Vespasian - one of the Roman Emperors

Emperor Vespasian

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Vespasian was Roman emperor from 69 to 79 AD. He was the last of the four emperors who ruled the ancient Roman Empire in the 69 AD. Interestingly, the previous three leaders died because of the suicide or murder, while Vespasian death happened ten years later because of natural causes. He had two sons: Titus and Domitian. All together they represented the Flavian Dynasty.

Early Life

Titus Flavius Vespasianus was born in the small town just north of Rome on November 17, 9 AD. The future emperor was raised by his paternal grandmother, Terulla, but was actually the son of Sabinus and Vespasia Polla. He had an older brother, whose name was also Sabinus and he was a consul and governor. When Vespasian grew up, he married Flavia Domitilla and they had three children: Titus, Domitian, and Domitilla, but his daughter died in infancy. When his wife died, Vespasian married his ex-mistress Caenis, but the wedding wasn’t official since she was a slave.

Military and Political Career

  • Vespasian wasn’t representative of a noble family, but he served as a coloned in Thrace in Greece and a quaestor (financial official)  on the island of Crete and in Libya. Moreover, he was the commander of a legion in Germany and Britain

Vespasian fought in over 30 battles and captured about 20 cities

Later, he served in Africa in the early 60 AD. Vespasian spent long time out of Rome during the reigns of Caligula and Claudius. The future emperor had a political success, but not the financial one. However, under the reign of Nero, rebellions broke out in Judea in 66 AD and Vespasian sent his son Titus to disperse the rioters. Later, when Nero died and Galba became the new emperor, Vespasian and Titus were waiting for the orders in Judea. Soon, Galba died and several emperors were changed. In this situation, the feature was the patience of Vespasian, who didn’t involve himself in troublesome affairs and didn’t show any hostility to emperors if there was some. After all the changes and short rules of several emperors, Vespasian spet by step came to the reign by December 26, 69 AD.

Great Jewish Revolt

In 66 AD, Vespasian was appointed to suppress the Jewish revolt in Judea. A lot of military forces under the rule of Vespasian and Titus took place in the revolt. Thousands of Jews were killed and the Romans destroyed many of their towns.

The Romans took Jerusalem in 70 AD

Around 10,000 Jewish people were either killed or sold into slavery. Moreover, most of the Jews who became slaves took part in the construction of the Colosseum, originally called the Flavian Amphitheater, which started in 72 AD.


Undoubtedly, in compare to all the emperors who were before Vespasian, the emperor was famous for a time of peace and calm under his rule. However, one of the most notable features of his reign was his remedy to increase existing taxes. The most famous example is his composition of a tax on the use of public toilets. When his son Titus asked him about such an unusual source of getting money, Vespasian is said to have held a coin from the first intake of the tax to Titus’ nose and asked him if its smell revolted him. Titus replied that it did not and the emperor said “and yeat it comes from urine!” This is how “money does not stink” phrase was created.

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Vespasian’s reign started when he was declared emperor by the Senate while he was in Egypt in December of 69 AD. Administration of the empire was given to Mucianus, who was aided by Domitian, Vespasian’s son. Mucianus’ aim was to make tax reform to restore the empire’s finances. When the emperor arrived in Rome in 70 AD, Mucianus conitnued to press him to gather as more taxes as possible. Old taxes and instituted ones were renewed and increased.


Later, between 71 and 79 AD, there were many new buildings created in Rome. The emperor helped rebuild the Eternal City after the civil war. For instance, he added the Temple of Peace and the Temple to the Deifed Claudius. Later, in 75 AD, he erected a large statue of Apollo, which was begun under Nero, and Vespasian dedicated a stage of the Theater of Marcellus. Most importantly and notably, he began the construction of the Colosseum, using funds from the spoils of the Jewish Temple after the War of Jerusalem.

There were constant conspiracies against Vespasian

Interesting Facts

  1. Vespasian was a wise man with a lot of patience, which helped him to gain success
  2. He had two sons and a daughter, who died short after her birth
  3. His reign lasted for 10 years and before him there were many emperors who ruled for short periods of time
  4. In 66 AD, Vespasian was appointed to suppress the Jewish revolt underway in Judea
  5. Vespasian survived several conspiracies against him
  6. He helped rebuild Rome after the civil war
  7. He was famous for giving financial rewards for writers and those who spoke against Vespasian were punished
  8. In modern Romance languages, urinals are still named after Vespasian (for example, vespasiano in Italian), probably in reference to a tax he placed on urine collection
  9. The emperor spent a lot of money to make Rome more beautiful and create new buildings as several public baths
  10. The emperor had friendly relations with nearby barbarians, especially the Germanic and Dacian tribes


Vespasian ruled for almost ten years, when he fell ill and died. Unlike many other emperors, he died because of natural causes. According to several historians, his last words were: “It is fitting that an emperor should die on his feet!” – he pronounced after he felt sure that his last moment came.

The throne of Vespasian was passed to his eldest son Titus, thus establishing the Flavian dyansty

Moreover, before the death, Vespasian declared to the senate that either his sons would succeed him or no one would.

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Author: Kate Zusmann

For the last 6 years I live in the Eternal City. Traveling, exploring new things, writing blogs, shooting vlogs are my main hobbies, but the thing that I like even more is to share my experience and thoughts with you! Explore Rome with Us :)

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