22 december 69 - 24 June 79

1 July 69


After the death of Vitellius, A. D. 70, Vespasian was declared emperor by the unanimous consent both of the senate and the army, and dignified with all those titles, which now followed the power, rather than the merit, of those who were appointed to govern.

Vespasian having continued some months at Alexandria in Egypt, set out for Rome, giving his son Titus the command of the army that was to lay siege to Jerusalem, while he went forward, and was met at some distance from Rome by all the senate and nearly one half of the inhabitants, who gave the sincerest testimonies of their joy in having an emperor of such great and experienced virtues. Nor did he in the least disappoint their expectations, being equally assiduous in rewarding merit and pardoning his adversaries; in reforming the manners of the citizens, and setting the best example in his own.


First Jewish-Roman War


In the reign of Vespasian, a war was carried on by his son Titus against the Jews, who had been brought under the yoke of Rome by Pompey.

The Jews had long resolved to resist the Roman power, hoping to find protection from Heaven. They had the most bitter dissensions among themselves, and were split into two parties, that robbed and destroyed each other with impunity, still pillaging, and at the same time boasting their zeal for the religion of their ancestors.

At the head of one of these parties was an incendiary, whose name was John. This fanatic affected sovereign power, and filled the whole city of Jerusalem, and all the towns around, with tumult and pillage. In a short time a new faction arose, headed by one Simon, who, gathering multitudes of robbers and murderers, who had fled to the mountains, attacked many cities and towns, and reduced all Idumea.

Jerusalem soon beeame the theatre upon which these two demagogues exercised their mutual animosity. John was possessed of the temple, while Simon was admitted into the city, both equally enraged against each other.

The city was strongly fortified by three walls on every side, except where it was fenced by deep valleys. Titus began by battering down the outward wall; which, after much fatigue and danger, he effected, all the time showing the greatest clemency to the Jews, and giving them repeated assurances of pardon.

Five days after the commencement of the siege, Titus broke through the second wall; and though driven back, he recovered his ground, and made preparation for battering the third. But first he sent Josephus, their countryman, into the city, to exhort them to yield; but he was reviled with scoffs and reproaches.

The siege was now carried on with greater vigor than before; batteries were no sooner built, than destroyed by the enemy. At length it was resolved to surround the whole city with a trench, and thus prevent all relief from abroad. This was quickly executed, but did not intimidate the Jews. Though famine and pestilence made most horrid ravages among them, yet this desperate people still resolved to hold out.

Titus cut down all the woods within a considerable distance of the city, and causing more batteries to be raised, beat down the wall, and in five days entered the citadel by force. The Jews continued to deceive themselves with expectations. The heat of the battle was now gathered round the inner wall of the temple.

Titus was willing to save this beautiful structure; but a soldier casting a brand into some adjacent buildings, the fire communicated to the temple, and it was quickly consumed. The sight of the edifice in ruins effectually damped the ardor of the Jews. They perceived that Heaven had forsaken them, while their cries and lamentations echoed from the adjacent mountains. Even those who were almost expiring, lifted up their dying eyes to bewail the loss of their temple, which they valued more than life itself.

The most resolute slill defended the upper and strongest part of the city, named Zion; but Titus soon made him self master of the place. John and Simon were taken from the vaults where they had concealed themselves; the former was condemned to perpetual imprisonment, and the latter reserved to grace the conqueror's triumph.

The greater part of the population were put to the sword, and the city was, after a siege of six months, entirely destroyed. The numbers who perished in this siege, according to Josephus, amounted to above a million, and the captives to almost a hundred thousand.

16 April 69

The death of Vespasian

Titus returned to Rome in triumph with his father. Among the rich spoils, were exposed vast quantities of gold, taken out of the temple; but the Book of the Holy Law was not the least remarkable among the magnificent profusion. This was the first time that Rome ever saw the father and the son triumph together. A triumphal arch was erected upon the occasion, on which were inscribed all the victories of Titus over the Jews; this remains almost entire to this day. Vespasian likewise built a temple to Peace, wherein were deposited most of the Jewish spoils : and having now calmed all commotions, in every part of the empire, he shut up the temple of Janus, which had been open five or six years.

Vespasian having reigned ten years, loved by his subjects, and deserving their affection, he was surprised with an indisposition; and perceiving his end approaching, he cried out, that an emperor ought to die standing; wherefore, raising himself upon his feet, he expired in the hands of those that sustained him.

Previous page                                                                         top of page                                                                                        Next page