Born in A.D. 9 into a family of humble, provincial nobility who made their home in Falacrine, a small village to the north-east of Rome in Sabine country, the family of Vespasian gained senatorial seats under the Julio-Claudian emperors. Vespasian held the consulship in A.D. 51; however, his real strength lie in his military prowess. He participated in the Claudian invasion of Britain in A.D. 43 and would later rise through the army ranks, becoming the general in charge of putting down a Jewish revolt in Judea in A.D. 66.
After Nero committed suicide, the imperial vacancy became known as the “Year of the Four Emperors” during which four generals claimed the title of Emperor. Nero had several reasons for killing himself, and among them were revolts of several generals who wanted to Replace him. The first to arrive in Rome was Galba. He was ousted by Otho, who was, in turn ousted by Vitellius. While they sequentially fought it out in Rome, Vespasian bided his time in the east, staying in his headquarters in Alexandria while his son, Titus, mopped up the 2nd Jewish Revolt in Jerusalem. They would be the first two emperors of the Flavian dynasty. Vespasian remained with his army in Egypt and waited while the other three eliminated each other. He sent in proxies to cow the Senate into proclaiming him the Emperor and the vigilant Vespasian entered the city after being formerly accepted the by the Senate and People of Rome.
After being acclaimed emperor by his troops in A.D. 69 and eliminating his rivals, Vespasian found Rome facing a deep economic crisis and still recovering from the fire that consumed it under Nero. Using riches plundered from Jerusalem and proceeds from increased taxes, he launched a major public works program and started building the Colosseum – the most ambitious and best-preserved of his projects.
He reigned from A.D. 69 until his death in 79. He founded a shortlived dynasty history now refers to as the “Flavian” dynasty, one which ruled the empire through sons Titus and then second son Domitian until A.D. 96. Vespasian died at Aquae Cutiliae in the Sabine country on 23 June A.D. 79 after contracting an illness that medical historians believe was dysentery. His son and successor, Titus, visited the city of Pompeii in July of A.D. 79, one month prior to the eruption and dedicated a new alter in front of the temple of the imperial cult in the forum.
Little actual information survives about Vespasian’s government in Rome during his decade as emperor. His reign is perhaps best knows for his financial reforms following the demise of the Julio-Claudians and for his successful campaign against Judaea. Last, but certainly not least, he was known for his monumental building projects-the Colosseum, the Forum of Peace and the Temple of Claudius.
In 2009 archaeologists have unearthed a sprawling country villa 80 miles (130 km) north-east of Rome, near Cittareale. It is believed to be the birthplace of Vespasian. There are many articles on this, but if you are interested, here’s a source I always recommend, the BBC
Vespasian died of natural causes on 24 June AD 79, and, according to Suetonius, with much dignity. His dry wit, it was recorded, stayed alive to the very end. He was recorded as saying ‘Vae, puto deus fio’ (‘Woe, I think I’m turning into a god.’)
NUMISMATIC NOTE: Rare IVDAEA Aureus
Vespasian (AD 69-79). AV aureus (19mm, 7.33 gm, 6h). Judaea Capta issue. Rome, late AD 69-early AD 70. IMP CAESAR VESPASIANVS AVG, laureate head of Vespasian right / Military trophy with cuirass, helmet, greaves and two shields, before which sits female Jewish captive right in attitude of mourning, IVDAEA in exergue.
The IVDAEA CAPTA coinage series was the broadest and most diverse issue of coins celebrating a Roman victory issued up to that time, comprising coins of every metal, denomination, and mint. They formed an important part of the overall propaganda campaign establishing the legitimacy of the Flavian dynasty. The new edition of Roman Imperial Coinage lists this rare aureus as the first struck in Rome by Vespasian once his forces had seized control of the capital in December of AD 69. Scarce in any condition, it is remarkably rare in any condition above Very Fine and this specimen is superior to those found in most public collections.