The Roman Emperor Vespasian died on this day in AD 79.
The dynasty founded by Julius Caesar ended in AD 68 with the death of Nero. There followed a chaotic time in which there was briefly a Galba then an Ortho on the throne the later murdering the former and then in turn being defeated by Vitellius.
Although Vitellius was in control of Rome as well as elite German and Gaulish legions, his Â rival, Vespasian soon gained the support of the legions of the eastern empire and Vespasian was able to defeat Vitellius and gain the throne.
In contrast to many other Roman emperor’s Vespasian seems to have been a much more down to earth ordinary general, popular with his troops and not much interested in the trappings of power.
Vespasian first earned a reputation in Britain where he was responsible for conquest of much of the south under Claudius and it was this campaign that lead to a Triumph – the way Roman’s saluted a great general.
Vespasian was appointed to suppress the Jewish revolt of AD 66 to 70 which he did with a firm hand but was considered even by the Jewish chronicler Josephus to have been fair and not just brutal.
The Jewish revolt was still going on when Nero died and the empire was thrown into a year of 4 emperors eventually leading to Vespasian’s assent to power.
Vespasian was a patron of the arts, sponsoring a number of writers and poets as well as building the Coliseum. Forced to raise taxes to balance the books left in disarray by Nero, one of the taxes he brought in was a tax on urine collection (urine was used in certain chemical processes) and as a result today Italians call urinals vespasiano after him.
He was succeeded by his son Titus.
So – as Roman Emperors go not a bad one.
There is a nice series of historical fiction in which Vespasian is a regular participant. Simon Scarrow’s Eagle Series are recommended.