Emperor Nero had many clashes with the Roman Senate and in 66 AD a conspiracy involving several senators aimed at ousting him from power narrowly failed. In 68 however the legions in several parts of the empire rebelled and threatened to march towards Rome. The Roman Senate ratified the election of Galba, the head of the legions in Spain, as the new emperor: Nero, betrayed by his closest friends, left the imperial palace but just outside Rome he put an end to his life by asking a former slave to kill him. This event marked the tragic end of the first Roman dynasty.
The next year (69 AD) was called the year of the four emperors, because the praetorians killed Galba and elected to the throne Otho, who was defeated soon after by Vitellius, head of the legions in the Rhine valley. Vitellius marched towards Rome, but the legions in Judaea rebelled and elected their commander Vespasianus Flavius (Vespasian). Vitellius was killed during another rising of the praetorians in Rome and eventually the Senate ratified the election of Vespasian.
The new emperor was not a Roman, as he was born in Sabina a region north of Rome, and this was clearly an element which weakened his authority; in addition his election had been the outcome of a confused process during which the Roman Senators had tried to recover their ancient role. Vespasian and his sons and successors Titus and Domitian (the Flavian dynasty) developed a policy aimed at curbing the role of the Senate by gaining the favour of the lower classes and at associating the memory of Nero with all sorts of misbehaviours: this objective was so successfully achieved that Nero himself became the symbol of cruelty and madness and only very recently a more balanced view dismissed some of the crimes traditionally attributed to the young emperor.
Panem et circenses (bread and entertainment) is all that the Romans asked for, according to the writer Juvenal, who gave in his Satires a harsh portrait of the Roman society during the Flavian dynasty. Vespasian linked his name to the Colosseum and Domitian to a large stadium in today's Piazza Navona. In these large buildings the Romans were offered various types of shows, ranging from exhibition of exotic animals to naval battles (the purported cruelty of some of these shows is most likely exaggerated). The name of Titus is associated with a triumphal arch erected in his honour by his brother Domitian after his death. The inscription above the arch says SENATUS POPULUSQUE ROMANUS DIVO TITI DIVI VESPASIANI F.(ilio) VESPASIANO AUGUSTO...