Flavian dynasty

Flavian dynasty

Flavian dynasty|
The Flavian dynasty was a Roman imperial dynasty, which ruled the Roman Empire between 69 and 96 AD, encompassing the reigns of Vespasian (69–79 AD), and his two sons Titus (79–81 AD) and Domitian (81–96 AD). The Flavians rose to power during the civil war of 69, known as the Year of the Four Emperors. After Galba and Otho perished in quick succession, Vitellius became emperor in mid 69 AD. His claim to the throne was quickly challenged by legions stationed in the Eastern provinces, who declared their commander Vespasian Emperor in his place. The Second Battle of Bedriacum tilted the balance decisively in favour of the Flavian forces, who entered Rome on December 20. The following day, the Roman Senate officially declared Vespasian Emperor of the Roman Empire, thus commencing the Flavian dynasty. Although the dynasty proved to be shortlived, several significant historical, economical and military events took place during their reign.

The reign of Titus was struck by multiple natural disasters, the most severe of which was the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. The surrounding cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum were completely buried under ash and lava. One year later, Rome was struck by fire and a plague. On the military front, the Flavian dynasty witnessed the siege and destruction of Jerusalem by Titus in 70, following the failed Jewish rebellion of 66. Substantial conquests were made in Britain under command of Gnaeus Julius Agricola between 77 and 83 AD, while Domitian was unable to procure a decisive victory against King Decebalus in the war against the Dacians. In addition, the Empire strengthened its border defenses by expanding the fortifications along the Limes Germanicus.

The Flavians initiated economical and cultural reforms. Under Vespasian, new taxes were devised to restore the Empire's finances, while Domitian revalued the Roman coinage by increasing its silver content. A massive building programme was enacted to celebrate the ascent of the Flavian dynasty, leaving multiple enduring landmarks in the city of Rome, the most spectacular of which was the Flavian Amphitheatre, better known as the Colosseum.

Flavian rule came to an end on September 18, 96, when Domitian was assassinated. He was succeeded by the longtime Flavian supporter and advisor Marcus Cocceius Nerva, who founded the longlived Nervan-Antonian dynasty.


Family history

Decades of civil war during the 1st century BC had contributed greatly to the demise of the old artistocracy of Rome, which was gradually replaced in prominence by a new Italian nobility during the early part of the 1st century AD.Jones (1992), p. 3] One such family was the "gens Flavia", which rose from relative obscurity to prominence in just four generations, acquiring wealth and status under the emperors of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Vespasian's grandfather, Titus Flavius Petro, had served as a centurion under Pompey during Caesar's civil war. His military career ended in disgrace when he fled the battlefield at the Battle of Pharsalus in 48 BC.Jones (1992), p. 1] Nevertheless, Petro managed to improve his status by marrying the extremely wealthy Tertulla, whose fortune guaranteed the upwards mobility of Petro's son Titus Flavius Sabinus I.Jones (1992), p. 2] Sabinus himself amassed further wealth and possible equestrian status through his services as tax collector in Asia and banker in Helvetia. By marrying Vespasia Polla he allied himself to the more prestigious patrician "gens Vespasia", ensuring the elevation of his sons Titus Flavius Sabinus II and Vespasian to the senatorial rank.

Around 38 AD, Vespasian married Domitilla the Elder, the daughter of an equestrian from Ferentium. They had two sons, Titus Flavius Vespasianus (born in 41 AD) and Titus Flavius Domitianus (born in 51 AD), and a daughter, Domitilla (born in 39 AD). Domitilla the Elder died before Vespasian became emperor. Thereafter his mistress, Caenis, was his wife in all but name until she died in 74. The political career of Vespasian included the offices of quaestor, aedile and praetor, and culminated with a consulship in 51, the year Domitian was born. As a military commander, he gained early renown by participating in the Roman invasion of Britain in 43 AD. [Jones (1992), p. 8] Nevertheless, ancient sources allege poverty for the Flavian family at the time of Domitian's upbringing,Suetonius, Life of Domitian [http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Suetonius/12Caesars/Domitian*.html#1 1] ] even claiming Vespasian had fallen into disrepute under the emperors Caligula (37–41) and Nero (54–68). [cite book|author=Suetonius|title=Life of Vespasian|chapter=4|url=http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Suetonius/12Caesars/Vespasian*.html#4] Modern history has refuted these claims however, suggesting these stories were later circulated under Flavian rule, as part of a propaganda campaign to diminish early successes under the less reputable emperors of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, and maximize achievements under Claudius (41–54) and his son Britannicus. [Jones (1992), p. 7] By all appearances, imperial favour for the Flavians was high throughout the 40s and 60s AD. While Titus received a court education in the company of Britannicus, Vespasian pursued a successful political and military career. Following a prolonged period of retirement during the 50s, he returned to public office in 63 under Nero, serving as proconsul of the Africa province, and accompanying the emperor during an official tour of Greece in 66. [Jones (1992), p. 9–11]

From c. 57 to 59 AD, Titus was a military tribune in Germania, and later served in Britannia. His first wife, Arrecina Tertulla, died two years after their marriage, in 65.cite book|author=Suetonius|title=Life of Titus|url=http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Suetonius/12Caesars/Titus*.html#4|chapter=44; with Jones and Milns, p. 95–96] Titus then took a new wife of a more distinguished family, Marcia Furnilla. However, Marcia's family was closely linked to the opposition to Emperor Nero. Her uncle Barea Soranus and his daughter Servilia were among those who perished after the failed Pisonian conspiracy of 65 AD. [Tacitus, "Annals" ] Some modern historians theorize that Titus divorced his wife because of her family's connection to the conspiracy. [cite journal|author=Gavin Townend|title=Some Flavian Connections|journal=The Journal of Roman Studies|year=1961|pages=57 See Suetonius, Life of Titus [http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Suetonius/12Caesars/Titus*.html#4 4] ] [Jones (1992), p. 11] He never re-married. Titus appears to have had multiple daughters, [Philostratus, "The Life of Apollonius of Tyana" [http://www.livius.org/ap-ark/apollonius/life/va_7_06.html#%A77 VII.7] ] at least one of them by Marcia Furnilla. The only one known to have survived to adulthood was Julia Flavia, perhaps Titus's child by Arrecina, whose mother was also named Julia. [Jones and Milns, pp. 96, 167.] During this period Titus also practiced law and attained the rank of quaestor.

In 66, the Jews of the Judaea Province revolted against the Roman Empire. Cestius Gallus, the legate of Syria, was defeated at the battle of Beth-Horon and forced to retreat from Jerusalem. [Josephus, "The Wars of the Jews" ] The pro-Roman king Agrippa II and his sister Berenice fled the city to Galilee where they later gave themselves up to the Romans. Nero appointed Vespasian to put down the rebellion, who was dispatched to the region at once with the fifth and tenth legions.Jones (1992), p. 13] [Josephus, "The Wars of the Jews" ] He was later joined by Titus at Ptolemais, bringing with him the fifteenth legion.Josephus, "The War of the Jews" ] With a strength of 60,000 professional soldiers, the Romans quickly swept across Galilee and by 68 AD, marched on Jerusalem.

Rise to power

On June 9, 68 AD, amidst growing opposition of the Senate and the army, Nero committed suicide, and with him the Julio-Claudian dynasty came to an end. Chaos ensued, leading to a year of brutal civil war known as the Year of the Four Emperors, during which the four most influential generals in the Roman Empire—Galba, Otho, Vitellius and Vespasian—successively vied for the imperial power. News of Nero's death reached Vespasian as he was preparing to besiege the city of Jerusalem. Almost simultaneously, the Senate had declared Galba, then governor of Hispania Tarraconensis, as emperor of Rome. Rather than continue his campaign, Vespasian decided to await further orders and send Titus to greet the new "princeps". [Tacitus, "Histories" ] Before reaching Italy however, Titus learnt that Galba had been murdered and replaced by Otho, the governor of Lusitania. At the same time Vitellius and his armies in Germania had risen in revolt, and prepared to march on Rome, intent on overthrowing Otho. Not wanting to risk being taken hostage by one side or the other, Titus abandoned the journey to Rome and rejoined his father in Judaea.Tacitus, "Histories" ]

Otho and Vitellius were only too aware of the potential threat posed by the Flavian faction. With four legions at his disposal, Vespasian commanded a strength of nearly 80,000 soldiers. His position in Judaea further granted him the advantage of being nearest to the vital province of Egypt, which controlled the grain supply to Rome. His brother Titus Flavius Sabinus II, as city prefect, commanded the entire city garrison of Rome. [Tacitus, "Histories" ] Tensions among the Flavian troops were high, but so long as Galba and Otho remained in power, Vespasian refused to take action. When Otho was defeated by Vitellius at the First Battle of Bedriacum however, [Tacitus, "Histories" ] the armies in Judaea and Ægyptus took matters into their own hands and declared Vespasian emperor on July 1, 69 AD. [Josephus, "The Wars of the Jews" ] Vespasian accepted, and through negotiations by Titus joined forces with Gaius Licinius Mucianus, governor of Syria. [Tacitus, "Histories" ] A strong force drawn from the Judean and Syrian legions marched on Rome under the command of Mucianus and Marcus Antonius Primus, while Vespasian himself travelled to Alexandria, leaving Titus in charge to end the Jewish rebellion. [Josephus, "The Wars of the Jews" ] [Tacitus, "Histories" ]

In Rome meanwhile, Domitian was placed under house arrest by Vitellius, as a safeguard against future Flavian aggression. [Tacitus, "Histories" ] Support for the old emperor was quickly wavering however, as more legions throughout the empire pledged their allegiance to Vespasian. On October 24, both sides clashed at the Second Battle of Bedriacum, which ended in a crushing defeat for the armies of Vitellius. [Tacitus, "Histories" ] In despair, he attempted to negotiate a surrender. Terms of peace, including a voluntary abdication, were agreed upon with Titus Flavius Sabinus II, [Tacitus, "Histories" ] but the soldiers of the Praetorian Guard—the imperial bodyguard—considered such a resignation disgraceful, and prevented Vitellius from carrying out the treaty. [Tacitus, "Histories" ] On the morning of December 18, the emperor appeared to deposit the imperial insignia at the Temple of Concord, but at the last minute retraced his steps to the imperial palace. In the confusion, the leading men of the state gathered at Sabinus' house, proclaiming Vespasian emperor, but the multitude dispersed when Vitellian cohorts clashed with the armed escort of Sabinus, who was forced to retreat to the Capitoline Hill. [Tacitus, "Histories" ] During the night, Sabinus was joined by his relatives, including Domitian. The armies of Mucianus were nearing Rome, but the besieged Flavian party did not hold out for longer than a day. On December 19, Vitellianists broke down the doors of the Arx, and in the resulting skirmish, Sabinus was captured and executed.Tacitus, "Histories" ] Domitian himself managed to escape by disguising himself as a worshipper of Isis, and spent the night in safety with one of his father's clients.Jones (1992), p. 14] By the afternoon of December 20, Vitellius was dead, and his armies defeated by the Flavian legions. With nothing more to be feared from the enemy, Domitian came forward to meet the invading forces; he was universally saluted by the title of "Caesar", and the mass of troops conducted him to his father's house. [Tacitus, "Histories" ] The following day, December 21, the Senate proclaimed Vespasian emperor of the Roman Empire. [Tacitus, "Histories" ]

Although the war had officially ended, a state of anarchy and lawlessness pervaded in the first days following the demise of Vitellius. Order was properly restored by Mucianus in early 70 AD, who headed an interim government with Domitian as the representative of the Flavian family in the Senate. Upon receiving the tidings of his rival's defeat and death at Alexandria, the new Emperor at once forwarded supplies of urgently needed grain to Rome, along with an edict or a declaration of policy, in which he gave assurance of an entire reversal of the laws of Nero, especially those relating to treason. In early 70, Vespasian was still in Egypt however, continuing to consolidate support from the Egyptians before departing. [cite journal|author=Sullivan, Phillip|title=A Note on Flavian Accession|journal=The Classical Journal|year=1953|pages=67–70] By the end 70, he finally returned to Rome, and was properly installed as Emperor.

The Flavian dynasty

Vespasian (69–79)

Little factual information survives about Vespasian's government during the ten years he was Emperor. Vespasian spent his first few years as a ruler in Egypt during which the administration of the empire was given to Mucianus who was aided by Vespasian's son, Domitian. Modern historians believe that Vespasian remained there in order to consolidate support from the Egyptians. [Sullivan, Phillip, "A Note on Flavian Accession", "The Classical Journal", 1953, p. 67-70] During this period, he had to deal with several uprisings in Egypt, in Judea, in Gaul and Germany. In mid-70 AD, Vespasian first came to Rome and immediately embarked on a series of efforts to stay in power and prevent future revolts. He offered gifts to many in the military and much of the public. [Cassius Dio, "Roman History' LXVI.10] Soldiers loyal to Vitellius were dismissed or punished. [Suetonius, "The Lives of Twelve Caesars", Life of Vespasian 8] He also restructured the Senatorial and Equestrian orders, removing his enemies and adding his allies. [Suetonius, "The Lives of Twelve Caesars", Life of Vespasian 9] Regional autonomy of Greek provinces was repealed. [Suetonius, "The Lives of Twelve Caesars", Life of Vespasian 8; Philostratus II, "Life of Apollonius" 5.41] [Josephus, "Against Apion" 9] Vespasian also gave financial rewards to ancient writers. [Suetonius, "The Lives of Twelve Caesars", Life of Vespasian 18] The ancient historians that lived through the period such as Tacitus, Suetonius, Josephus and Pliny the Elder speak suspiciously well of Vespasian while condemning the emperors that came before him. [ "Otho, Vitellius, and the Propaganda of Vespasian", "The Classical Journal" (1965), p. 267-269] Those that spoke against Vespasian were punished. [Cassius Dio, "Roman History" LXVI.12-13]

His reign is best known for financial reforms following the demise of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, such as the institution of the tax on urinals. Vespasian helped rebuild Rome after the civil war and historians report that Vespasian ordered the construction of several buildings in Rome such as the Flavian Amphitheatre, better known as the Colosseum. [Suetonius, "The Lives of Twelve Caesars", Life of Vespasian 9] Additionally, he survived several conspiracies against him. [Suetonius, "The Lives of Twelve Caesars", Life of Vespasian 25] Vespasian died of natural causes on June 23, 79, and was immediately succeeded by his eldest son Titus. [Suetonius, "Life of Vespasian 23.4"]

Titus (79–81)

Despite initial concerns over his character, Titus ruled to great acclaim following the death of Vespasian on June 23, 79 AD, and was considered a good emperor by Suetonius and other contemporary historians. [Suetonius, "The Lives of Twelve Caesars", Life of Titus [http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Suetonius/12Caesars/Titus*.html#1 1] ] In this role he is best known for his public building program in Rome, and completing the construction of the Colosseum in 80, [cite book | first=Leland M. | last=Roth | year=1993 | title=Understanding Architecture: Its Elements, History and Meaning | edition =First | publisher=Westview Press | location=Boulder, CO | id=ISBN 0-06-430158-3 | pages=] but also for his generosity in relieving the suffering caused by two disasters, the Mount Vesuvius eruption of 79, and the fire of Rome of 80. [Cassius Dio, "Roman History" [http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Cassius_Dio/66*.html#22 LXVI.22–24] ]

Practice of the imperial cult was revived by Titus, though apparently it met with some difficulty as Vespasian was not deified until six months after his death. [ Coins bearing the inscription "Divus Vespasianus" were not issued until 80 or 81 by Titus.] To further honor and glorify the Flavian dynasty, foundations were laid for what would later become the Temple of Vespasian and Titus, which was finished by Domitian. [Jones, Brian W. The Emperor Titus. New York: St. Martin's P, 1984. 143.] [Suetonius, "The Lives of Twelve Caesars", Life of Domitian [http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Suetonius/12Caesars/Domitian*.html#5 5] ] After barely two years in office, Titus unexpectedly died of a fever on September 13, 81, and was deified by the Roman Senate.Suetonius, "The Lives of Twelve Caesars", Life of Domitian [http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Suetonius/12Caesars/Domitian*.html#2 2] ]

Domitian (81–96)

Traditional views hold that Domitian was a cruel and paranoid tyrant. Among ancient authors, he ranks among the most reviled rulers in Roman history, earning comparison to such emperors as Caligula and Nero. [Suetonius, Life of Domitian [http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Suetonius/12Caesars/Vespasian*.html#4 4] ] Many of these views however, were propagated by hostile contemporary authors such as Tacitus, Pliny the Younger and Suetonius, a small but highly vocal minority who exaggerated Domitian's harshness, in favour of the highly regarded Five Good Emperors who followed. Modern history has rejected these views, instead characterizing Domitian as a ruthless but efficient autocrat, whose cultural, economic and political programme was a precursor to the peaceful 2nd century, rather than the twilight of the tumultuous 1st century. [Jones (1992), p. 196–198]

Domitian was declared emperor by the Praetorian Guard the day after Titus' death, commencing a reign which lasted more than fifteen years—longer than any man who had governed Rome since Tiberius. Domitian strengthened the economy by revaluating the Roman coinage, [Jones (1992), p. 73-75] expanded the border defenses of the Empire, [Jones (1992), p. 127-144] and initiated a massive building programme to restore the damaged city of Rome. [Jones (1992), p. 79-88] In Britain, Gnaeus Julius Agricola expanded the Roman Empire as far as modern day Scotland, [Jones (1992), p. 131] but in Dacia, Domitian was unable to procure a decisive victory in the war against the Dacians. [Jones (1992), p. 138-142]

On September 18, 96, Domitian was assassinated by court officials, and with him the Flavian dynasty came to an end. The same day, he was succeeded by his friend and advisor Nerva, who founded the long-lasting Nervan-Antonian dynasty. Although Domitian's memory was damned by the Senate, future generations continued to hold Vespasian and Titus in high esteem. [Jones (1992), p. 193]


Natural disasters

Although his administration was marked by a relative absence of major military or political conflicts, Titus faced a number of major disasters during his brief reign. On August 24, 79 AD, barely two months after his accession, Mount Vesuvius erupted, [Cassius Dio, "Roman History" [http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Cassius_Dio/66*.html#22 LXVI.22] ] resulting in the almost complete destruction of life and property in the cities and resort communities around the Bay of Naples. The cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum were buried under metres of stone and lava, [Cassius Dio, "Roman History" [http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Cassius_Dio/66*.html#23 LXVI.23] ] killing thousands of citizens. [ The exact number of casualties is unknown; however, estimates of the population of Pompeii range between 10,000 ( [http://enginova.com/engineering_of_pompeii.htm] ) and 25,000 ( [http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/pompeii.htm] ), with at least a thousand bodies currently recovered in and around the city ruins.] Titus appointed two ex-consuls to organise and coordinate the relief effort, while personally donating large amounts of money from the imperial treasury to aid the victims of the volcano.Suetonius, Life of Titus [http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Suetonius/12Caesars/Titus*.html#8 8] ] Additionally, he visited Pompeii once after the eruption and again the following year.Cassius Dio, "Roman History" [http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Cassius_Dio/66*.html#24 LXVI.24] ] The city was lost for nearly 1700 years before its accidental rediscovery in 1748. Since then, its excavation has provided an extraordinarily detailed insight into the life of a city at the height of the Roman Empire, frozen at the moment it was buried on August 24, 79 AD. The Forum, the baths, many houses, and some out-of-town villas like the Villa of the Mysteries remain surprisingly well preserved. Today, it is one of the most popular tourist attractions of Italy and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. On-going excavations reveal new insights into the Roman history and culture.

During Titus' second visit to the disaster area, a fire struck Rome which lasted for three days. Although the extent of the damage was not as disastrous as during the Great Fire of 64, crucially sparing the many districts of insulae, Cassius Dio records a long list of important public buildings that were destroyed, including Agrippa's Pantheon, the Temple of Jupiter, the Diribitorium, parts of Pompey's Theatre and the Saepta Julia among others. Once again, Titus personally compensated for the damaged regions. According to Suetonius, a plague similarly struck during the fire. The nature of the disease, however, or the death toll are unknown.

Military activity

The most significant military campaign undertaken during the Flavian period, was the siege and destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD by Titus. The destruction of the city was the culmination of the Roman campaign in Judeae following the Jewish uprising of 66. The Second Temple was completely demolished, after which Titus's soldiers proclaimed him "imperator" in honor of the victory. [Josephus, "The Wars of the Jews" ] Jerusalem was sacked and much of the population killed or dispersed. Josephus claims that 1,100,000 people were killed during the siege, of which a majority were Jewish.Josephus, "The Wars of the Jews" ] 97,000 were captured and enslaved, including Simon Bar Giora and John of Gischala. Many fled to areas around the Mediterranean. Titus reportedly refused to accept a wreath of victory, as there is "no merit in vanquishing people forsaken by their own God". [Philostratus, "The Life of Apollonius of Tyana" [http://www.livius.org/ap-ark/apollonius/life/va_6_26.html#%A729 6.29] ] Upon his return to Rome in 71, Titus was awarded a triumph. [Cassius Dio, "Roman History" [http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Cassius_Dio/65*.html#6 LXV.6] ] Accompanied by Vespasian and Domitian, he rode into the city, enthusiastically saluted by the Roman populace and preceded by a lavish parade containing treasures and captives from the war. Josephus describes a procession with large amounts of gold and silver carried along the route, followed by elaborate re-enactments of the war, Jewish prisoners, and finally the treasures taken from the Temple of Jerusalem, including the Menorah and the Pentateuch. [Josephus, "The Wars of the Jews" ] Leaders of the resistance were executed in the Forum, after which the procession closed with religious sacrifices at the Temple of Jupiter. [Josephus, "The Wars of the Jews" ] The triumphal Arch of Titus, which stands at one entrance to the Forum, memorializes the victory of Titus.

The conquest of Britain continued under command of Gnaeus Julius Agricola, who expanded the Roman Empire as far as Caledonia, or modern day Scotland, between 77 and 84 AD. In 82 Agricola crossed an unidentified body of water and defeated peoples unknown to the Romans until then.Tacitus, "Agricola" ] He fortified the coast facing Ireland, and Tacitus recalls that his father-in-law often claimed the island could be conquered with a single legion and a few auxiliaries.Jones (1992), p. 132] He had given refuge to an exiled Irish king whom he hoped he might use as the excuse for conquest. This conquest never happened, but some historians believe that the crossing referred to was in fact a small-scale exploratory or punitive expedition to Ireland. [ cite journal | last = Reed | first = Nicholas | title = The Fifth Year of Agricola's Campaigns | journal = Britannia | volume = 2 | year = 1971 | pages = pp. 143–148 | url = http://www.jstor.org/stable/525804 | accessdate = | doi = ] The following year Agricola raised a fleet and pushed beyond the Forth into Caledonia. To aid the advance, an expansive legionary fortress was constructed at Inchtuthil. In the summer of 84, Agricola faced the armies of the Caledonians, led by Calgacus, at the Battle of Mons Graupius.Tacitus, "Agricola" ] Although the Romans inflicted heavy losses on the Calidonians, two thirds of their army managed to escape and hide in the Scottish marshes and Highlands, ultimately preventing Agricola from bringing the entire British island under his control.

The military campaigns undertaken during Domitian's reign were usually defensive in nature, as the Emperor rejected the idea of expansionist warfare.Jones (1992), p. 127] His most significant military contribution was the development of the Limes Germanicus, which encompassed a vast network of roads, forts and watchtowers constructed along the Rhine river to defend the Empire.Jones (1992), p. 131] Nevertheless, several important wars were fought in Gaul, against the Chatti, and across the Danube frontier against the Suebi, the Sarmatians, and the Dacians. Led by King Decebalus, the Dacians invaded the province of Moesia around 84 or 85, wreaking considerable havoc and killing the Moesian governor Oppius Sabinus.Jones (1992), p. 138] Domitian immediately launched a counteroffensive, which resulted in the destruction of a legion during an ill-fated expedition into Dacia. Their commander Cornelius Fuscus was killed, and the battle standard of the Praetorian Guard lost.Jones (1992), p. 141] In 87 AD, the Romans invaded Dacia once more, this time under command of Tettius Julianus, and finally managed to defeat Decebalus late in 88, at the same site where Fuscus had previously perished.Jones (1992), p. 142] An attack on Dacia's capital canceled however when a crisis arose on the German frontier, forcing Domitian to sign a peace treaty with Decebalus which was severely criticized by contemporary authors. [Cassius Dio, "Roman History" [http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Cassius_Dio/67*.html#7.2 LXVII.7] ] For the remainder of Domitian's reign Dacia remained a relatively peaceful client kingdom, but Decebalus used the Roman money to fortify his defenses, and continued to defy Rome. It was not until the reign of Trajan, in 106, that a decisive victory against Decebalus was procured. Again, the Roman army sustained heavy losses, but Trajan succeeded in capturing Sarmizegetusa and, importantly, annexed the gold and silver mines of Dacia. [Cassius Dio, "Roman History" [http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Cassius_Dio/68*.html#14.2 LXVIII.14] ]

Economic reforms

One of Vespasian's first acts as Emperor was to enforce a tax reform to restore the Empire's depleted treasury. After Vespasian arrived in Rome in mid-70, Mucianus continued to press Vespasian to collect as many taxes as possible, [Cassius Dio, "Roman History", LXVI.2] renewing old ones and instituted new ones. Mucianus and Vespasian increased the tribute of the provinces, and kept a watchful eye upon the treasury officials. The Latin proverb "Pecunia non olet" ("Money does not smell") may have been created when he had introduced a urine tax on public toilets.

Upon his accession, Domitian revalued the Roman coinage to the standard of Augustus, increasing the silver content of the denarius by 12%. An imminent crisis in 85 however forced a devaluation to the Neronian standard of 65,Jones (1992), p. 75] but this was still higher than the level which Vespasian and Titus had maintained during their reign, and Domitian's rigorous taxation policy ensured that this standard was sustainted for the following eleven years. Coin types from this era display a highly consistent degree of quality, including meticulous attention to Domitian's titulature, and exceptionally refined artwork on the reverse portraits.

Jones estimates Domitian's annual income at more than 1,200 million sestertii, of which over one third would presumably have been spent at maintaining the Roman army.Jone (1992), p. 73] The other major area of expenditure encompassed the vast reconstruction programme carried out on the city of Rome itself.

Flavian culture


The Flavian dynasty is perhaps best known for its vast construction programme on the city of Rome, intended to restore the capital from the damage it had suffered during the Great Fire of 64 AD, and the civil war of 69 AD. Vespasian added the temple of Peace and the temple to the Deified Claudius. [cite book|author=Suetonius|title=The Lives of Twelve Caesars|chapter=Life of Vespasian 9|isbn=185326475X|year=1997|publisher=Wordsworth Editions Ltd.|location=Ware, Herfordshire|oclc=40184695|ISBN status=May be invalid - please double check] In 75 a colossal statue of Apollo, begun under Nero as a statue of himself, was finished on Vespasian's orders, and he also dedicated a stage of the theater of Marcellus. Construction of the Flavian Amphitheatre, presently better known as the Colosseum (probably after the nearby statue), was begun in 70 under Vespasian and finally completed in 80 under Titus. [cite book | first=Leland M. | last=Roth | year=1993 | title=Understanding Architecture: Its Elements, History and Meaning | edition =First | publisher=Westview Press | location=Boulder, CO | isbn=0-06-430158-3 | pages= | oclc=185448116 25632150 | ISBN status=May be invalid - please double check] In addition to providing spectacular entertainments to the Roman populace, the building was also conceived as a gigantic triumphal monument to commemorate the military achievements of the Flavians during the Jewish wars. [cite book | first=Amanda | last=Claridge | year=1998 | title=Rome: An Oxford Archaeological Guide | edition =First | publisher=Oxford University Press, 1998 | location=Oxford, UK | isbn=0-19-288003-9 | pages=pp. 276–282] Adjacent to the amphitheatre, within the precinct of Nero's Golden House, Titus also ordered the construction of a new public bath-house, which was to bear his name. Construction of this building was hastily finished to coincide with the completion of the Flavian Amphitheatre.Suetonius, "The Lives of Twelve Caesars", Life of Titus [http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Suetonius/12Caesars/Titus*.html#7 7] ]

The bulk of the Flavian construction projects was carried out during the reign of Domitian, who spent lavishly to restore and embellish the city of Rome. Much more than a renovation project however, Domitian's building programme was intended to be the crowning achievement of an Empire wide cultural renaissance. Around fifty structures were erected, restored or completed, a number second only to the amount erected under Augustus.Jones (1992), p. 79] Among the most important new structures were an Odeum, a Stadium, and an expansive palace on the Palatine Hill, known as the Flavian Palace, which was designed by Domitian's master architect Rabirius. [Jones (1992), p. 84–88] The most important building Domitian restored was the Temple of Jupiter on the Capitoline Hill, which was said to have been covered with a gilded roof. Among those he completed were the Temple of Vespasian and Titus, the Arch of Titus, and the Colosseum, to which he added a fourth level and finished the interior seating area.Jones (1992), p. 93]


Both Titus and Domitian were fond of gladiatorial games, and realised its importance to appease the citizens of Rome. In the newly constructed Colosseum, the Flavians provided for spectacular entertainments. The Inaugural games of the Flavian Amphitheatre lasted for a hundred days and were said to be extremely elaborate, including gladiatorial combat, fights between wild animals (elephants and cranes), mock naval battles for which the theatre was flooded, horse races and chariot races.Cassius Dio, "Roman History" [http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Cassius_Dio/66*.html#25 LXVI.25] ] During the games, wooden balls were dropped into the audience, inscribed with various prizes (clothing, gold, or even slaves), which could then be traded for the designated item.

An estimated 135 million sestertii was spent on donatives, or "congiaria", throughout Domitian's reign.Jones (1992), p. 74] In addition, he also revived the practice of public banquets, which had been reduced to a simple distribution of food under Nero, while he invested large sums on entertainment and games. In 86 AD, he founded the Capitoline Games, a quadrennial contest comprising athletic displays, chariot races, and competitions for oratory, music and acting.Jones (1992), p. 103] Domitian himself supported the travels of competitors from the whole Empire and attributed the prizes. Innovations were also introduced into the regular gladiatorial games, such as naval contests, night-time battles, and female and dwarf gladiator fights.Jones (1992), p. 105] Finally, he added two new factions, Gold and Purple, to chariot races, besides the regular White, Red, Green and Blue teams.


Although contemporary historians vilified Domitian after his death, his administration provided the foundation for the peaceful empire of the 2nd century AD, and the culmination of the 'Pax Romana'. His successors Nerva and Trajan were less restrictive, but in reality their policies differed little from Domitian's. Much more than a gloomy coda to the 1st century, the Roman Empire prospered between 81 and 96 AD, in a reign which Theodor Mommsen described as the sombre but intelligent despotism of Domitian. [Syme (1930), p. 67]



* cite book | last = Grainger | first = John D. | title = Nerva and the Roman Succession Crisis of AD 96–99 | location = London | publisher = Routledge | year = 2003 | isbn = 0-415-28917-3 | oclc = 49892189 50301166 52012210 52893679 56653951 83347740 | ISBN status = May be invalid - please double check
* cite book | last = Jones | first = Brian W. | title = The Emperor Domitian | publisher = Routledge | year = 1992 | location = London | isbn = 0-415-10195-6 | oclc = 185763949 29222670 59968911 | ISBN status = May be invalid - please double check
* cite book | first = Brian W. |last=Jones |coauthors= Milns, Robert |title=Suetonius: The Flavian Emperors: A Historical Commentary |year=2002 |publisher=Bristol Classical Press |location=London |isbn=1-85399-613-0 | oclc = 174886356 50296298 | ISBN status = May be invalid - please double check
* cite journal | last = Murison | first = Charles Leslie | title = M. Cocceius Nerva and the Flavians | format = subscription required | journal = Transactions of the American Philological Association | volume = 133 | issue = 1 | pages = pp. 147–157 | year = 2003 | location = University of Western Ontario | url = http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/transactions_of_the_american_philological_association/v133/133.1murison.html | doi = 10.1353/apa.2003.0008
* cite journal | last = Syme | first = Ronald | authorlink = Ronald Syme | title = The Imperial Finances under Domitian, Nerva and Trajan | journal = The Journal of Roman Studies | volume = 20 | year = 1930 | pages = pp. 55–70 | url = | accessdate = | doi = 10.2307/297385

Further reading

* cite book | last = Jones | first = Brian W. | title = The Emperor Titus | publisher = Palgrave Macmillan | year = 1984 | location = London | isbn = 0-312-24443-6 | oclc = 10751729 185732207 239942724 59844585 | ISBN status = May be invalid - please double check
* cite book | last = Levick | first = Barbara | title = Vespasian (Roman Imperial Biographies | publisher = Routledge | year = 1999 | location = London | isbn = 0-415-16618-7 | oclc = 150837316 40489149 | ISBN status = May be invalid - please double check
*cite book |last= Wellesley |first= Kenneth |title= The Year of the Four Emperors |origyear= 1975 |format= Paperback |series= Roman Imperial Biographies |year= 2000 |publisher= Routledge |location= London |pages= 272 |isbn= 978-0-415-23620-1

External links

Primary sources

* Cassius Dio, " [http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Cassius_Dio/home.html Roman History] "
** [http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Cassius_Dio/64*.html Book 64] , English translation
** [http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Cassius_Dio/65*.html Book 65] , English translation
** [http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Cassius_Dio/66*.html Book 66] , English translation
** [http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Cassius_Dio/67*.html Book 67] , English translation

* Josephus, , English translation

* Suetonius, "On the Life of the Caesars"
** [http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Suetonius/12Caesars/Vespasian*.html Life of Vespasian] , Latin text with English translation
** [http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Suetonius/12Caesars/Titus*.html Life of Titus] , Latin text with English translation
** [http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Suetonius/12Caesars/Domitian*.html Life of Domitian] , Latin text with English translation

* Tacitus
**, English translation
**, English translation

Secondary material

*cite web |url=http://www.roman-emperors.org/vespasia.htm |title=Titus Flavius Vespasianus (A.D. 69-79) |accessdate=2008-06-30 |author= |last=Donahue |first=John |date=2004-09-23 |work=De Imperatoribus Romanis: An Online Encyclopedia of Roman Rulers and their Families
*cite web |url=http://www.roman-emperors.org/titus.htm |title=Titus Flavius Vespasianus (A.D. 79-81) |accessdate=2008-06-30 |author= |last=Donahue |first=John |date=2004-10-23 |work=De Imperatoribus Romanis: An Online Encyclopedia of Roman Rulers and their Families
*cite web |url=http://www.roman-emperors.org/domitian.htm |title=Titus Flavius Domitianus (A.D. 81-96) |accessdate=2007-02-10 |author= |last=Donahue |first=John |date=1997-10-10 |work=De Imperatoribus Romanis: An Online Encyclopedia of Roman Rulers and their Families

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