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THE empire, which had been long thrown into a disturbed and unsettled state, by the rebellion and violent death of its three last rulers, was at length restored to peace and security by the Flavian family, whose descent was indeed obscure, and which boasted no ancestral honours; but the public had no cause to regret its elevation; though it is acknowledged that Domitian met with the just reward of his avarice and cruelty. Titus Flavius Petro, a townsman of Reate,1 whether a centurion or an evocatus2 of Pompey's party in the civil war, is uncertain, fled out of the battle of Pharsalia and went home; where, having at last obtained his pardon and discharge, he became a collector of the money raised by public sales in the way of auction. His son, surnamed Sabinus, was never engaged in the military service, though some say he was a centurion of the first order, and others, that whilst he held that rank, he was discharged on account of his bad state of health: this Sabinus, I say, was a republican, and received the tax of the fortieth penny in Asia. And there were remaining, at the time of the advancement of the family, several statues, which had been erected to him by the cities of that province, with this inscription: "To the honest Tax-farmer."3 He afterwards turned usurer amongst the Helvetii, and there died, leaving behind him his wife, Vespasia Polla, and two sons by her; the elder of whom, Sabinus, came to be prefect of the city, and the younger, Vespasian, to be emperor. Polla, descended of a good family, at Nursia,4 had for her father Vespasius Pollio, thrice appointed military tribune, and at last prefect of the camp; and her brother was a senator of praetorian dignity. There is to this day, about six miles from Nursia, on the road to Spoletum, a place on the summit of a hill, called Vespasize, where are several monuments of the Vespasii, a sufficient proof of the splendour and antiquity of the family. I will not deny that some have pretended to say. that Petro's father was a native of Gallia Transpadana, 5 whose employment was to hire work-people who used to emigrate every year from the country of the Umbria into that of the Sabines, to assist them in their husbandry; 6 but who settled at last in the town of Reate, and there married. But of this I have not been able to discover the least proof, upon the strictest inquiry.
2 It does not very clearly appear what rank in the Roman armies was held by the evocati. They are mentioned on three occasions by Suetonius, without affording us much assistance. Caesar, like our author, joins them with the centurions. See, in particular, De Bell. Civil. I. xvii. 4.
6 We find the annual migration of labourers in husbandry a very common practice in ancient as well as in modern times. At present, several thousand industrious labourers cross over every summer from the duchies of Parma and Modena, bordering on the district mentioned by Suetonius, to the island of Corsica; returning to the continent when the harvest is got in.
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