Dec 20th 69 AD Vespasian entered Rome as Emperor. When I look at his face I see a jocular and human person, not an emperor on an ivory tower. A plain man, with a face engraved with the worries and cares of normal life. The blunt face of a plain man, a soldier, a man of the people.
In truth he was a brilliant military commander. He had a track record of military success in Britain under Claudius, followed by the subjugation of Judea.
After Emperor Nero committed suicide followed the “Year of the Four Emperors” as one candidate after the other vied for control of Rome. Galba was defeated by Otho who was ousted by Vitellius. Vitellius held Rome with the cream of the Roman legions from the Gallic and German frontiers.
This is when Vespasian demonstrated his keen mind for politics and economics. Instead of marching on Rome he moved on Egypt. This was the breadbasket of the Roman world, providing the grain supply that kept ordinary Romans fed and happy.
With the food supply in his control he was able to broker alliances with the former supporters of Otho. He added the Syrian legions to those he controlled in Judea. He then assembled favourable religious omens, prophesies and portents to support his claim before moving on Vitellius.
Vespasian was also a marketing genius. He understood the power of branding, placing the name on the world famous “Flavian Amphitheater” which is today better known as the Colosseum.
The name “Colosseum” actually referred to a giant bronze statue which stood in front of the Amphitheater. Originally a statue of Emperor Nero, and modeled on the “Colossus of Rhodes” one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world. The Colossus of Rome was almost as tall as the Statue of Liberty. Over time it was re-purposed to represent other emperors, and to represent the Greek Sun God Helios.