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Western Civilization 10, Lesson 55 – The Julio-Claudian and Flavian Emperors

This week in class, I learned about the Julio-Claudian and the Flavian dynasties, which started as a consequence of the death of Emperor Augustus.  In this essay, I am going to briefly cover what happened during those years.

The Julio-Claudian dynasty started in 14 AD and continued until 68 AD.  The first emperor of this dynasty was Tiberius, the adopted son of Augustus.  In 37 AD, he disappeared after hearing the news about the death of his biological son, Drusus. 

After Tiberius came Emperor Caligula, who ruled for four years (r. 31-41 AD).  He was considered to be extravagant and cruel.  Some even described him as ‘nearly insane.’  The Praetorian Guard, bodyguards of the emperor, assassinated him because of his lavish spending and cruel ways.

The next emperor, Claudius, may have been the only sane emperor in the Julio-Claudian dynasty.  His successor, Nero, was counselled by Seneca who was a wise philosopher in Rome.  He ended the dynasty in 68 AD when he committed suicide after hearing about a rebellion that started in Gaul that was moving up to Rome.

The Flavian dynasty was started a year later by Vespasian, who suppressed the rebellion Nero killed himself over, and created a stable and thriving Rome.  After his death, his son Titus took over.   He was a kind emperor and did not order executions during his reign.  He created a law that stated anyone who tried to kill another would be flogged and banished from Rome.

After Titus’ death, his brother Domitian (r. 81-96), became emperor.  He made his entire family gods.  His wife, children, deceased brother, and parents were turned into gods to be worshiped by the people.   When Lucius Antonius Saturnius revolted in 89 AD, Domitian became violent and erratic.

As you can see, in each dynasty there were a few good emperors and many bad ones.  Because of how volatile these dynasties were, after the death of Domitian the dynasty of the “Five Good Emperors” was created.  The successor would be chosen by the current emperor who would adopt the person as his son.  It would not be hereditary succession, but chosen succession.  This system worked well until Marcus Aurelius (r. 138-161) appointed his son, Commodus (r. 180-192), as the next emperor.  Commodus was vicious and incompetent, leading to a repetition of the Flavian Dynasty.

Thanks for reading!

Author: sophiaelahirpc

10th Grade student in the Ron Paul Curriculum. Full-time teen writer living in Singapore.

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