the Flavians

family tree Flavians

Vespasianus Titus Longina Domitianus Julia Titi Flavius Clemens Domitilla oudste prins jongste prins

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The progenitor of the Flavian imperial dynasty was Titus Flavius Sabinus I. He was a son of Titus Flavius Petro and Tertulla. Unfortunately, we know little about that couple. Suetonius tells us that Petro had fought at the side of Pompey in the civil war and fled after his defeat. When a general pardon was granted, Petro started out as an auctioneer in his hometown Reate. About his wife Tertulla, we only know that she took care of the upbringing of her grandson Vespasian, the first Flavian emperor.

Titus Flavius Sabinus I began his career as a tax collector in Asia Minor. When he had made enough money, he moved to Switzerland where he founded a bank. He married Vespasia Polla, a daughter of a distinguished family. Her father Vespasius Pollio was a camp commander and had been a military tribune for three times. Her brother was a senator with the rank of praetor. She bore Sabinus two sons.

the second generation of Flavians

Titus Flavius Sabinus II, Vespasian’s elder brother, wore the senatorial gown from an early age. His career went well. He even rose to become the prefect of Rome. He was a stimulus for Vespasian, who was not ambitious by himself but was challenged by his mother who always teasingly called him the footman of Sabinus. During the Year of the Four Emperors, Sabinus led the Flavian troops in Rome. Unfortunately, he never saw Vespasian on the throne. He perished before the Flavians achieved victory.

The two brothers also had a sister, named Flavia. She was the middle one and she didn’t grow old. Apart from that, we only know she had a daughter. She’s not the only Flavian to die young. Vespasian’s wife, Flavia Domitilla I, and their daughter Flavia Domitilla II passed away before he ascended the throne and his granddaughter Julia died at the age of 25.

After his wife’s decease, Vespasian lived with Caenis, a concubine. The two could not get married because Caenis had been a slave.


Striking in the pedigree is the inbreeding. Both granddaughters of Vespasian, Julia and Domitilla III, were married to the sons of Titus Flavius Sabinus II. And if it had been up to Titus, the inbreeding would have gone further, because he has tried to marry off his daughter Julia to his brother Domitian. He did so to prevent a new civil war. He feared that possible descendants of the two would contest for the throne.

In my novel The Third Temple, I describe that marriage proposal. Domitian indignantly rejects it. Yet after Titus’ death, an extramarital relationship between him and Julia develops. It turns out to be a ‘liaison fatale’.