Favourite Emperor of the Julio-Claudian and Flavian Periods

Who are your one or two favourite emperors from the Julio-Claudian/Flavian periods?

  • Augustus

    Votes: 9 42.9%
  • Tiberius

    Votes: 5 23.8%
  • Caligula

    Votes: 1 4.8%
  • Claudius

    Votes: 1 4.8%
  • Nero

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Galba

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Otho

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Vitellius

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Vespasian

    Votes: 8 38.1%
  • Titus

    Votes: 4 19.0%
  • Domitian

    Votes: 2 9.5%

  • Total voters
    21
Aug 2010
16,205
Welsh Marches
#2
What a crowd! I voted for Vespasian as being the most appealing as a human being. I admire Augustus most of all for his ploitical genius in bring some sort stability to Rome, but cannot exactly say that I like him; nor did he enjoy the rare honour of having public urinals named after him (known as Vespasiennes in France, one of the less appealing kinds of Continental street furniture). If Claudius too is something of a favourite with me, I fera that it is the Claudius of Robert Graves rather than of history.
 
#3
Why are they called Vespasiennes?? I love that. Vespasian is certainly a rarity for being genuinely likeable. And I agree; Robert Graves's Claudius is more likeable than the real Claudius. I chose Augustus and Domitian. I find it fascinating how so much of Roman political, administrative, military and legal history goes back to Augustus. Not only did he successfully make himself the ruler of the empire, but he used his powers, influence and wealth to establish very many changes for the empire and solve various problems, from the issue of supplying Rome with regular grain to the problem of providing soldiers with land upon completion of their service to the issue of an under-populated senatorial class. An incredibly hands-on ruler. As for Domitian, I find it interesting how he formulated the emperorship, casting to the wind the idea that an emperor was first among equals and building the massive palatial residential and reception quarters on the Palatine. While it is possibly fiction, I also love the story of the black banquet at which he trolled a group of senators.
 
Sep 2013
619
Ontario, Canada
#4
Domitian is the most interesting of the 1st century Roman Emperors to me. Living in the shadow of his father and brother, both Emperors who reduced his role in government and military. Perhaps they knew something because upon becoming Emperor himself he proved a dismal failure as a general, and his arrogance in recalling his victorious general Agricola may have prevented the subduing of the remainder of Britannia. The performance of his legions in Dacia were so abysmal that he ended up paying tribute to secure peace. But that's one thing he had in abundance, money.

His reorganization of the economics of the Roman Empire was so sensible and efficient that the treasury coffers overflowed during his reign. Imperial revenues averaged about 1.2 billion HS a year, allowing him the funds to build on a grand scale as they continued to repair the damage of the Great Fire of 64 CE. He's known for the building or finishing of 50 different structures in Rome, including the massive Temple of Jupiter with its gold-gilt roof famously gleaming in the sun, more than any other Emperor except Augustus.

But he was also incredibly paranoid, distrusting people and fearing conspiracies, spending hours alone in his room, reportedly stabbing flies with a stylus. When one visitor came inquiring of the Emperor, asking if anyone was in with him, they got the response that no one was "not even a fly." In his final years he became increasingly autocratic, demanding people address him as master and god. Beginning a reign of terror he ordered the executions of many suspected of treachery until finally his household, fearing for their own lives, conspired to have him assassinated.

But after his death many of his economic innovations remained in place, and benefited and enriched the imperial successors of the 2nd century.
 
Aug 2011
154
The Castle Anthrax
#5
I vote none. I haven't yet been able to root for any of these names listed when I read. A lot of disgusting individuals on that list. Having said that, I do believe Augustus was a brilliant politician. In fact, I don't know that we fully appreciate his accomplishments in stabilizing the Empire. He was a true mentor for succeeding Emperors. I have always found it odd that possibly Rome's, perhaps the world's, greatest Emperor had no appreciable individual martial gifts. But, his empire endured. The Great Khan's did not. I suppose it's all a bit like modern politics... a disgusting swamp. It takes a certain type of person to aspire to top of that heap. I seem to vaguely recall that Otho's reign was brief and that he was intending to be something of a reformer? I don't quite recall. It's been a while since I read anything about him and I'm resisting the compulsion to check Wikipedia. :rolleyes:
 
Nov 2010
7,666
Cornwall
#6
[QUOTE="DiocletianIsBetterThanYou, post: 3077077, member: 54571. As for Domitian, I find it interesting how he formulated the emperorship, casting to the wind the idea that an emperor was first among equals and building the massive palatial residential and reception quarters on the Palatine. While it is possibly fiction, I also love the story of the black banquet at which he trolled a group of senators.[/QUOTE]

Bearing in mind jalidi's account of the Dictator's insane paranoia and reign of terror, which created a divisive situation only Nerva could repair (luckily), I'm interested in your motives for such admiration? :)

Anyone who spends their time dismembering flies has issues, to say the least
 
Mar 2018
756
UK
#7
I couldn't note vote for Augustus, who might be the most successful administrator in history. 2nd vote went to Vespasian, pretty much for the reasons listed, but also for starting the construction of the Colosseum and generally ruling over a golden age.
 
Aug 2010
16,205
Welsh Marches
#8
Why are they called Vespasiennes?? I love that. Vespasian is certainly a rarity for being genuinely likeable. And I agree; Robert Graves's Claudius is more likeable than the real Claudius. I chose Augustus and Domitian. I find it fascinating how so much of Roman political, administrative, military and legal history goes back to Augustus. Not only did he successfully make himself the ruler of the empire, but he used his powers, influence and wealth to establish very many changes for the empire and solve various problems, from the issue of supplying Rome with regular grain to the problem of providing soldiers with land upon completion of their service to the issue of an under-populated senatorial class. An incredibly hands-on ruler. As for Domitian, I find it interesting how he formulated the emperorship, casting to the wind the idea that an emperor was first among equals and building the massive palatial residential and reception quarters on the Palatine. While it is possibly fiction, I also love the story of the black banquet at which he trolled a group of senators.
Urine was collected from the urinals in Rome to be used in tanning etc., and Vespasian imposed a tax on the trade, anyone buying state urine had to pay a percentage ot the state; a measure that naturally provoked amusement and satire at the time, but which could also be said to have showed good sense. I one likes Emeprors for their picturesque quirks and outrageousness (and actually I think we all do) that assuredly opens up the field, and I could certainly draw up a parallel list which would include Domitian!
 
#9
I vote none. I haven't yet been able to root for any of these names listed when I read. A lot of disgusting individuals on that list. Having said that, I do believe Augustus was a brilliant politician. In fact, I don't know that we fully appreciate his accomplishments in stabilizing the Empire. He was a true mentor for succeeding Emperors. I have always found it odd that possibly Rome's, perhaps the world's, greatest Emperor had no appreciable individual martial gifts. But, his empire endured. The Great Khan's did not. I suppose it's all a bit like modern politics... a disgusting swamp. It takes a certain type of person to aspire to top of that heap. I seem to vaguely recall that Otho's reign was brief and that he was intending to be something of a reformer? I don't quite recall. It's been a while since I read anything about him and I'm resisting the compulsion to check Wikipedia. :rolleyes:
Oh well. Maybe you'll find emperors more to your liking when I post the next poll. And yes, it has been argued that Otho was a relatively good emperor who attempted to learn from the mistakes of Galba and sought to minimize the impact of civil war. I think Paul Roche's article titled 'The Public Imagery of the Emperor Otho' is one such piece of scholarship, as is Richard Alston's Aspects of Roman History 31 BC - AD 117.
 
Likes: Phalo
#10
[QUOTE="DiocletianIsBetterThanYou, post: 3077077, member: 54571. As for Domitian, I find it interesting how he formulated the emperorship, casting to the wind the idea that an emperor was first among equals and building the massive palatial residential and reception quarters on the Palatine. While it is possibly fiction, I also love the story of the black banquet at which he trolled a group of senators.
Bearing in mind jalidi's account of the Dictator's insane paranoia and reign of terror, which created a divisive situation only Nerva could repair (luckily), I'm interested in your motives for such admiration? :)

Anyone who spends their time dismembering flies has issues, to say the least[/QUOTE]

Perhaps admiration is the wrong word. But I do find fascinating how the different emperors of the first century AD found such divergent ways to come to terms with what it meant to be emperor. After all, what is a Roman emperor? These days we take for granted what a Roman emperor is, because we are familiar with the concept. But the term emperor is not a Roman term. Augustus gained his rule through accumulating powers via various settlements, including gaining the titles Augustus, Princeps and Pater Patriae (Father of the Fatherland), receiving tribunician power and maius imperium (greater military command; i.e. command over the legions in half the provinces of the empire), and commanding an incredible amount of wealth and influence. He also ensured that those not of the imperial family could no longer win triumphs. Augustus wanted to transfer these powers onto a successor, and thus secure imperial stability and his own legacy. But what he was transferring was inherently vague. In the case of Tiberius, he transferred certain powers at different times. For example, in the year 4, he adopted Tiberius and gave him tribunician power and a share in his maius imperium, and in 12, two years before his death, he awarded Tiberius a triumph and gave him the title of Princeps. But this is still an accumulation of powers, and Augustus' authority was also one of wealth and immeasurable levels of influence.
The emperors of the first century thus had to come to terms with what exactly was the 'position' that they were inheriting. Tiberius attempted to follow Augustus in the sense that he tried for soft power, attempting to defer many decisions to the senate. But this sometimes confused and upset the senators, since they understood that their freedom to make decisions was ultimately constrained by the reality of Tiberius' power. Unlike Augustus and Tiberius, young Caligula could not fall back on prior political and military achievements, and so for a while he emphasized his dynastic credentials, and then eventually looked to the model of Hellenistic god-kings. Claudius often ignored the senate of the public sphere, governing from the private sphere under the influence of his wives and freedmen. It has been argued that Nero saw his role as being that of a great paragon of culture and an artist, the greatest and most cultured man in the empire. Vespasian downplayed the reality of his power, although he also issued an edict clarifying his powers, which were, according to the edict, in theory limitless.
Titus followed Vespasian's model of modest emperor, but Domitian dispensed with the show and acknowledged the power he truly possessed, illustrating this power through the Palatine with its vast dining halls and through other building projects, as well as demanding the titles Dominus and Deus (Lord and God). The ancient historians do despise him. On some level he was certainly an autocrat, and his executions of prominent senators and ostentatious/autocratic self-presentation made him unpopular with the senators and other aristocrats who wrote the histories. With that in mind, they probably did make some things up about him, or at least spun things in an unfavourable way. It does seem that some of his executions were in response to real conspiracies against his life, and once this cycle of violence began there was no stopping it (Paul Roche wrote an excellent article on this titled 'The Execution of L. Salvius Otho Cocceianus', which attempts to uncover the conspiracies and examines how they were presented in the sources). That being said, clearly Domitian was in some respects tyrannical. In any case, I find his approach to emperorship during this early stage in imperial history fascinating. Then again, I also find the approaches of the other emperors I mentioned fascinating. Perhaps Cassius Dio's story of Domitian's black banquet puts him over the line for me (I'd be happy to relate it).
Incidentally, despite Domitian's unpopularity with the senate, the soldiers appear to have liked him, and the biggest challenge of Nerva's rule was to persuade the unhappy Praetorians that he was a worthy successor. Within a short space of time, with the Praetorians rioting and the threat of usurpation in the east, it became clear that Nerva would be unable to avert his violent demise unless he adopted a popular general as his successor (Trajan).
 
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Likes: macon

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