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Emperors of the Flavian Dynasty

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 year as a ruler in Egypt, during which the administration of the empire was given to Mucianus, aided by Vespasian’s son Domitian. Modern historians believe that Vespasian remained there in order to consolidate support from the Egyptians.[33] In mid-70, Vespasian first came to Rome and immediately embarked on a widespread propaganda campaign to consolidate his power and promote the new dynasty. 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, and the numerous military campaigns fought during the 70s. The most significant of these was the First Jewish-Roman War, which ended in the destruction of the city of Jerusalem by Titus. In addition, Vespasian faced several uprisings in Egypt, Gaul and Germania, and reportedly survived several conspiracies against him.[34] Vespasian helped rebuild Rome after the civil war, adding a temple to peace and beginning construction of the Flavian Amphitheatre, better known as the Colosseum.[35] Vespasian died of natural causes on June 23, 79, and was immediately succeeded by his eldest son Titus.[36] The ancient historians that lived through the period such as Tacitus, Suetonius, Josephus and Pliny the Elder speak well of Vespasian while condemning the emperors that came before him.[37]

Titus (79–81)

Main article: Titus

Despite initial concerns over his character, Titus ruled to great acclaim following the death of Vespasian on June 23, 79 and was considered a good emperor by Suetonius and other contemporary historians.[38] In this role he is best known for his public building program in Rome, and completing the construction of the Colosseum in 80,[39] 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.[40] Titus continued his father’s efforts to promote the Flavian dynasty. He revived practice of the imperial cult, deified his father, and laid foundations for what would later become the Temple of Vespasian and Titus, which was finished by Domitian.[41][42] After barely two years in office, Titus unexpectedly died of a fever on September 13, 81, and was deified by the Roman Senate.[43]

Domitian (81–96)

Main article: Domitian

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 revaluing the Roman coinage,[44] expanded the border defenses of the Empire,[45] and initiated a massive building programme to restore the damaged city of Rome.[46] In Britain, Gnaeus Julius Agricola expanded the Roman Empire as far as modern day Scotland,[47] but in Dacia, Domitian was unable to procure a decisive victory in the war against the Dacians.[48] 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. Domitian’s memory was condemned to oblivion by the Roman Senate, with which he had a notoriously difficult relationship throughout his reign. Senatorial authors such as Tacitus, Pliny the Younger and Suetonius published histories after his death, propagating the view of Domitian as a cruel and paranoid tyrant. Modern history has rejected these views, instead characterising Domitian as a ruthless but efficient autocrat, whose cultural, economic and political programme provided the foundation for the Principate of the peaceful 2nd century. His successors Nerva and Trajan were less restrictive, but in reality their policies differed little from Domitian’s.[49]

Administration

Government

Since the fall of the Republic, the authority of the Roman Senate had largely eroded under the quasi-monarchical system of government established by Augustus, known as the Principate. The Principate allowed the existence of a de facto dictatorial regime, while maintaining the formal framework of the Roman Republic.[50] Most Emperors upheld the public facade of democracy, and in return the Senate implicitly acknowledged the Emperor’s status as a de facto monarch.[51] The civil war of 69 had made it abundantly clear that real power in the Empire lay with control over the army. By the time Vespasian was proclaimed emperor in Rome, any hope of restoring the Republic had long dissipated.

The Flavian approach to government was one of both implicit and explicit exclusion. When Vespasian returned to Rome in mid-70, he immediately embarked on a series of efforts to consolidate his power and prevent future revolts. He offered gifts to the military and dismissed or punished those soldiers loyal to Vitellius.[52] He also restructured the Senatorial and Equestrian orders, removing his enemies and adding his allies. Executive control was largely distributed among members of his family. Non-Flavians were virtually excluded from important public offices, even those who had been among Vespasian’s earliest supporters during the civil war. Mucianus slowly disappears from the historical records during this time, and it is believed he died sometime between 75 and 77.[53] That it was Vespasian’s intention to found a long-lasting dynasty to govern the Roman Empire was most evident in the powers he conferred upon his eldest son Titus. Titus shared tribunician power with his father, received seven consulships, the censorship, and perhaps most remarkably, was given command of the Praetorian Guard.[54] Because Titus effectively acted as co-emperor with his father, no abrupt change in Flavian policy occurred during his brief reign from 79 until 81.[55]

Domitian’s approach to government was less subtle than his father and brother. Once Emperor, he quickly dispensed with the Republican facade[56] and transformed his government more or less formally into the divine monarchy he believed it to be. By moving the centre of power to the imperial court, Domitian openly rendered the Senate’s powers obsolete. He became personally involved in all branches of the administration: edicts were issued governing the smallest details of everyday life and law, while taxation and public morals were rigidly enforced.[57] Nevertheless, Domitian did make concessions toward senatorial opinion. Whereas his father and brother had virtually excluded non-Flavians from public office, Domitian rarely favoured his own family members in the distribution of strategic posts, admitting a surprisingly large number of provincials and potential opponents to the consulship,[58] and assigning men of the equestrian order to run the imperial bureaucracy.[59]

Financial 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,[60] 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 proverbPecunia 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,[61] 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 sustained for the following eleven years.[61] 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.[61]

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.[62] The other major area of expenditure encompassed the vast reconstruction programme carried out on the city of Rome itself.


Source: Wikipedia
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