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In the reign of Claudius, by the interest of Narcissus, he was sent to Germany, in command of a legion; whence being removed into Britain, he engaged the enemy in thirty several battles. He reduced under subjection to the Romans two very powerful tribes, and above twenty great towns, with the Isle of Wight, which lies close to the coast of Britain; partly under the command of Aulus Plautius, the consular lieutenant, and partly under Claudius himself. 1 For this success he received the triumphal ornaments, and in a short time after two priesthoods, besides the consulship, which he held during the last two months of the year.2 The interval between that and his proconsulship he spent in leisure and retirement, for fear of Agrippina, who still held great sway over her son, and hated all the friends of Narcissus, who was then dead. Afterwards he got by lot the province of Africa, which he governed with great reputation, excepting that once, in an insurrection at Adrumetum, he.was pelted with turnips. It is certain that he returned thence nothing richer; for his credit was so low, that he was obliged to mortgage his whole property to his brother, and was reduced to the necessity of dealing in mules, for the support of his rank; for which reason he was commonly called "the Muleteer." He is said likewise to have been convicted of extorting from a young man of fashion two hundred thousand sesterces for procuring him the broad-stripe, contrary to the wishes of his father, and was severely reprimanded for it. While in attendance upon Nero in Achaia, he frequently withdrew from the theatre while Nero was singing, and went to' sleep if he remained, which gave so much offence, that he was not only excluded from his society, but debarred the liberty of saluting him in public. Upon this, he retired to a small out-of-the-way town, where he lay skulking in constant fear of his life, until a province, with an army, was offered him. A firm persuasion had long prevailed through all the East,3 that it was fated for the empire of the world, at that time, to devolve on some one who should go forth from Judaea. This prediction referred to a Roman emperor, as the event shewed; but the Jews, applying it to themselves, broke out into rebellion, and having defeated and slain their governor, 4 routed the lieutenant of Syria, 5 a man of consular rank, who was advancing to his assistance, and took an eagle, the standard of one of his legions. As the suppression of this revolt appeared to require a stronger force and an active general, who might be safely trusted in an affair of so much importance, Vespasian was chosen in preference to all others, both for his own activity, and on account of the obscurity of his origin and name, being a person of whom there could be not the least jealousy. Two legions, 'therefore, eight squadrons of horse, and ten cohorts, being added to the former troops in Judaea, and, taking with him his eldest son as lieutenant, as soon as he arrived in his province, he turned the eyes of the neighbouring provinces upon him, by reforming immediately the discipline of the camp, and engaging the enemy once or twice with such resolution, that, in the attack of a castle,6 he had his knee hurt by the stroke of a stone, and received several arrows in his shield.
1 This expedition to Britain has been mentioned before, CLAUDIUS, c xvii. and note; and see ib. xxiv. Valerius Flaccus, i. 8, and Silius Italicus, iii. 568, celebrate the triumphs of Vespasian in Britain. In representing him, however, as carrying his arms among the Caledonian tribes, their flattery transferred to the emperor the glory of the victories gained by his lieutenant, Agricola. Vespasian's own conquests, while he served in Britain, were principally in the territories of the Brigantes, lying north of the Humber, and including the present counties of York and Durham.
2 A.U.C. 824
3 Tacitus, Hist. V. xiii. 3, mentions this ancient prediction, and its currency through the East, in nearly the same terms as Suetonius. The coming power is in both instances described in the plural number, profecti, "those shall come forth;" and Tacitus applies it to Titus as well as Vespasian. The prophecy is commonly supposed to have reference to a passage in Micah, v. 2, "Out of thee [Bethlehem-Ephrata] shall He come forth, to be ruler in Israel." Earlier prophetic intimations of a similar character, and pointing to a more extended dominion, have been traced in the sacred records of the Jews; and there is reason to believe that these books were at this time not unknown in the heathen world, particularly at Alexandria, and through the Septuagint version. These predictions, in their literal sense, point to the establishment of a universal monarchy, which should take its rise in Judea. The Jews looked for their accomplishment in the person of one of their own nation, the expected Messiah, to which character there were many pretenders in those times. The first disciples of Christ, during the whole period of his ministry, supposed that they were to be fulfilled in him. The Romans thought that the conditions were answered by Vespasian and Titus having been called from Judea to the seat of empire. The expectations entertained by the Jews, and naturally participated in and appropriated by the first converts to Christianity, having proved groundless, the prophecies were subsequently interpreted in a spiritual sense.
4 Gessius Florus was at that time governor of Judaea, with the title and rank of preposius, it not being a proconsular province, as the native princes still held some parts of it, under the protection and with the alliance of the Romans. Gessius succeeded Florus Albinus, the successor of Felix.
6 See note to c. vii.
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