II. Ancient and Classical Periods, 3500 B.C.E.–500 C.E. > E. Rome > 4. The Roman Empire, 14–284 C.E. > e. The High Empire
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
e. The High Empire
1. Civil War and a New Settlement
Servius Sulpicius GALBA (b. 5 or 3 B.C.E.). The senate's acquiescence to the army's proclamation of Galba as emperor in 68 had exposed what Tacitus called the great secret of the empire—“that emperors could be made elsewhere than at Rome.” The power of the praetorian guard in choosing an emperor had already been demonstrated. In 69, the year of the emperors (Galba, Otho, Vitellius, and Vespasian), the provincial armies asserted their powers in a civil war, which ended with the victory of Vespasian, and the establishment of the Flavian dynasty.  1
69, Jan. 1
The eight legions on the Rhine refused allegiance to Galba, and on Jan. 3 the four in lower Germany saluted as emperor their legate Aulus Vitellius (b. 15). He was also accepted by the four legions of upper Germany. Galba had reached Rome, where he adopted as his successor the aristocrat L. Piso Licinianus.  2
Thereupon, M. Salvius Otho (b. 32), the friend of Nero, secured the support of the praetorians and had Galba and Piso murdered (Jan. 15). The helpless senate then recognized him.  3
Meanwhile, the troops of Vitellius approached Italy in two divisions under Valens and Caecina. They met in the plain of the Po Valley and defeated the forces of Otho (Apr. 19) in the First Battle of Bedriacum (near Cremona), whereupon Otho, to avert further bloodshed, committed suicide. The senate immediately recognized Vitellius, who presently reached Rome himself.  4
In the meantime (July 1) the prefect of Egypt, Tiberius Julius Alexander, proclaimed as emperor Vespasian, legate in Judaea. Mucianus, legate of Syria, lent his support. Antonius Primus, commander of the seventh legion in Pannonia, rallied all the Danubian legions to Vespasian and moved rapidly into northern Italy. There he defeated the forces of Vitellius in the Second Battle of Bedriacum and sacked Cremona (late Oct.). When Antonius approached Rome, Vespasian's brother seized the Capitol, which was burnt in the ensuing struggle. The Vitellians fought bitterly in the city streets, but Vitellius was finally slain (Dec. 20). The senate immediately recognized Vespasian. After his proclamation as emperor, Vespasian left his son, Titus, to complete the siege of Jerusalem. In 70 Titus sacked the city, destroyed the temple, and installed a garrison. He celebrated a triumph in 71, which is commemorated on the Arch of Titus in Rome.  5
Titus Flavius VESPASIANUS (b. 9) was the son of a tax collector from the Italian municipality of Reate. The Augustan system had survived the idiosyncrasies of its rulers because the administration of the Empire had been separated from the politics of the palace and senate at Rome. But the civil war of 69 had shown the need to control the Empire and its armies more closely, and so the extravagance and self-indulgence of the Julio-Claudians were replaced by the hands-on work ethic of the Flavians. Vespasian oversaw a careful and frugal administration of the Empire, in which the frontiers and finances were reorganized and the armies and upper classes monitored. Respectful to the senate, Vespasian nevertheless insisted on establishing dynastic succession, and he and his son Titus were consular colleagues in every year of his reign except 73 and 78. To reorganize the senate, Vespasian felt compelled to revive the censorship with Titus in 73, instead of tacitly assuming the right of enrollment (adlectio) exercised by his predecessors. In 74 he granted Latin rights to all of Spain.  6
The revolt of some Batavian auxiliaries under their native commander, Julius Civilis, won the support of some of the legions of Germany. This inflamed the Gallic Treveri under Julius Classicus and Julius Tutor and the Lingones under Julius Sabinus. Petillius Cerealis crushed the revolt piecemeal. Thereafter auxiliaries were not employed in the country of their origin, and the corps soon came to be composed of recruits of different nationalities. By this time the praetorian guards alone were recruited in Italy; the legions drew from Roman settlers in the provinces or Romanized provincials, to whom citizenship was often granted to secure their enlistment. Thus the army had become less Italian, more provincial.  7
Vespasian consolidated the eastern frontier against Armenia and Parthia.  8
Titus, though a senator, was made praetorian prefect, a post hitherto equestrian. He also received both proconsular imperium and tribunician power. He ruthlessly suppressed senatorial opposition to his father.  9
Further Conquest in Britain. Under the Flavian commander Petillius Cerealis (71–74), Sextus Iulius Frontinus (74–78), and Cn. Julius Agricola (78–84), Roman conquest advanced into Wales and Scotland (See 78–142).  10
Vespasian began the conquest of the territory east of the upper Rhine and south of the Main, the later agri decumates (or decumathes; the meaning is uncertain). He furthermore reorganized the defenses of the upper and lower Danube.  11
At about this time Vespasian banished Helvidius Priscus, son-in-law of Thrasea and his successor as leader of the Stoic opposition to the Empire. He also banished the professors of philosophy, perhaps because their doctrines encouraged disloyalty.  12
TITUS Flavius Vespasianus, who was co-ruler with his father, succeeded on the death of Vespasian (June 23). His hostility toward the senate ceased, and he won popularity by his largess.  13
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.