A look into the triumphs and tragedies of the Roman Empire's first twelve emperors
The Twelve Caesars (121 CE) is one of the most vivid biographical works ever written and is considered to be one of the greatest works of literature ever created. It recounts the lives of the individuals who held ultimate authority in Rome following the city's transition from a republic into an empire in 27 BCE, and is at times opinionated, spectacular, and dramatic. Suetonius was intimately acquainted with court life, having served as a private secretary to one of those emperors, Hadrian, at one point in his career. As a result of his research, he is able to provide insight into the high points and low points of the empire's early years, and to illuminate both its allegedly supernatural emperors' virtues and their all-too-human shortcomings in the book The Twelve Caesars.
Who is it that reads the book The Twelve Caesars?
- History enthusiasts and classicists
- Drama and intrigue fans will like this book.
Who exactly is Suetonius?
Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus was born in 69 CE into a rich Roman family. He was the son of a wealthy Roman family. In addition to biographies of prominent people of his day, he published studies on a wide range of subjects, including the role played by courtesans in political life, poetry, and Roman culture. He was also a prolific researcher and thinker. The imperial court was also served by Suetonius throughout the reigns of emperors Trajan and Hadrian, among other times. Suetonius' best-known book, The Twelve Caesars, was written in 122 CE, making it his most recent work.
What exactly is in it for me? Rome's rulers were fascinating people, and this book tells their tale.
The Roman Empire, which stretched from the north of England to the Sahara desert, from Portugal to the Middle East, was one of the most powerful empires in history, stretching over a vast area. And at the center of this vast empire reigned a single man who had complete control over everything: the emperor. Rome's rulers might be nice or terrible, compassionate or cruel, rational or deranged; they could even be insane. In these notes, we'll take a look at the emperors of Rome, first and foremost, as seen through the eyes of Suetonius, the Roman historian. We'll look at their successes and tragedies, their follies and vices, and everything in between. It's a fascinating tale. So let's get this party started. Among the topics covered in these notes are how Caesar came to have complete authority, why so many emperors died prematurely, and how the notion that Nero fiddled while Rome burnt came about.
Julius Caesar was a harsh and ambitious leader.
This scene takes place around 85 BCE, when a young kid of 15 years old is mourning the loss of his father. As a result of the death of the family patriarch, the youngster has taken over as the leader of his home. Julius Caesar was his given name. Coming of age is a difficult period in the world. Rome is engulfed in a civil war between plebeian populists and a conservative aristocracy that has lasted for decades. The aristocracy was victorious after a bloody battle. Sulla, a conservative commander, was appointed as the first dictator of the country. Caesar, the nephew of one of the populists' most renowned leaders, Gaius Marius, became a potential target as a result. He had been deprived of his inheritance and was forced to go into hiding as a result. Sulla ultimately pardons him, but he does so with a tinge of dread in his voice as he delivers his proclamation. Caesar, he claims, had all of the characteristics of a man who would one day bring the Republic to its knees. He is not entirely incorrect.
Caesar does not wait to see if Sulla changes his mind about the pardon, and he does not have to.He left Rome in order to serve in the army of the Republic. However, by 78 BCE, the dictator had died and Caesar had returned to power. The young guy, like his uncle, is a fiery populist who also happens to be a great public speaker. These years saw him establish himself as a vigilante against elite corruption as well as an advocate for the ordinary people whose rights he fought for in Rome's courts and tribunals. Caesar is a brutal opponent, as anybody who crosses him quickly discovers.
When he is abducted by pirates while crossing the Aegean Sea, he makes it clear that he means business. His kidnappers want 20 talents of silver in exchange for his release. Caesar is outraged by this number, which he considers to be much too low. He insists on increasing it to 50 talents, which is more than 3,000 pounds of silver. They do so, and the ransom is paid to the pirates. However, this is not the conclusion of the tale. After being captured, Caesar promises his captors that he will track down and kill every single one of them as soon as he is released. They believe he is kidding, but he is really serious. Returning to the Aegean, he built a fleet of ships. Caesar followed through on his pledge after successfully tracking down the pirates. He has them assassinated and their corpses nailed on a cross.
By 69 BCE, Julius Caesar's political career was already well underway. That is the year in which he was appointed to manage the finances of the city of Rome. He, on the other hand, was getting agitated. During the same period of time, Alexander the Great had conquered the whole globe. What, on the other hand, has he accomplished? There have been a few victories here and there, but nothing really historic. That's going to change, however.
Julius Caesar was a military genius who was also a great orator.
In the face of Caesar's increasing authority, conservatives and aristocrats are starting to express concern about his future. It's not difficult to understand why. Here's a young guy with a lot of potential who comes from a very radical background and has military experience to boot. Furthermore, he has the ear of the working and middle-classes. Then there's his penchant for putting on gladiatorial shows, which many believe was a ploy to amass a private army in the capital of the Roman Republic. The idea of using those warriors to assault the Senate and establishing Caesar as supreme leader has even been floated in certain quarters. Fearful senators moved quickly to pass a rule restricting the number of gladiators that each individual could retain in the city of Rome. Caesar has gotten the better of them. Caesar, on the other hand, did not need his own personal army. He has his sights set on the army of the Republic.
In 60 BCE, Julius Caesar ran for the post of consul, the highest political position in the city-state of Rome. Conservatives are putting all they have into stopping him from winning. Even Cato, a senator renowned for his integrity, supported buying votes in order to prevent Caesar from becoming president. None of it matters since Caesar was victorious in the election. As part of his first year as consul, Caesar installed himself as governor of various Roman provinces, including Cisalpine Gaul in northeastern Italy and Illyricum, which is now in modern-day Serbia and Montenegro. This places him in direct charge of four legions, totaling about 14,000 soldiers. He has a strong feeling that greatness is close at hand.
Caesar has exceptional military leadership abilities. Men under his leadership are not referred to as troops, but rather as "comrades." As a result of their losses in battle, Caesar refused to trim his hair or shave his beard until the dead had been brought back to justice. This kind of leadership generates loyalty – as well as courage – in its followers. An ally of Caesar's captures the stern of an enemy vessel during one of the battles on the sea. A blade slashes through his hand, severing it. Unafraid, he boards the ship and, armed only with his shield, pushes the attackers off the deck. When Caesar returned to Rome with his troops in 49 BCE, he had subjugated the Germanic tribes who had invaded the northern borders of the Republic. Following that, a civil war erupts, with Caesar on the winning side this time. He takes the role of dictator and wields complete and total authority.
He barely holds power for five years, but he uses that time to fundamentally change the course of history.His reign hastened the fall of the Roman Republic and the rise of the Roman Empire in its place. From this point on, individuals who can claim to be derived from Caesar will reign over the city of Rome.
Octavian is a cunning strategist.
Caesar is certain about his own significance to the city of Rome: "If anything happens to me, a new civil war will erupt," he declares. It is in 44 BCE that his prophesy comes true, when a gang of senators stab him twenty-three times in the chest. Rome is in the midst of a crisis. Caesar's plebeian followers are determined to revenge their hero, who they believe was murdered by cowardly aristocracy. The assassins see themselves as heroes in their own right. These individuals stopped the dictator Caesar from overthrowing the Republic and establishing himself as its ruler. The question now is who will govern Rome next – another dictator or a would-be emperor in the pattern of Caesar? Following Caesar's death, there were three potential successors to the throne.
Brutus and Cassius, the senators who plotted Caesar's assassination, represent a return to antiquity's Republic and the restoration of the Roman way of life.The commander, Mark Antony, a friend of Caesar's, was in favor of yet another military dictatorship. Then there's Octavian, Caesar's 18-year-old adoptive son, who comes into the picture. What exactly does he believe in? It's difficult to tell, but it's obvious that he has a strategy. Antony used public anger to force Brutus and Cassius into exile in Greece, where they remain. They continue to be a danger, though, since one never knows when they may be summoned back to Rome at the head of a military expedition. In order to put an end to this threat, Octavian and Antony banded together. Each man leads an army into Greece, and in the Battle of Philippi in 42 BCE, Brutus and Cassius's forces are destroyed by the Romans.
After assassinating Brutus, Octavian transports his head to Rome, where it is placed at the foot of Caesar's monument. On the battlefield, he was every bit as unyielding as his adoptive father was at home. In one instance, when inmates awaiting execution inquire about the possibility of receiving an honorable burial, he responds by suggesting that they take the issue up with "the carrion birds." But the peace that had been established between Octavian and Antony came crashing down when Antony and Cleopatra, the rulers of Egypt, became lovers.
Octavian was successful in persuading the Senate that this was a precursor to an assault on the city of Rome. How? Cleopatra and Caesar, on the other hand, were also lovers. Caesarion, Cleopatra and Caesar's son, was born as a result of their relationship, and Cleopatra declared him to be Caesar's legitimate successor.From the perspective of Rome, it seems like Antony was attempting to use this claim as a bargaining chip. Antony's troops were defeated by Octavian's army in 31 BCE, with the approval of the Senate. Antony and Cleopatra both commit suicide, and Caesarion is assassinated. After all, there can only be one Caesar's son in the world. After years of civil conflict, the city of Rome has regained its tranquility. It is Octavian who serves as the lynchpin of this colony. In 17 BCE, after a little more than a decade of dictatorship, he took the name Augustus and ascended to the position of emperor of the city of Rome.
Augustus was a modest and thrifty individual.
Following the assassination of Julius Caesar, Augustus declares himself Imperator Caesar Divi Filius – Commander Caesar, Son of the Divine – and assumes the title of Emperor Caesar Divi Filius.Augustus seems to be receiving favorable treatment from the gods. The wealth he took back from Cleopatra's treasury in Egypt contributed to the finalization of his peace agreement. Following the conclusion of the Civil Wars, trade thrived. Once again, Rome's prosperity increases, and the empire starts to spread once again. This marks the beginning of the Pax Romana – the 200-year-long period of Roman peace and tranquillity. What is Augustus' personality like? The son of the god Caesar would be expected to be a tyrant, or at the very least to be a man filled with imperial arrogance, yet Suetonius paints a completely different image of him.
Augustus' residence was on the Palatine Hill, one of Rome's seven hills that has historically served as a residence for the city's elite. Although it is an appropriately magnificent setting for an emperor, his residence and way of life stand out in comparison to those of his neighbors. Rather than marble, he has chosen to have his home built out of simple brick. It does not have the ornate tiled flooring that the rich like, and the furniture is as basic and utilitarian as that seen in the homes of regular people.
Augustus's spending habits were also thrifty. He does not dress in the ostentatious imperial garb that is traditionally worn by emperors, instead opting for the handwoven clothes that his wife and daughters create for him. Buffets are also not his favorite kind of cuisine; instead, he prefers the food of ordinary people: coarse bread, freshly squeezed cheese, green figs, and fresh fish from the surrounding Mediterranean. When it comes to alcohol, he never drinks more than three glasses of wine in one sitting.Augustus, according to Suetonius, was a beautiful and elegant man, even in old age, yet he seemed to be unconcerned with his physical appearance. To the point, grooming irritates him because it interferes with more important matters.He orders three barbers to trim his hair or shave his beard at the same time in order to have these unpleasant chores completed as fast as possible. Augustus is reading his letter as they are working.
The emperor's most distinguishing trait, on the other hand, is his calm face. After being given an audience with Augustus during a military campaign in the Alps, a Gallic leader reportedly confessed that he had intended to hurl the emperor over a cliff after being granted an audience with him. According to the chief, "I would have followed my plan if it hadn't been for the sight of that serene face softening my heart."
Caligula was the son of a Roman deity.
Gaius Caesar replaced Tiberius as emperor in the year 37 CE. The Romans aren't very familiar with Gaius, or Caligula, as he is more well known - his nickname, "Little Boot," translates as "Little Boot" in Latin. They were, however, familiar with — and fond of – his father, Germanicus. Germanicus was the embodiment of the ideal of the perfect Roman man throughout his life. He was a brilliant orator in both Latin and Greek, and he was able to cite, at a whim, the literary masterpieces of both languages without hesitation. Besides his ability to handle a sword, he was also well-known for his bravery and proficiency in hand-to-hand fighting. He was a model citizen away from the battlefield, as elegant as he was kind-hearted in his interactions with others.
Augustus had contemplated appointing Germanicus as his successor, but in the end, he selected Tiberius as his successor. By the time Germanicus died, in 37 CE, he had already passed away himself. Caligula was the only one left. "Little Boot" was expected to step into some huge shoes. Caligula was successful in gaining the Roman people's affection for his father.Rome's citizens gather in the streets to get a sight of him as he follows the burial procession of Tiberius. Onlookers cry out to him, using words of affection such as "star," "baby," "pet," and "chick," among other things.
Caligula became the third Caesar of the Roman Empire when the Senate overwhelmingly gave him unlimited authority, establishing him as the third Caesar of the Roman Empire. During the first few months of his reign, he established himself as a popular and competent king, and his popularity grew from there. During his reign, he allowed exiles to return to Rome, reconciling families that had been torn apart by politics, and he pardoned convicts who had been accused of crimes under Tiberius. In exchange for the elimination of despised taxes, enormous gladiatorial and racing spectacles are organized for the pleasure of the general public. Something, though, is not quite right. Prior to his death, Tiberius sought advice from an astrologer named Thrasyllus on who should replace him as emperor. Caligula was informed by Thrasyllus that he had no more chance of becoming emperor than he had of crossing the Gulf of Naples on his own two feet.
Caligula was haunted by this prophesy. Then he collects every commercial ship he can get his hands on and anchors them in a line that stretches three miles from Baiae to Puteoli, two locations on opposite sides of the Gulf of Guinea. The ships have been boarded up and dirt has been piled on top of them, forming an artificial "way" across the sea to facilitate shipping. Caligula stubbornly marched up and down this bizarre construct for two days, completely oblivious to everything around him. It portends the beginning of something big.
Caligula's demise represents the overthrow of a monster.
As a result of this division, Suetonius divides Caligula's reign into two periods: the era during which he governed as an emperor, and the period during which he ruled as a "monster." In the end, it is in this second garb that he leaves his stamp on historical events. Caligula considered himself to be a god in his own imagination. He believed that the Romans should recognize this, so he constructed a temple dedicated to his own divinity. In the middle of the structure is a life-sized gilded statue of the monarch. A circle of sculptures of the other gods is erected around it, their heads removed and replaced with likenesses of their own.Priests, on the other hand, offer sacrifices to him in the form of flamingos, peacocks, pheasants, and hens. Caligula's pride is not his sole fault, though; it is his brutality that distinguishes him as a genuine monster. He only seldom uses his authority without also abusing it.
Consider the characters of Gaius Piso and Livia Orestilla. Given Piso's position as a senator, it's only natural that he would request the emperor's blessing for his wedding.However, at the celebration feast, Caligula expresses displeasure with something Piso says. He then instructs his men to transport Orestilla back to his own residence, which they quickly do. He releases her after a few days, but after discovering that she still plans to marry Piso, he excommunicates her from the city of Rome. Following learning that she was the granddaughter of a renowned beauty, the emperor ordered the execution of Lollia Paulina, the wife of a consular army captain named Gaius Memmius. Caligula, on the other hand, had already grown tired of her. Rather than expelling Paulina, he banned her from ever having sexual relations with a man again.
Even Caesonia, the lady whom he seems to have a real affection for, is subjected to severe abuse. He humiliates her in front of his friends and tells her that he will not marry her until she has given him a kid of her own. The announcement of the birth and marriage were made simultaneously by Caligula at the time of the birth. In the course of time, Caligula's thirst for brutality increased. For the time being, it is sufficient to humiliate members of the Senate, for example, by ordering officials to run for kilometers behind his chariot or threatening to have his horse appointed consul general. In the following days, he invites those who have insulted him to come before him in his chambers — having already covertly ordered their assassination in advance. As a result of their failure to arrive, he made the casual observation that they must have committed suicide. Other times, apparently on a whim, he shuts down the granaries, causing the citizens of Rome to go hungry.
This kind of despotism is intolerable. Disgruntled troops working in collaboration with Caligula's political opponents in the Senate murdered the 28-year-old emperor in 41 CE. Quote "Caligula's brutality could be seen in everything he said and did, even during his hours of leisure, pleasure, and banqueting," the author writes.
Claudius: a ruler who seems improbable and apprehensive.
Caligula has been assassinated! The news of his murder reached the imperial palace on Palatine Hill as soon as it was received. When Claudius, Caligula's 51-year-old uncle, learns the news, he assumes that he will be the next victim. Indeed, palace coups often result in the deaths of both the emperor and his closest male relatives, which makes sense. Claudius hides behind a curtain when he hears footsteps outside the palace, indicating that his time is running short. His feet were discovered by a soldier. It seems as if the curtain has been pulled back. Claudius goes on his knees, expecting to be struck by a sword, and begs for forgiveness from the audience. The hammer never hits the target. Instead, the soldier expresses his admiration for Rome's new ruler.
So far, Claudius's life hasn't been especially joyful, which is understandable. True, he has received many accolades - after all, he is a direct descendant of Julius Caesar himself. He has, on the other hand, never been in excellent health. He has epileptic convulsions and walks with a strange limp, which is unusual for him. When he talks, he stutters and drools, which indicates that he is excited. Throughout his life, he has been subjected to unrelenting ridicule. Caligula, in particular, took pleasure in humiliating him. It seems that Claudius narrowly avoided death during Caligula's reign because the emperor took pleasure in humiliating him and making him look bad. When Claudius becomes emperor, the sneering comes to an end. His overall health has also improved significantly.He, on the other hand, is paralyzed by dread. This, too, is understandable.
Claudius never sheds his image as a man who is exceptionally weak, and this gives his adversaries reason to be fearful of him. A dozen plots were launched against him throughout his thirteen years in power. The plotters are typically close at hand when you need them. One intrigue is planned by his own slaves; another is formed by his wife, Messalina; and a third is hatched by the highest-ranking senators in the city of Rome. Claudius' mental health deteriorates in each instance, despite the fact that his adversaries are apprehended and executed. He gets more erratic, questioning why the individuals he has killed aren't at the dining table with him. Not a nasty jest of the kind that Caligula enjoyed creating, but genuine befuddlement on the part of the audience. His rule, on the other hand, is not without its achievements. For example, it was Claudius who finished the conquest of Britain that had started many years previously under the leadership of Julius Caesar.
Claudius' good fortune comes to an end in 54 CE, when he, along with the entire Senate, is assassinated.Suetonius names a few possible suspects, including his fourth wife, Agrippina, who is accused of putting poison into his favorite mushroom dish while he was sleeping.
Nero is a vain and imperfect person.
When Claudius marries Agrippina, he adopts her son, Nero, who grows up under his care. That puts Nero as the next in line of succession, which is one of the reasons many believe Agrippina was responsible for poisoning Claudius' meal. He was 16 years old when he was crowned Emperor on the steps of the royal palace.He seems to have the makings of a successful ruler. As an homage to Augustus, he places a strong emphasis on kindness and leniency on his part. He lowers the taxes that fall heaviest on the backs of ordinary people and spends his own money to expand Rome's city walls and build a new canal system.When he is asked to sign the execution orders, he sighs and says that he wishes he had never learned to write, since it would have saved his life. Unfortunately, it's all a stage production.
When the young emperor's thoughts stray, he does not daydream about the grandeur of Rome, but rather about his own celebrity. Above all, he aspires to be acknowledged as a really great artist. He practices the lyre, a stringed instrument that looks like a tiny harp that he holds in his hands, and he works on improving his singing voice. In order to do this, he spends days laying on his back with a large lead weight strapped across his chest. In addition, he uses enemas to maintain a healthy weight and avoids eating apples, which are believed to be harmful to the voice chords. The results of his attempts are insufficient, according to Suetonius, who characterizes his voice as "feeble and gruff."
Nero, on the other hand, is happy with his development. After quoting a Greek adage that states that unheard songs are never pleasant, he started arranging concerts for the higher classes of Rome. Nero's performances have been known to run for more than 10 hours, and visitors are not permitted to leave the premises during that time. The only way out is to fall down dead, or at least appear to be dead, and be taken out on a stretcher — a deception that more than a few participants were able to pull off successfully.
Nero was fascinated by a variety of arts, including music, but he also had a desire to rebuild Rome's architectural fabric. In the year 65 CE, a catastrophic fire engulfed the city, completely destroying its historic core. Many Romans think that Nero set the fire in order to fulfill his goal of transforming the capital into something more like himself. Is it possible that Nero was the one who started the fire? Suetonius believes he did, and it is in these passages that we may trace the origins of the notion that Nero sat about doing nothing while Rome was burning. According to Suetonius, Nero climbed a tower overlooking the city and then sang the entire dramatic composition The Fall of Troy while standing there watching the fire.
Nero's excesses led to his demise.
After the Great Fire of Rome, which occurred in 65 CE, things began to deteriorate. Senators plan to overthrow their conceited monarch, but their scheme is thwarted. Nero's position is now more secure than it has ever been. He now has a blank canvas on which to fulfill his creative aspirations, thanks to the wreckage of the city around him. There is just one problem: he has already drained the imperial treasury of all its funds. This cash-flow issue was quickly solved by Nero, who confiscated the riches of merchants, aristocrats, and family members – even by assassinating them – in order to alleviate the situation. The Roman aristocracy began searching for an alternative to their emperor because they were fearful of losing their lives. According to Nero, riches are meant to be wasted, and those who are responsible for their money are considered misers. As he famously observed, "true gentlemen constantly toss their money about."
He strives to live up to his own expectations. In addition, he never wears the same clothing more than once and gambles his riches on the outcome of a single dice roll. When he finds someone who he likes, he lavishes them with gifts.A gladiator named Spiculus and a lyre musician named Menecrates come to possess the sorts of estates that were formerly designated for war heroes in this manner. The horses and mules that pull his carriage and carry his possessions are both shod with silver, as is his carriage itself. If he chooses to go by boat, the banks of rivers and the beaches of bays are dotted with makeshift brothels to accommodate him throughout his journey. The question is, where does he get the money to pay for all of these extravagances? In one word, it's a heist.
The whole family's fortune is confiscated, and the attorneys who prepared the will are fined if a nobleman passes away and does not leave him a substantial enough part of his inheritance. On market day, he dispatches operatives to sell illicit fabric dyes to unsuspecting clients who are unaware of their purchase. A wholesaler who purchases a small amount of this dye is falsely accused of violating the law and loses his company to the emperor as a result of this accusation. Nero employs a variety of methods to achieve his objectives, including murder. Take, for example, his aunt, Domitia, to whom he administers a lethal dosage of laxative after he discovers her confined to bed due to severe constipation. He took possession of her inheritance before she had even passed away.
When a rebellion against Nero breaks out in Spain, Rome's frightened upper classes rally behind the head of the revolt - a general named Galba – and support him. In 68 CE, both the Senate and the soldiers recognized Galba as emperor and proclaimed him the first Roman emperor.Nero commits himself because he believes he has no other option.
Galba and Otho reigned for just a year each, marking the year of the short-lived emperors.
When Augustus's wife, Livia, plants a bay tree at the beginning of his rule, he becomes the first Roman emperor. It prospers and eventually becomes known as the "Julio-Claudian dynasty." Augustus' heirs wear laurel wreaths made from the tree's leaves, and they take cuttings from them to plant new trees of their own. These are also symbolic in nature. If one of the saplings dies, it is thought that the death of the planter who planted it is imminent. In the year 68 CE, it is Livia's own tree that withers at the base, bringing bad luck to the whole family. As a result of Nero's suicide, the Julio-Claudian line is officially extinct. Galba, the initiator of the rebellion against Nero, is now attempting to ascend to the throne.
Prior to the revolt, he had served the Empire as a loyal leader and a loyal servant. When Caligula was inspecting his soldiers in Spain, he was commended for sprinting 20 kilometers behind the emperor's chariot, which was a record at the time. Later, his allies encouraged him to take control of the Roman Empire after the death of Caligula. He refused, and as a result, he won the gratitude of Claudius for the rest of his life. Galba, the general, was well aware of whom he needed to impress and what benefits he would get if he did so.
Emperor Galba, on the other hand, was not in the business of appeasing others. This presents a dilemma since his troops did not place him on the throne out of the goodness of their hearts, as is often believed. They've been offered a substantial sum of money. Galba refuses to fulfill his promises, claiming in a haughty manner that it is his habit to "levy soldiers, not to purchase them." His treachery is not taken lightly by those around him. The German legions of Rome declared their own leader the emperor – a general named Vitellius – and set out on a march on the capital.... As Galba scrambles to maintain his position, an ambitious senator by the name of Otho makes his own attempt to establish his own status.
The coup is launched by Otho, who is enraged that he has been passed over by Galba, who has appointed a senator with much less experience as his replacement. That is a simple enough task to do. There is no way that the troops stationed in the capital would protect a monarch they despise, much less die in his defense. In response to news of the coup, Galba rushed into the streets to restore order, only to be fatally attacked and murdered by an angry crowd. He has only been in power in Rome for seven months. Otho, on the other hand, did not live for a long, long time.Having been proclaimed emperor in January of the year 69 CE, he staked his whole future on a decisive victory against Vitellius' troops. In the end, though, he overplays his hand, leaving a good defensive position in favor of mounting a catastrophic assault against it.
A lengthy and deadly civil war now seems to be on the horizon. When Brutus and Cassius' names are spoken, Otho, who has still not recovered from his trauma, is anxious to prevent it. On April 16, he committed suicide by stabbing himself in the back with his own knife.He's only been emperor for a little over three months.
Vitellius and Vespasian were bitter rivals for the right to govern the city of Rome.
Otho's suicide did not avert the civil war that he had dreaded would occur. Vitellius was a well-known person in the Roman world. His insatiable appetite for luxury is unquenchable. The treasury quickly runs out of funds, and he resorts to levying high taxes on ordinary people while plundering the wealthy. Critics of such tyranny don't stay long in their positions. In this society, the fortunate are banished, while the unfortunate are tormented and even murdered. By the summer of 69 CE, the men of Rome's eastern legions had gathered their courage and were prepared to rebel. Who will govern them, on the other hand, if they are successful in toppling Vitellius? They look through a list of provincial authorities to find out who they are. The names of individuals who have been judged unsuitable to assume the role of emperor have been cross-referenced. At some point, they come across someone they like: Vespasian.
Despite the fact that Vespasian did not come from the senatorial class, from which most Roman emperors are chosen, he had a distinguished career.For example, it was Vespasian who was the driving force behind Claudius' invasion of Britain in the 40s. A Jewish revolt in Judea was suppressed under his command in 66 CE, and he was entrusted with this task. Despite the fact that he was unable to complete the win, everyone believes that he performed well. The sole blemish on Vespasian's record is a moment of indiscretion during Nero's reign that almost cost him his life: he was forced to flee after falling asleep during one of the young emperor's infamous musical concerts, which resulted in his capture and execution.
Vespasian was a very difficult person to persuade. When it all comes down to it, a strange occurrence inspires him to fight for the throne. His home is destroyed as an ox breaks in, scattering the staff and causing the furnishings to fall down. It, on the other hand, descends to the ground and bows its neck in surrender when it sees Vespasian. That, without a doubt, is a positive omen. The uprising has begun. Despite commanding the finest warriors the empire had to offer, Vitellius' position deteriorated as a result of continuous pressure. Legion after legion, province after province, after province, after province, after province, after province, after province, after province. Vitellius tries to abdicate out of fear for his life - but no senator, magistrate, or consul can be found to take his place as a result of his efforts.
When he receives word that Vespasian's troops are approaching the city's gates, he flees to the imperial palace's doorkeeper's chambers to hide from the enemy. His location is discovered by an advance guard, and the troops torture him before throwing him down a flight of steps. His corpse is carried through the streets of Rome before being thrown into the Tiber River at the end of the film. Vespasian was formally declared Emperor on December 22, 69 CE.When he succeeded his father, he became the fourth man in a single calendar year to hold that honor.
Vespasian was a shrewd and cunning ruler.
Initially, Vespasian is described as being "confused" by his new position, according to Suetonius. What sort of emperor do you think he'll turn out to be? Rome had become a disorganized and chaotic city as a result of Nero's extravagances and a year of civil war. Vespasian discovers the solution to his question: he will reestablish imperial discipline throughout the empire. That entails penalizing anything that is considered to be slack or lenient. A guy who smells strongly of perfume approaches Vespasian to thank him for a commission, but Vespasian is disgusted by the situation and cancels his own order. "If it had been garlic, I wouldn't have been bothered as much," he admitted afterwards. On another occasion, he was presented with an application for a special shoe allowance from a military brigade. As a result, he declines and informs them that they should expect to march barefoot in the future.
Vespasian is not a fan of those who flatter him. As soon as members of his court assert that he is descended from a soldier who battled with the heavenly hero Hercules, the king bursts out laughing. He is well aware of his humble beginnings and sees no need to conceal them. This humility is also at the heart of his willingness to tolerate rudeness on a casual basis. On one of his journeys outside of Rome, he came across Demetrius the Cynic, a philosopher who was well-known for his caustic tongue. When he approaches, Demetrius refuses to stand to welcome him and instead shouts a derogatory comment. Vespasian just said, "Good dog!" in response. Vespasian, on the other hand, had his own vices. The imperial treasury is still at a low point, and he has great ambitions for the future. For example, construction of the amphitheatre known today as the Colosseum began during these years.
What was Vespasian's money-making strategy?He elevates corrupt officials to high positions, turns a blind eye while they abuse their positions to collect bribes, and then accuses them of extortion once they have been charged with it. In the meantime, their ill-gotten gains end up in their own bank accounts.The sponge trick is named for the fact that the emperor soaks his officials in water before squeezing them dry with a sponge. Another approach is to simply put taxes on previously untaxed items – such as public restrooms – that were previously exempt from taxation.
Vespasian's urinal tax is credited with coining the term pecunia non olet, which translates as "money does not smell." In response to his son's complaint that he had gone too far in charging for public toilets, Vespasian gave him a coin that had been seized from the first day's earnings and asked him whether it smelt foul. The response from Titus was "no, papa." When Vespasian inquired, he was met with a puzzled expression. "It seems to have come directly from the urinal!" he said. Vespasian, on the other hand, despite his flaws, was a very popular emperor.On June 24, 79 CE, he succumbed to natural causes following a ten-year reign of power.
Vespasian has a dream in which he sees a set of perfectly balanced scales, just before he dies. Claudius and Nero are seated in one pan, while he is seated in the other with his two sons, Titus and Domitian. It is a vision of the future. During the reign of his family line - the Flavian Dynasty – Rome was ruled for the same number of years as by Claudius and Nero.
Titus: I'm like my father. I'm like my son.
Titus, Vespasian's older son, took over as Emperor on June 24, 79 CE, when he was 39 years old.Titus was a very gifted young man. He was a skilled swordsman, a talented harpist, and a fluent and articulate speaker of ancient Greek. He was also passionately devoted to his friends and family. Being Claudius's son, Britannicus, was a special source of affection for him as a child. The cup of Britannicus was contaminated by Nero's poison, and Titus took the remaining contents of the cup to show his compassion for his buddy, who had been killed by the Emperor. He came dangerously near to killing himself.
His father appointed him as his right-hand man in Judea, and he quickly established a reputation for himself in the region. When Vespasian was elevated to the position of emperor, Titus assumed command of the empire's activities. It was under his command that Roman troops broke through the walls of Jerusalem, which had been the final stronghold of the anti-Roman Jewish insurgents. It was a humiliating loss on all fronts. In the year 70 CE, the city was ravaged, its sacred places were demolished, and its people were expelled from their homes.
Titus' triumph elevated him to the status of a hero across the empire, and he was even awarded an honorary crown in Egypt for his efforts. Rumors circulated that he had ambitions to ascend to the imperial throne, but he hurried to Rome to pledge his allegiance to his father, Vespasian, who had died the year before. His father's rule was ruthlessly protected by him in the capital, and he personally supervised the executions of traitorous officials and generals who crossed the line. Many Romans took this brutality as a sign that they were dealing with a second Nero, but after replacing his father in 79 CE, Titus proved to be a mild-mannered and kind emperor.
He protects the property rights of his people, gives an audience to everyone who requests it, and abolishes the secret police, which had been created by Caligula and was widely despised. In the aftermath of a series of fires and an earthquake that wreaked devastation throughout the Italian peninsula, he removed decorations from his own residence and distributed them to public structures. He sighs as he sits down to supper one evening, realizing that he hadn't done anybody a favor in the previous 24 hours. "My buddies," he cries, "I've squandered the whole day!" Titus' rule lasted just two years, yet he left a lasting imprint on the city where he was born and raised. It was during his reign that the Colosseum, which would become a worldwide emblem of Rome, was finished.
Domitian put an end to the Flavian Dynasty in a brutal manner.
Titus utters his last words just before fainting and succumbing to death. He believes it is unjust that he is dying at such a young age, since he has done nothing that he regrets. He then takes a moment to reflect on his previous remarks. Then he recalls that there is one thing that he really regrets in his life. It was his decision to let Domitian, his brother and successor, continue conspiring against him. That was the one mistake in his otherwise faultless life. He had been unable to kill him or even banish him because of his incapacity. His failure to intervene has now resulted in a price being paid by Rome. Titus had always been a very bright child.Domitian, on the other hand, was simply at the apex of his social stratum, the privileged senatorial elite into which his father's ascent to power had thrust him and his siblings. He had a good education and was competent, but he didn't always stand out.
While still a young man, he attempted to break free from his older brother's shadow by organizing a military expedition into German territory. As a result, he received a harsh scolding for acting so foolishly. From that day on, Vespasian and Titus traveled together in a carriage to public events, with Domitian trailing them on horseback behind the carriage. He seems to have been caught completely by surprise by Titus' death. The power that has been bestowed upon him as a result of years of scheming against his brother has left him befuddled as to what to do with it. Over the course of many months, he was confined to his room, where he spent his days collecting flies with sharp needles. He is roused by a sudden arousal of interest in societal betterment. He rebuilds structures that have been destroyed by fires, increases the pay of the troops, and sets aside more territory for grain production. However, these changes do not seem to keep his attention for very long.
Domitian is now directing his vengeful tendencies towards other people. He kills individuals on the spur of the moment. In one case, the victim is a sickly kid who looks like an actor he despises; in another, the victim is a historian who makes an insignificant comment that irritates him. He personally tortures captives who he believes to be in possession of important information, and he chops off the hands of those who do not. Frequently, Domitian brings victims into his chambers, where he speaks movingly about mercy and compassion for them. After they have been lulled into a false feeling of security, he orders his minions to murder them in front of him. However, unfortunately for the city of Rome, Domitian was in much better condition than his brother, Titus. However, it was only after 14 years of misrule that he, like so many other emperors before him, was brought to his knees by force. In 96 CE, he was stabbed to death by his own companions and servants.
Domitian's corpse is taken away by public undertakers, who treat him and his earthly remains with little more dignity as if he had been a common pauper themselves. It is the end of the Flavian Dynasty, as well as the conclusion of our story.
What these remarks really convey is that Julius Caesar did not govern for long before being murdered, yet he had an impact on the path of history. Following him, the city of Rome was governed by emperors, who were divine rulers with unlimited authority. The destiny of the Empire was now mainly decided by the character of the individuals who occupied the highest positions in the Empire. The Julio-Claudians were the first to arrive: there was the cunning Augustus, the forgettable Tiberius, the dangerous Caligula, the doddery Claudius, and the vainglorious Nero. Following Nero's death, the year of four emperors began: Galba, Otho, and Vitellius all came and departed in a short period of time. Vespasian, on the other hand, remained. He proved to be a very competent ruler. He was succeeded by his sons, who were known as the Flavians. Titus had the same level of stability and common sense as his father. Domitian, on the other hand, was out of his mind. The dynasty came to an end as a result of his misrule and death in 96 CE.
Written by BrookPad Team based on The Twelve Caesars by Suetonius