This is a success story, as medieval traditions about ‘the noble Emperor’ make clear. In one French, Spanish, and Portuguese romance, printed in Lisbon in 1483, Vespasian, a sufferer from leprosy, is cured by the handkerchief
of St Veronica, and proceeds to take Jerusalem, avenging Christ and punishing Jews and Pilate; he converts his entire Empire to Christianity.
The individual’s success, set against the downfall of a dynasty, is the straightforward subject of the first four chapters of this book. The unglamorous new senator Vespasian pursued his career under the Julio-Claudian emperors, Tiberius, Gaius, Claudius, and Nero (14–68), and his accumulating experience
made him useful to the declining dynasty without making him dangerous. He survived politics as well as the rigours of campaigning in Britain (Ch. 1– 2) to emerge in 67 as the military man chosen by Nero to bring Judaea back into the Empire (3). So he came to be in charge of three fighting legions and in alliance with the governors of Syria and Egypt, who controlled five more, precisely when the emperors of 68–9 were fighting for survival (4.1). The success of the bid itself depended on his being able to rally legions and individuals in key positions military and civilian through calculation or principle, fear or ambition, usually a complex amalgam