a.d. 9-79

Roman emperor

The first emperor of the Flavian dynasty*, Vespasian brought order and stability to the Roman empire after the reign of Nero and the chaos that followed Nero’s death. Vespasian also enlarged the empire and began an ambitious building program in Rome.

Titus Flavius Vespasianus, or Vespasian, was born into an old and respected Roman family. He served in the Roman army, participated in the conquest of Britain, and became a consul* in A.D. 51. At the time of Nero’s death, he was governor of the province* of Judaea, where he suppressed a Jewish revolt against Roman rule.

The death of Nero in A.D. 68 led to a period of instability and civil war. In A.D. 69 the Roman armies of Egypt proclaimed Vespasian emperor, and legions* loyal to him overthrew the emperor Vitellius. Vespasian returned to Rome and immediately set out to restore peace and order to the empire.

Vespasian proved to be a capable ruler. He restored Rome’s finances, which had been depleted by Nero’s lavish spending and the costly civil war, by raising taxes in the provinces and selling imperial* estates. Some of the revenue was used for public building projects, which included the beginning construction of the Colosseum, also known as the Flavian Amphitheater. Vespasian recruited new senators, granted increased rights to provincial communities, and reorganized the army to reduce the possibility of troops rebelling against Rome. He also added new territories to the empire, including northern England and parts of Germany.

On his death in A.D. 79, Vespasian was succeeded by his son Titus. The first emperor in 40 years to die of natural causes, Vespasian was proclaimed a god in recognition of his peaceful and prosperous reign. (See also Rulers, Worship of; Rome, History of: Roman Empire.)

* dynasty succession of rulers from the same family or group

* consul one of two chief governmental officials of Rome, chosen annually and serving for a year

* province overseas area controlled by Rome

* legion main unit of the Roman army, consisting of about 6,000 soldiers

* imperial pertaining to an emperor or empire

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