Vespasian Marie Goemans

Titus Flavius Vespasianus was born in an average, non-noble family, yet became a respected emperor of Ancient Rome. He followed the cursus honorum, the course of office positions, until his emperorship in 69. Vespasian first became a quaestor under Tiberius, but that was quickly followed by being commander of the Second Legion ‘Augusta’ during the conquest of Britain from 43 to 47 AD, where he achieved huge military success. His victories caused him to become consul in 51 and governor of Africa. His rise in power, though subtle and slow, led to his emperorship after a series of tyrannical leaders and a civil war in 69. When he died in 79 AD, his power was passed on to his eldest son, Titus.

Vespasian is represented with his armor and a laurel wreath, which symbolized military victories in Rome.

Despite Vespasian’s rigorous financial plans, he belongs in the Hall of Fame because of his work in the stabilization of the military, the restoration of civic pride and the infrastructure through his financial plan and the organization of his succession for a stable transition.

Stabilization of the military

The lack of loyalty and seriousness in the Ancient Roman army was a major problem that led to the absence of authority and the fragility of its borders. The Ancient Roman military consisted of many commanders, each having his own army or legion. The army’s loyalty was held by their commanders who therefore could proclaim themselves emperor, causing continuous risk of rebellions and civil wars. Vespasian needed to “restore discipline to the armies after the events of 68–69" (Chilver) to maintain his leadership and legitimacy. He removed soldiers who fought for Vitellius, the previous emperor of Rome. Thus giving the empire the stability it needed after the long succession of emperors who were not fit for leadership, such as Caligula and Nero. In addition to the increase in loyalty, he strengthened the borders of the empire. Vespasian's predecessors left the frontiers in a fragile state. One of the reasons for this was the soldiers and legions at the borders were too friendly with the enemies on the other side. Vespasian made sure that auxiliary troops would not be placed near their homeland to prevent this from happening. The Roman Empire needed to maintain their dominance and when Rome was slowly falling, its neighboring nations were growing and challenging the Romans. Vespasian needed to keep their borders strong, and by diminishing camaraderie amongst the soldiers near the frontiers, Vespasian did exactly that.

Restoration of the infrastructure and civic pride

Vespasian was left with a ruined empire, destroyed and hopeless after war. Since the government barely had any more money to rebuild the nation, Vespasian attempted to raise forty thousand million sesterces (the Ancient Roman currency). To gain that money, he increased taxes and created new ones. He ensured that everyone, including free cities (that did not need to pay taxes before), paid the fees to the government. In addition, since the leaders and noble-men of Rome had a bad reputation of using money of the empire for their own benefit, he needed to ensure that all money was used justly. With this new financial support, he built roads, bridges, imperial defense and fortifications, as most were destroyed in war. This helped the infrastructural elements of Rome, but the people's spirits were still crushed after his predecessors. To boost civic pride he also built public buildings, such as the Colosseum and the Forum, which was constructed to commemorate the end of the Jewish Rebellion. Though he was strict with his taxes, he never benefitted himself from the gains. This helped legitimize his work as emperor, helping him maintain his power for an entire decade.

Organization of his succession for a clean transition

With the many unclean transitions between emperors in Ancient Rome, the lack of fluidity between leadership roles caused civic unrest. Vespasian organized his succession in order to prevent more war. He demanded that his son, Titus, become emperor, and thus prepared him for the difficult job. In 73, Vespasian made himself and Titus censors, where they reorganized the provinces, granting citizenship rights to different provinces like to Spain magistrates. He also gave many important military jobs to his son, who over the years started amassing victories and salutations. As a military commander, Vespasian’s son “ended the Jewish war with the capture of Jerusalem in August 70" (Chilver) and became commander of the Praetorian Guard, becoming his father's head security officer. Titus was also often consul, with his younger brother Domitian. Helping his father with the duties of emperor, Titus accumulated public praise and power while also learning how to properly rule the empire. With all of the disliked emperors that came before Vespasian, instability was a large problem. The transitions in the empire between leaders were filled with civil wars and fighting between different commanders for the throne, including Vespasian's own rise to power. By organizing his succession, he saved the Roman Empire from one more violent transition. He taught Titus how to properly rule an empire, and with that, all of his own work on the reconstruction of the empire wouldn’t be wasted with another civil war.

The Ancient Roman emperor Vespasian deserves to be in the Hall of Fame for his impressive and quick reconstruction of Rome. Instead of using his power to financially benefit himself, he used the increase in taxes for the amelioration of the infrastructure. Vespasian also used his knowledge from his previous jobs in the army to understand the issues in the empire, but also helped prepare Rome for the future. He had the task of restoring one of the most powerful empires in the world in only one decade, and he was able to do exactly that. By rebuilding key infrastructural elements and stabilizing the army, he brought peace and prosperity back to the empire, allowing Ancient Rome to thrive for another century.

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