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A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography

Vespasianus, Titus Flavius

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Vespasianus, Titus Flavius, emperor July 1, 69, to June 24, 79, and his son Titus , emperor June 24, 79, to Sept. 13, 81. As a great part of the imperial power was exercised by Titus during his father's reign, of which his own short reign may be regarded as the continuation, it seems convenient to treat them together. The influences of these princes on Christianity was wholly indirect. The destruction of Jerusalem and the temple tended to hasten the complete separation of Judaism and Christianity. This distinction, however, had not as yet become apparent to the Roman authorities, and as far as they had any knowledge of the existence of Christians, they regarded them as merely a Jewish sect. A long and almost unbroken chain of Christian authorities bear witness to the favourable condition of Christianity under these emperors. Melito of Sardis, writing in the reign of M. Aurelius (Eus. H. E. iv. 26), knows of no imperial persecutors except Nero and Domitian. Tertullian ( Apol. 5) expressly denies that Vespasian was a persecutor. Lactantius ( Mortes 2, 3) knows of no persecution between Nero and Domitian. Eusebius ( H. E. iii. 17) expressly asserts that Vespasian did no harm to the Christians. Hilary of Poictiers, writing after 360, is the first to make any charge of persecution against Vespasian. In a rhetorical passage ( contra Arianos , 3, in Migne, Patr. Lat. x. 611), contrary to all previous Christian testimony, he couples Vespasian with Nero and Decius. Sulpicius Severus ( H. E. ii. 30 in Patr. Lat. xx. 146), in a passage whose style suggests it was borrowed from one of the lost books of Tacitus, states that the motive of Titus in destroying the temple was to abolish not only Judaism but Christianity, but he does not mention any hostile act on the part of Vespasian or his son against the Christians.

We may consider that the reigns of these first two Flavian emperors were a period of tranquillity for the church. For their relation to the church see Tillemont, Mém. eccl. ii. 102, 152, 555; Aubé, Hist. des persec. c. 4; Görres, Zeitsch. für wissent. Theol. xxi. 492. M. Double ( L’Empereur Titus ) ingeniously that maintains, contrary to the usual opinion, he was a monster of wickedness.


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Wace, Henry. Entry for 'Vespasianus, Titus Flavius'. A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography. 1911.

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