Vespasian Eliza Stokes


Vespasian was born on November 17, 9 CE, into a middle class family. His military and governmental career quickly advanced. He served as military tribune in Thrace, and as quaestor of Crete and Cyrene, under Tiberius. Following this, he became Praetor under Caligula. Furthermore, he was the Second Legion "Augusta" in the conquest of Britain in 43-47. He was granted consulship in 51 CE, and was governor of Africa 12 years later. He served as Nero’s companion, and was governor of Judea in 67 C.E. Following Nero's death, a succession of 3 leaders took power within a year, throwing Rome into crisis. In spring of 69 C.E., Vespasian launched his own campaign and took power in 69 C.E. after gaining much support. He served until 79 C.E., when he died of natural causes while he was still in office.

Although Vespasian greatly increased taxes, which caused public resentment, he belongs in the Hall of Fame, because he encouraged prosperity throughout the empire by limiting unrest in the military, promoting cultural integration, and financially stabilizing the empire.

Limited Unrest in the Military

Through his prominent background in the military, Vespasian secured the loyalty and allegiance of the Roman military. The respect of the military was essential to the economic prosperity of the empire, because Vespasian did not have to divert funds to buy the loyalty of the military, as other emperors had. In addition to this, he enacted measures to limit the nationalistic tendencies of soldiers enlisted from territories on the edge of the Roman Empire (Heichelheim, F.M, and Cedric Yeo). Many soldiers were previously stationed in the same territories they originated from, which had been conquered by the Roman Empire. Because of this, some soldiers still harbored nationalistic tendencies, causing their actions to not always correspond with the best interests of the empire. These preventative measures included stationing these soldiers away from their home territories, which limited the influence of any loyalties to the prosperity of their original territories, and placing all legions under the control of an Italian commander. By establishing these changes to the military, Vespasian could guarantee that the military was acting in the best interest of the Roman Empire, which could result in the further expansion of the empire, as well as the protection of the Roman people from hostile tribes.

Promoted Cultural Integration

Sophists were classically-minded Hellenes who originated from the Greek cities of the Hellenistic diaspora. They were prominent during the Second Sophistic, which was a period from 60 CE to 230 CE, due to their unprecedented influence on the political, social, and economic aspects of the Roman Empire (Sizgorich). Sophists were frequent benefactors in their own cities, and spent large amounts of money on public projects. Vespasian promoted the acts of the Sophists, and integrated them further into the Roman Empire. He accomplished this by granting Sophists exemptions from time consuming and costly public duties, as well as establishing well paid chairs of Greek and Latin rhetoric in the Roman government. He also allowed Sophists to act as conduits between the empire and their local communities, and frequently granted them spots in the Roman government. These actions helped integrate the culturally diverse sections of the Roman Empire, and helped establish a dialogue between Hellenistic and Roman communities. This allowed the talents and skills of the extremely educated Greek elite to flow more readily, and eventually more profitably, into the Roman administration. Through this communication and participation in Roman government, the influential Greek elites were able to insure that policy and decisions of the Roman administration were made in accordance with a familiar set of values. The familiarity with the Roman government made the relationship between the Greeks and the Romans more predictable, which made negotiation between the communities more accessible. In turn, this allowed the Romans to govern the Greeks with their cooperation. Overall, the promotion of Sophists under Vespasian's rule offered economic, academic, and social benefits, and also helped to secure the loyalty of the Greek people to the Roman administration, by ensuring the presence of Greek influence in the Roman government.

Financially Stabilized the Empire

Prior to Vespasian's rule, Nero's extravagant spending drained much of the imperial treasury. The civil wars which were sparked after Nero's rule further drained the empire's funds. Through the use of increased taxes and drastically lower spending, Vespasian was able to restock the treasury. Although the increased taxes did result in some public resentment, it was imperative for Vespasian to restock the diminished national treasury, as this money was necessary to allow the economy to rebound, and to maintain public services, infrastructure, and the military. These actions were demonstrative of Vespasian's foresight, and his willingness to put the future stability of the empire above the people's current happiness. Furthermore, Vespasian utilized some imperial funds to construct the Colosseum and the Temple of the Deified Claudius. His public building demonstrated the prosperity of Rome, especially after the civil wars, which served to inspire civic pride and patriotism. They also provided places for the public to congregate, worship, and hold sporting events, which increased public support of Vespasian. The Temple of the Deified Claudius further legitimized his rule, as it distanced him from Nero, who had expressed distaste for the monument. Nero had shaken public trust in the empire's leadership through his tumultuous rule, and by distancing himself from him and correlating himself with previous strong leaders, Vespasian gained the trust of the people.


Despite some public backlash due to increased taxes, Vespasian’s ability to control the army, integrate the diverse cultures of the region for the benefit of the empire, and restore the financial state of the empire contribute to a positive legacy. He was able to reestablish the powerful and stable state of the empire after Nero's tumultuous rule. He was demonstrated the powerful quality of foresight in a leader, and exemplified the ability to place future stability over current happiness. Although previous leaders had placed emphasis on military campaigns, Vespasian insured the high quality of leadership, military, and economic decisions throughout the current empire. Vespasian's rule, which was characterized by peace, set a precedent of focusing on internal growth and stability, rather than solely emphasizing expansion. Vespasian's emphasis upon strengthening the economy, military, and social interactions between the diverse sections of the Roman Empire increased the stability of the empire and allowed future leaders to build upon a stronger foundation.

Picture Links and Captions

Opening Slide: Bust of Vespasian,

Background Slide: Bust of Vespasian,

Limited Unrest in the Military: Vespasian Leading Troops Against Jewish Revolts,

Cultural Integration: Sophists during the Second Sophistic,

Financially Stabilized Country: Roman aureus depicting Vespasian as Emperor,

Conclusion: The Colosseum, also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre, which was constructed by Vespasian,

Work Cited

Davis, Paul K., and Allen Lee Hamilton. “Zealots.” World History: Ancient and Medieval Eras, ABC-CLIO, 2017. Accessed 28 Feb. 2017.

“Gnaeus Julius Agricola.” World History: Ancient and Medieval Eras, ABC-CLIO, 2017. Accessed 17 Feb. 2017.

Heichelheim, F.M, and Cedric Yeo. A History of the Roman People. Englewood Cliffs, N.J., Prentice-Hall, 1962.

Scarre, Chris. Chronicle of the Roman Emperors: The Reign-by-Reign Record of the Rulers of Imperial Rome. London, Thames & Hudson, 1995.

Sedgewick, Jessica. “Isle of Wight.” World History: Ancient and Medieval Eras, ABC-CLIO, 2017. Accessed 3 Mar. 2017.

Sizgorich, Tom. “Second Sophistic.” World History: Ancient and Medieval Eras, ABC-CLIO, 2017. Accessed 17 Feb. 2017.

---. “Vespasian.” World History: Ancient and Medieval Eras, ABC-CLIO, 2017. Accessed 15 Feb. 2017.

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