Vespasian

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Book Details

Author  Suetonius
Publisher  CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Publication Date   August 30, 2015
ISBN  1517132045
Pages  34

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Description

Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, commonly known as Suetonius (c. 69 – after 122 AD), was a Roman historian belonging to the equestrian order who wrote during the early Imperial era of the Roman Empire. His most important surviving work is a set of biographies of twelve successive Roman rulers, from Julius Caesar to Domitian, entitled De Vita Caesarum. He recorded the earliest accounts of Julius Caesar's epileptic seizures. Other works by Suetonius concern the daily life of Rome, politics, oratory, and the lives of famous writers, including poets, historians, and grammarians. A few of these books have partially survived, but many have been lost. Suetonius begins by describing the humble antecedents of the founder of the Flavian dynasty and follows with a brief summary of his military and political career under Aulus Plautius Claudius and Nero and his suppression of the uprising in Judaea. Suetonius documents an early reputation for honesty but also a tendency toward avariciousness. A detailed recounting of the omens and consultations with oracles follows which Suetonius suggests furthered Vespasian's imperial pretensions. Suetonius then briefly recounts the escalating military support for Vespasian and even more briefly the events in Italy and Egypt that culminated in his accession. Suetonius presents Vespasian's early imperial actions, the reimposition of discipline on Rome and her provinces and the rebuilding and repair of Roman infrastructure damaged in the civil war, in a favourable light, describing him as 'modest and lenient' and drawing clear parallels with Augustus. Vespasian is further presented as being extraordinarily just and with a preference for clemency over revenge. Suetonius describes avarice as Vespasian's only serious failing, documenting his tendency for inventive taxation and extortion. However, he mitigates this failing by suggesting that the emptiness of state coffers left Vespasian little choice. Moreover, intermixed with accounts of greed and 'stinginess' are accounts of generosity and lavish rewards. Finally Suetonius gives a brief account of Vespasian's physical appearance and penchant for comedy. This section of the work is the basis for the famous expression "Money has no odor" (Pecunia non olet); according to Suetonius, Vespasian's son (and the next Emperor), Titus, criticized Vespasian for levying a fee for the use of public toilets in the streets of Rome. Vespasian then produced some coins and asked Titus to sniff them, and then asked Titus whether they smelled bad. When Titus said that the coins did not smell bad, Vespasian replied: "And yet they come from urine". Having contracted a 'bowel complaint,' Vespasian tried to continue his duties as emperor from what would be his deathbed, but on a sudden attack of diarrhea he said "An emperor ought to die standing," and died while struggling to do so.

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