This surname of VESPER is the Americanized form of the name VESPASIAN, which was the name of the Roman emperor, founder of the Flavian dynasty, Titus Flavius VESPASIANIUS (9-79), born near Reate. He served as a tribune in Thrace, and as Quaestor in Crete and Cyrene. In the reign of Claudius he commanded a legion in Germany and in Britain; was consul in 51, and next proconsul of Africa; and in 67 was sent by Nero to reduce the Jews to subjection. He was appointed emperor. He reached Rome in the year 70, and soon restored the government and finances to order, besides setting a personal example in the simplicity of his life. He embarked on an ambitious building programme in Rome, began the Colosseum and extended and consolidated Roman conquests in Britain and Germany. Despite evidence that hereditary surnames were in use in the Venetian Republic as early as the 10th Century, the origin of many Italian surnames is unclear. There is still a great potential for research into medieval Italian records while documented evidence indicates the adoption of the father's name as a surname is the most common form. The familiar endings of "i" and "o", meaning to be a member of a certain family, bears this out. The Church played a very important role in Central Italian heraldry and many Italian families who derived their titles from popes incorporated elements of the papal insignia, notably the papal tiara and the crossed keys, on their Coats of Arms. As in the rest of Europe, the turbulent history of Italy in the Middle Ages is reflected in its heraldry. Traces remain from the successive invasions of the Germans, French, Spanish and Austrians. Certain characteristics, such as the use of horse-shaped shields which were put on the foreheads of horses during tournaments, remain uniquely Italian. Social conditions in Southern Italy during the agricultural depression of the late 19th Century spurred the first wave of emigration as thousands of people escaped to the New World. Latin America was the original destination for these early settlers but as the economy strengthened in the United States, North America became more popular.
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