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  • Excerpt From: The Emperors and the Jews. Mosaica Press (2019)

Vespasian


Born 9ce - died 79ce

Reign 69-79 ce


By way of background: Titus Flavius Vespasianus, known as Vespasian, was born in 9 AD in Reate (Rieti), northwest of Rome.


He had a successful military career,

commanding the second legion in the invasion of Britain in 43 ce and conquering the south west of England. He later rose in the senate to become consul in 51 ce and governor of Africa a decade later. He became a trusted aide of the emperor Nero and was put in charge of the suppression of the Jewish Revolt (66 ce - 70 ce).


His efforts succeeded and by 68 AD, most of Judaea was recovered by Rome, although Jerusalem remained to be taken.


The claim is raised that Vespasian’s moves in Eretz Yisroel were influenced not only by

military objectives but also from a calculation aimed at increasing his chances to become

emperor.


It is claimed that Nero underestimated Vespasian, whose next moves indicate that he

already had his eyes set on something bigger than the Judaean campaign. In the winter of

67-68 CE, Jerusalem was immersed in a civil war between rebel factions that weakened

the defense of the city. This would have been the best time for an assault, but Vespasian

refrained from an action that would have ended his position as leader of the Roman army

in the east too quickly. Instead, Vespasian used this opportunity to restore his public

name, win influence, and acquire financial support for political and military moves which

he planned in Rome.


Vespasian was biding his time and awaiting the right moment. Such a moment arrived in the years 68-69 CE, during the Roman civil war, which is known (in modern historiography) as the “Year of the Four Emperors.” Emperor Nero committed suicide and Rome sank into turmoil.


During a single year, three different generals rose to power in Rome and were put down by bloody military coups, until the fourth, Vespasian, prevailed. Vespasian was declared Emperor by the Roman legions stationed in the East after he secured the support of the Roman governors of Syria and Egypt. This support resulted from Vespasian’s machinations during his time in Judaea.


The reign of Nero and the Year of the Four Emperors was characterized by Roman

historians for its extreme instability.


Therefore, it is claimed that Vespasian's major objectives during his reign were to restore

Rome's finances after Nero's wasteful reign, to restore discipline in the army after the

civil wars and to ensure the succession of his son Titus. He was successful in all three.

The immunity from taxation that Nero had given to the Greeks was revoked, and the

Coliseum was begun in Rome with spoils from the conquest of Jerusalem.


Roman historian Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus (69 –122) sets the scene of Rome during

the reign of Vespasian: The empire, which for a long time had been unsettled and, as it

were, drifting, through the usurpation and violent death of three emperors, was at last

taken in hand and given stability by the Flavian family. This house was, it is true, obscure

and without family portraits, yet it was one of which our country had no reason whatever

to be ashamed…


In other matters he was unassuming and lenient from the very beginning of his reign until

its end, never trying to conceal his former lowly condition, but often even parading it.

There had spread over all the Orient an old and established belief, that it was fated at

that time for men coming from Judaea to rule the world. This prediction, referring to the

emperor of Rome, as afterwards appeared from the event, the people of Judaea took to

themselves; accordingly they revolted and after killing their governor, they routed the

consular ruler of Syria as well, when he came to the rescue, and took one of his eagles.

Since to put down this rebellion required a considerable army with a leader of no little

enterprise, yet one to whom so great power could be entrusted without risk, Vespasian

was chosen for the task, both as a man of tried energy and as one in no wise to be feared

because of the obscurity of his family and name.  

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