Let's see if we can't get all over Vespatian's stank like Flavor on Delicious!!
Consider the below evidence gleaned from Anthony Barrett's book, Agrippina:
"Vespatian, who established a new dynasty in 69, felt no reticence in informing the senate that 'either his sons would succeed him, or no-one would'." (p 16)
[In other words, Vespatian considered himself to be a royal person and had every intention of propagating the royal line.]
"Pliny also says that the trial of Titus Sabinus, a supporter of Agrippina, which took place in 28, arose ex causa Neronis ('as a consequence of Nero's case') ... Sejanus launched an investigation of Sabinus, probably late in 27. This man had been a close friend of Germanicus and after the latter's death had often been seen in public in the company of Agrippina and her children, and had been a frequent visitor to their home ... He was tried and executed." (p 16-17)
[The Nero referred to above is Nero eldest son of Germanicus and Agrippina the Elder. Titus (Flavius) Sabinus was also the name of Vespatian's older brother. Like Drusus/Vespatian, his brother also eventually assumed an equestrian name, in his case one that honored the former family friend and patron Titus Sabinus.]
"In AD 31 an imposter, claiming to be Drusus, had emerged in Asia and Achaea and had collected a considerable following before eventually being tracked down and exposed as a phoney ... Rumours of a different kind circulated in 33, that there had been a rapprochement with Tiberius. They proved to be as false as the imposter, and any hopes that might have been raised were dashed when it was disclosed that Drusus had in fact been starved to death in prison." (p 47)
[It is more than suspicious that the ignominious death of Drusus was not made public and told in lurid detail to the senate until it was first rumored that he was very much alive and making a comeback, and then that he and Tiberius were to be reconciled. The body of Drusus was never produced. The supposed death of his brother Nero is, if possible, yet more suspicious. It is not clear when or even if the death of Nero was announced. The ashes of Nero were later said to have been scattered beyond recovery, but Caligula upon becoming Emperor somehow gathered them back up again, no doubt through "divine intervention" Suetonius later wrote that Nero committed suicide after hearing of a false death sentence.]
Early in the reign of Caligula, successor of Tiberius, statues were erected in memory of his supposedly dead brothers Nero and Drusus, but he allowed (read: directed) Claudius to make a mockery of erecting these monuments. (p 52)
[The deaths of his rival brothers Nero and Drusus were confirmed in order to ensure they could not become a threat to him as royal persons. Their careers would only be allowed to continue in the guise of equestrians and humble servants of the Emperor.]
Vespatian emerges shortly thereafter in the office of praetor, in which capacity he distinguishes himself for fawningly suggesting that Agrippina the younger [Caligula's sister] be executed and denied burial for allegedly plotting against Caligula. (p 67)
After the demise of Caligula two years later, Vespation was made general over the 2nd Legion. His successful campaign in Britain elicited triumphal honors from Claudius. In 51, Claudius gave him a two-month stint as consul (suffect). This appointment must have been in spite of Agrippina the Younger, who became queen in 49.
It was well after the death of Agrippina before Vespatian gained another prominent position, that of governor of Africa. However, prior to this his young son Titus became a companion of Britanicus son of Claudius and was said to have been dining with him and the royal entourage when Britanicus was fatally poisoned. (p 105)
[Titus, we must conclude, was kept in Rome much as a royal hostage to ensure the good behavior of his father.]
While at court, a royal doctor was brought in to examine both Britanicus and Titus, and concluded that Titus not Britanicus would be the one that ultimately ruled! (p 111)
[Such a statement could never have been made about a true equestrian.]
Vespatian, as Emperor, confirmed the divine honors bestowed on Claudius (revoked by Nero) and restored the Temple of "Divine Claudius" (damaged by Nero). (p 166)
[Vespatian, the prince formerly known as Drusus son of Germanicus and Agrippina the Elder, would have been the nephew of Claudius. He was no doubt grateful for his uncle's former support, but the veneration of Claudius also served to glorify his own place in the house of Germanicus.]
© Charles N. Pope, US Library of Congress. All rights reserved.