F for Flavians

The Flavians were a Roman dynasty of three emperors who ruled the Roman empire from 69CE to 96 CE. The dynasty consisted of three emperors in chronological order: Vespasian, Titus and Domitian (both sons of Vespasian).

Flavian_dynasty_Aurei
The Flavian Emperors By Classical Numismatic Group, Inc. http://www.cngcoins.com, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4304323

Vespasian came from a family of obscure origin but rose through the military ranks. He campaigned in Judea against the Jewish rebellion (although it was his son Titus who would actually finish the campaign).

Coming just a year after the tyrannic and chaotic rule of Nero, Vespasian very consciously engaged in a program of public welfare and largesse also kick-starting a large building program, the crown of which was the Colosseum (originally known as the Flavian Amphitheatre).

Colosseo Wedding
Colosseum Flavian Amphitheatre

Vespasian’s obscure background was in stark contrast to the illustrious Julio Claudian dynastic line that had preceded them with both the Julians and the Claudians being progeny of very old Patrician families.

Vespasian’s son Titus succeeded him in 79 CE. Although Titus was well loved and considered a promising ruler, his two year reign was beset with a number of disasters- most important of which was the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 CE. This was the eruption that buried much of the area around Naples including Pompeii and Herculaneum in volcanic material.

Vesuvius forming the Backdrop of Temple to Jupiter
Vesuvius forming the Backdrop of Temple to Jupiter in Pompeii

It is said that Titus was deeply affected by this event and apparently contributed money from the treasury to the relief works. After this was a major fire in Rome that destroyed many buildings. Despite these setbacks Titus inaugurated the Colosseum. He passed away soon after due to a strange fever. As you would imagine much debate has raged through time as to whether the disasters that befell Titus’ reign were a punishment to his sacking Jerusalem.

DSCN6832
Restoration work being done (in 2012) on the arch of Titus. The panel depicts the spoils of Jerusalem including the Menorah

Domitian had spent much of his time overshadowed by his father and his brother but on the death of Titus he became Imperator. He initiated the construction of the Arch of Titus to commemorate his brother.

DSCN6839
Arch of Titus

Of all the Flavians, Domitian probably got the worst PR. At the end of his reign (he was assassinated) the Senate declared a Damnatio Memoriae which meant that they would expunge his name out of all records and history. Domitian’s reign certainly saw improvements but as all records of him were written after the Damnatio we can never be sure that what was written about him wasn’t already prejudiced.

Domiziano_da_collezione_albani,_fine_del_I_sec._dc._02
Bust of Domitian Source: By I, Sailko, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5858660

 

 

 

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7 Comments Add yours

  1. Lav says:

    Fascinating Flavians indeed!

  2. Very interesting post! I love learning about new things.

    Cheryl
    Plucking Of My Heartstrings

    1. Sukanya Ramanujan says:

      Thank you for visiting Cheryl!

  3. Nirmala says:

    Very interesting ! Learnt a lot

    1. Sukanya Ramanujan says:

      Thanks!

  4. tcausten says:

    Amazing. What a great post. I also love the pictures too. Just great.
    I found you on the a-z challenge list

    1. Sukanya Ramanujan says:

      Thank you for visiting!

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