Britain's history.

He saw many other tours of duty and gradually his men became very devoted to him. During the reign of Emperor Nero, he led the campaign against the revolt of Judea in 66AD. However, in 68 AD when he was about to lead a siege upon Jerusalem, Vespasian was brought the news of Emperor Nero's suicide.

The new emperor was a man called Galba and he was unpopular from the start. He failed to pay the Praetorian Guard for supporting his seizing of the Roman empire's throne and levied taxes upon provinces that made him more unpopular. He was assassinated in January of 69AD - the first of the emperors in the 'Year of Four Emperors.' 

A new emperor called Otho came about but his rule was immediately challenged by a man called Vitellius stationed with his Roman forces in Germany. So after failed attempts at mediation Otho and his forces marched north towards the Swiss Alps to confront Vitellius and his Roman forces of Germany. There were a few battles but in the end, Otho committed suicide for the good of Rome, allowing Vitellius to become the third emperor after only three months of rule by late Emperor Otho. 

The late Emperor Otho was actually respected by many of his men and the appointing of Vitellius finally brought Vespasian forward as a contender for the supreme rule of the vast Roman Empire. He also commanded great loyalty from his men and he challenged the legality of Emperor Vitellius. After seven months of civil strife, Emperor Vitellius finally conceded defeat and resigned from power. However, Vespasian's soldiers still set upon him and murdered the broken man when they entered Rome. There could be no room for future threats and Vitellius had made his dreadful mistake when challenging Emperor Otho eight months earlier. 

Vespasian was now Emperor with no more competitors and would rule for ten years until 79 AD. His rule was a good one and his son succeeded him. His prowess as a soldier before becoming emperor are what grab my interest most, especially his campaigns in Britain during the rule of Emperor Claudius.

Sources:

BBC HISTORY

THE ROMAN EMPIRE

UNRV HISTORY

BIO

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