Emperor Vespasian Lesson for Kids: Facts & Biography

Instructor: David Wilson

David has taught college history and holds an MA in history.

For ten years, the emperor Vespasian ruled over ancient Rome, making him perhaps the most powerful man in the world. Learn about Vespasian's rise to power and legacy in this lesson.

Imagine Yourself as an Emperor

Imagine you had ten years to be in complete charge of a country. There'd be a lot of great things about it, like being able to tell people what to do. Maybe you'd have your own amusement park, or a chef to make you pizza every day. Once you finished having fun, however, it would be time to take care of your country.

During the time of the Roman Empire, which began around 31 BC and lasted for more than 500 years, many of the ruling emperors, or powerful leaders, had only a short amount of time to make changes. One emperor, Vespasian, ruled for ten years (69 AD - 79 AD), which gave him some time to make some big changes in ancient Rome.

Sculpture of Vespasian
Image of Vespasian

Early Life of Vespasian

In general, the easiest way to become an emperor in the ancient Roman Empire was to be the son of an emperor. However, Vespasian was born in the year 9 AD to less than famous parents. His father had been a soldier, and Vespasian later joined the Roman military.

At a time when many Romans married in order to get money or power, Vespasian married a woman named Flavia for love. They had three children together. However, Flavia would not survive long enough to see Vespasian become the most powerful person in Rome.

Vespasian's time in the military took him all over Europe. He served in the Roman Army in Greece and Britain, where he became famous for his accomplishments and was named Governor of Africa. While many governors used their position to become very wealthy, Vespasian famously spent very little money. The locals thought he was so cheap, they threw turnips at him in protest! After his time in Africa, Vespasian was asked to put down a revolt, a fight against the Roman rulers, in Judea (modern-day Israel).

Painting of the triumph ceremony of Vespasian
Triumph of Vespasian

Rise as Emperor

While Vespasian fought the revolt in Judea, the emperor Nero died. This left Rome without an official leader, meaning that anyone who wished to hold the position could stake his claim. During the 'Year of the Four Emperors' (69 AD), Vespasian and his supporters fought a battle against the emperor Vitellius. However, once Vespasian defeated his rival, no one else challenged him, and he became the new emperor in 70 AD.

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