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Tito, 70-81 ca, collez. albani.JPG
Bust of Emperor Titus, in the Capitoline Museum, Rome
Emperor of the Roman Empire
Reign23 June 79 – 13 September 81
Predecessor Vespasian
Successor Domitian
Born30 December 39
Rome, Italia
Died13 September 81(81-09-13) (aged 41)
Rome, Italia
Spouse Arrecina Tertulla (c.62 AD; her death)
Marcia Furnilla (c.63–65 AD; divorced)
Issue Julia Flavia
Full name
Titus Flavius Vespasianus
Regnal name
Imperator Titus Flavius Caesar Vespasianus Augustus
Dynasty Flavian
Father Vespasian
Mother Domitilla
Roman imperial dynasties
Flavian dynasty
Vespasian 69–79 AD
Titus 79–81 AD
Domitian 81–96 AD
Gens Flavia
Flavian tree
Category:Flavian dynasty
Preceded by
Year of the Four Emperors
Followed by
Nerva–Antonine dynasty

Titus ( /ˈttəs/ ; Latin : Titus Flavius Caesar Vespasianus Augustus; [lower-alpha 1] 30 December 39 AD – 13 September 81 AD) was Roman emperor from 79 to 81. A member of the Flavian dynasty, Titus succeeded his father Vespasian upon his death, thus becoming the first Roman emperor to come to the throne after his own biological father.

Roman emperor ruler of the Roman Empire

The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the imperial period. The emperors used a variety of different titles throughout history. Often when a given Roman is described as becoming "emperor" in English, it reflects his taking of the title Augustus or Caesar. Another title often used was imperator, originally a military honorific. Early Emperors also used the title Princeps Civitatis. Emperors frequently amassed republican titles, notably princeps senatus, consul and pontifex maximus.

Flavian dynasty Roman dynasty

The Flavian dynasty was a Roman imperial dynasty, which ruled the Roman Empire between 69 AD and 96 AD, encompassing the reigns of Vespasian (69–79), and his two sons Titus (79–81) and Domitian (81–96). The Flavians rose to power during the civil war of 69, known as the Year of the Four Emperors. After Galba and Otho died in quick succession, Vitellius became emperor in mid 69. His claim to the throne was quickly challenged by legions stationed in the Eastern provinces, who declared their commander Vespasian emperor in his place. The Second Battle of Bedriacum tilted the balance decisively in favour of the Flavian forces, who entered Rome on December 20. The following day, the Roman Senate officially declared Vespasian emperor of the Roman Empire, thus commencing the Flavian dynasty. Although the dynasty proved to be short-lived, several significant historic, economic and military events took place during their reign.

Vespasian Ninth Emperor of Ancient Rome, founder of the Flavian dynasty

Vespasian was Roman emperor from 69–79, the fourth, and last, in the Year of the Four Emperors. He founded the Flavian dynasty that ruled the Empire for 27 years.


Before becoming emperor, Titus gained renown as a military commander, serving under his father in Judea during the First Jewish–Roman War. The campaign came to a brief halt with the death of emperor Nero in 68, launching Vespasian's bid for the imperial power during the Year of the Four Emperors. When Vespasian was declared Emperor on 1 July 69, Titus was left in charge of ending the Jewish rebellion. In 70, he besieged and captured Jerusalem, and destroyed the city and the Second Temple. For this achievement Titus was awarded a triumph; the Arch of Titus commemorates his victory to this day.

Judea (Roman province) Roman province

The Roman province of Judea, sometimes spelled in its original Latin forms of Iudæa or Iudaea to distinguish it from the geographical region of Judea, incorporated the regions of Judea, Samaria and Idumea, and extended over parts of the former regions of the Hasmonean and Herodian kingdoms of Judea. It was named after Herod Archelaus's Tetrarchy of Judea, but the Roman province encompassed a much larger territory. The name "Judea" was derived from the Kingdom of Judah of the 6th century BCE.

First Jewish–Roman War The first of three major rebellions by the Jews against the Roman Empire

The First Jewish–Roman War, sometimes called the Great Revolt, or The Jewish War, was the first of three major rebellions by the Jews against the Roman Empire, fought in Roman-controlled Judea, resulting in the destruction of Jewish towns, the displacement of its people and the appropriation of land for Roman military usage, besides the destruction of the Jewish Temple and polity.

Nero Fifth Emperor of Ancient Rome

Nero was the last Roman emperor of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. He was adopted by his great-uncle Claudius and became Claudius' heir and successor. Like Claudius, Nero became emperor with the consent of the Praetorian Guard. Nero's mother, Agrippina the Younger, was likely implicated in Claudius' death and Nero's nomination as emperor. She dominated Nero's early life and decisions until he cast her off. Five years into his reign, he had her murdered.

During his father's rule, Titus gained notoriety in Rome serving as prefect of the Praetorian Guard, and for carrying on a controversial relationship with the Jewish queen Berenice. Despite concerns over his character, Titus ruled to great acclaim following the death of Vespasian in 79, and was considered a good emperor by Suetonius and other contemporary historians.

The praetorian prefect was a high office in the Roman Empire. Originating as the commander of the Praetorian Guard, the office gradually acquired extensive legal and administrative functions, with its holders becoming the Emperor's chief aides. Under Constantine I, the office was much reduced in power and transformed into a purely civilian administrative post, while under his successors, territorially-defined praetorian prefectures emerged as the highest-level administrative division of the Empire. The prefects again functioned as the chief ministers of the state, with many laws addressed to them by name. In this role, praetorian prefects continued to be appointed by the Eastern Roman Empire until the reign of Heraclius in the 7th century AD, when wide-ranging reforms reduced their power and converted them to a mere overseers of provincial administration. The last traces of the prefecture disappeared in the Byzantine Empire by the 840s.

Praetorian Guard Imperial Roman unit who guarded the emperors

The Praetorian Guard was an elite unit of the Imperial Roman army whose members served as personal bodyguards to the Roman emperors. During the era of the Roman Republic, the Praetorians served as a small escort force for high-ranking officials such as senators or provincial governors like procurators, and also serving as bodyguards for high ranking officers within the Roman legions. With the republic's transition into the Roman Empire, however, the first emperor, Augustus, founded the Guard as his personal security detail. Although they continued to serve in this capacity for roughly three centuries, the Guard became notable for its intrigue and interference in Roman politics, to the point of overthrowing emperors and proclaiming their successors. In 312, the Guard was disbanded by Constantine the Great.

Suetonius Roman historian

Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, commonly known as Suetonius, was a Roman historian belonging to the equestrian order who wrote during the early Imperial era of the Roman Empire.

As emperor, Titus is best known for completing the Colosseum and for his generosity in relieving the suffering caused by two disasters, the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79 and a fire in Rome in 80. After barely two years in office, Titus died of a fever on 13 September 81. He was deified by the Roman Senate and succeeded by his younger brother Domitian.

Colosseum Amphitheatre in Rome

The Colosseum or Coliseum, also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre, is an oval amphitheatre in the centre of the city of Rome, Italy. Built of travertine limestone, tuff, and brick-faced concrete, it was the largest amphitheatre ever built at the time and held 50,000 spectators. The Colosseum is situated just east of the Roman Forum. Construction began under the emperor Vespasian in AD 72 and was completed in AD 80 under his successor and heir, Titus. Further modifications were made during the reign of Domitian (81–96). These three emperors are known as the Flavian dynasty, and the amphitheatre was named in Latin for its association with their family name (Flavius).

Apotheosis glorification of a subject to divine level

Apotheosis is the glorification of a subject to divine level and, most commonly, the treatment of a human like a god. The term has meanings in theology, where it refers to a belief, and in art, where it refers to a genre.

Roman Senate A political institution in ancient Rome

The Roman Senate was a political institution in ancient Rome. It was one of the most enduring institutions in Roman history, being established in the first days of the city of Rome,. It survived the overthrow of the kings in 509 BC, the fall of the Roman Republic in the 1st century BC, the division of the Roman Empire in 395 AD, the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 AD, and the barbarian rule of Rome in the 5th, 6th, and 7th centuries.

Early life

Titus was born in Rome, probably on 30 December 39 AD, as the eldest son of Titus Flavius Vespasianus—commonly known as Vespasian—and Domitilla the Elder. [1] He had one younger sister, Domitilla the Younger (born 45), and one younger brother, Titus Flavius Domitianus (born 51), commonly referred to as Domitian.

Rome Capital of Italy

Rome is the capital city and a special comune of Italy. Rome also serves as the capital of the Lazio region. With 2,872,800 residents in 1,285 km2 (496.1 sq mi), it is also the country's most populated comune. It is the fourth most populous city in the European Union by population within city limits. It is the centre of the Metropolitan City of Rome, which has a population of 4,355,725 residents, thus making it the most populous metropolitan city in Italy. Rome is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, within Lazio (Latium), along the shores of the Tiber. The Vatican City is an independent country inside the city boundaries of Rome, the only existing example of a country within a city: for this reason Rome has been often defined as capital of two states.

Domitilla the Elder Wife of the Roman Emperor Vespasian

Flavia Domitilla MajorFlavia Domitilla the Elder or Domitilla the Elder was the wife of the Roman Emperor Vespasian.

Domitilla the Younger Ancient Roman woman

Flavia Domitilla the Younger or Flavia Domitilla Minor was the only daughter of the Roman Emperor Vespasian and Flavia Domitilla the Elder. Her elder brother was Titus, and her younger brother Domitian. At the age of fifteen, she was married to Quintus Petillius Cerialis, with whom she had a daughter, the later Christian saint Flavia Domitilla.

Family background

Marble bust of Titus from Utica (Tunisia), dated 79-81 AD, British Museum Marble head of the emperor Titus (AD79-81), from Utica (Tunisia), about AD 70-81, Roman Empire, British Museum (15859087855).jpg
Marble bust of Titus from Utica (Tunisia), dated 79–81 AD, British Museum

Decades of civil war during the 1st century BC had contributed greatly to the demise of the old aristocracy of Rome, which was gradually replaced in prominence by a new provincial nobility during the early part of the 1st century. [2] One such family was the gens Flavia , which rose from relative obscurity to prominence in just four generations, acquiring wealth and status under the Emperors of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Titus's great-grandfather, Titus Flavius Petro, had served as a centurion under Pompey during Caesar's Civil War. His military career ended in disgrace when he fled the battlefield at the Battle of Pharsalus in 48 BC. [3]

Flavia (gens) families from Ancient Rome who shared the Flavius nomen

The gens Flavia was a plebeian family at Rome. Its members are first mentioned during the last three centuries of the Republic. The first of the Flavii to achieve prominence was Marcus Flavius, tribune of the plebs in 327 and 323 BC; however, no Flavius attained the consulship until Gaius Flavius Fimbria in 104 BC. The gens became illustrious during the first century AD, when the family of the Flavii Sabini claimed the imperial dignity.

Julio-Claudian dynasty dynasty

The Julio-Claudian dynasty was the first Roman imperial dynasty, consisting of the first five emperors—Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero—or the family to which they belonged. They ruled the Roman Empire from its formation under Augustus in 27 BC until AD 68, when the last of the line, Nero, committed suicide. The name "Julio-Claudian dynasty" is a historiographical term derived from the two main branches of the imperial family: the gens Julia and gens Claudia.

Titus Flavius Petro was the paternal grandfather of the Roman Emperor Vespasian.

Nevertheless, Petro managed to improve his status by marrying the extremely wealthy Tertulla, whose fortune guaranteed the upwards mobility of Petro's son Titus Flavius Sabinus I, Titus's grandfather. [4] Sabinus himself amassed further wealth and possible equestrian status through his services as tax collector in Asia and banker in Helvetia. By marrying Vespasia Polla he allied himself to the more prestigious patrician gens Vespasia, ensuring the elevation of his sons Titus Flavius Sabinus II and Vespasian to the senatorial rank. [4]

The political career of Vespasian included the offices of quaestor, aedile and praetor, and culminated with a consulship in 51, the year Domitian was born. As a military commander, he gained early renown by participating in the Roman invasion of Britain in 43. [5] What little is known of Titus's early life has been handed down to us by Suetonius, who records that he was brought up at the imperial court in the company of Britannicus, [6] the son of emperor Claudius, who would be murdered by Nero in 55.

The story was even told that Titus was reclining next to Britannicus, the night he was murdered, and sipped of the poison that was handed to him. [6] Further details on his education are scarce, but it seems he showed early promise in the military arts and was a skilled poet and orator both in Greek and Latin. [7]

Adult life

From c. 57 to 59 he was a military tribune in Germania. He also served in Britannia, perhaps arriving c. 60 with reinforcements needed after the revolt of Boudica. In c. 63 he returned to Rome and married Arrecina Tertulla, daughter of Marcus Arrecinus Clemens, a former Prefect of the Praetorian Guard. She died c. 65. [8]

Titus then took a new wife of a much more distinguished family, Marcia Furnilla. However, Marcia's family was closely linked to the opposition to Nero. Her uncle Barea Soranus and his daughter Servilia were among those who perished after the failed Pisonian conspiracy of 65. [9] Some modern historians theorize that Titus divorced his wife because of her family's connection to the conspiracy. [10] [11]

Titus never remarried. He appears to have had multiple daughters, [12] at least one of them by Marcia Furnilla. [13] The only one known to have survived to adulthood was Julia Flavia, perhaps Titus's child by Arrecina, whose mother was also named Julia. [14] During this period Titus also practiced law and attained the rank of quaestor. [13]

Judaean campaigns

The province of Judaea during the 1st century. First century Iudaea province.gif
The province of Judaea during the 1st century.

In 66 the Jews of the Judaea Province revolted against the Roman Empire. Cestius Gallus, the legate of Syria, was defeated at the battle of Beth-Horon and forced to retreat from Jerusalem. [15] The pro-Roman king Agrippa II and his sister Berenice fled the city to Galilee where they later gave themselves up to the Romans. [16]

Nero appointed Vespasian to put down the rebellion, who was dispatched to the region at once with the Fifth Legion and Tenth Legion. [16] He was later joined at Ptolemais by Titus with the Fifteenth Legion. [17] With a strength of 60,000 professional soldiers, the Romans prepared to sweep across Galilee and march on Jerusalem. [17]

The history of the war was covered in detail by the Roman-Jewish historian Josephus in his work The War of the Jews . Josephus served as a commander in the city of Yodfat when the Roman army invaded Galilee in 67. After an exhausting siege which lasted 47 days, the city fell, with an estimated 40,000 killed. Titus, however, was not simply set on ending the war. [18]

Surviving one of several group suicides, Josephus surrendered to Vespasian and became a prisoner. He later wrote that he provided the Romans with intelligence on the ongoing revolt. [19] By 68, the entire coast and the north of Judaea were subjugated by the Roman army, with decisive victories won at Taricheae and Gamala, where Titus distinguished himself as a skilled general. [13] [20]

Year of the Four Emperors

A map of the Roman Empire during the Year of the Four Emperors (AD 69). Blue areas indicate provinces loyal to Vespasian and Gaius Licinius Mucianus. Roman Empire 69.svg
A map of the Roman Empire during the Year of the Four Emperors (AD 69). Blue areas indicate provinces loyal to Vespasian and Gaius Licinius Mucianus.

The last and most significant fortified city held by the Jewish resistance was Jerusalem. The campaign came to a sudden halt when news arrived of Nero's death. [21] Almost simultaneously, the Roman Senate had declared Galba, then governor of Hispania, as Emperor of Rome. Vespasian decided to await further orders, and sent Titus to greet the new princeps . [22]

Before reaching Italy, Titus learnt that Galba had been murdered and replaced by Otho, governor of Lusitania, and that Vitellius and his armies in Germania were preparing to march on the capital, intent on overthrowing Otho. Not wanting to risk being taken hostage by one side or the other, he abandoned the journey to Rome and rejoined his father in Judaea. [23] Meanwhile, Otho was defeated in the First Battle of Bedriacum and committed suicide. [24]

When the news reached the armies in Judaea and Ægyptus, they took matters into their own hands and declared Vespasian emperor on 1 July 69. [25] Vespasian accepted, and through negotiations by Titus, joined forces with Gaius Licinius Mucianus, governor of Syria. [26] A strong force drawn from the Judaean and Syrian legions marched on Rome under the command of Mucianus, while Vespasian travelled to Alexandria, leaving Titus in charge to end the Jewish rebellion. [27] [28] By the end of 69, the forces of Vitellius had been beaten, and Vespasian was officially declared emperor by the Senate on 21 December, thus ending the Year of the Four Emperors. [29]

Siege of Jerusalem

Destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem, Francesco Hayez, oil on canvas, 1867. Depicting the destruction and looting of the Second Temple by the Roman army. Francesco Hayez 017.jpg
Destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem, Francesco Hayez, oil on canvas, 1867. Depicting the destruction and looting of the Second Temple by the Roman army.

Meanwhile, the Jews had become embroiled in a civil war of their own, splitting the resistance in Jerusalem among several factions. The Sicarii, led by Menahem ben Judah, could hold on for long; the Zealots, led by Eleazar ben Simon, eventually fell under the command of the Galilean leader John of Gush Halav; and the other northern rebel commander, Simon Bar Giora, managed to gain leadership over the Idumeans. [30] Titus besieged Jerusalem. The Roman army was joined by the Twelfth Legion, which had been previously defeated under Cestius Gallus, and from Alexandria, Vespasian sent Tiberius Julius Alexander, governor of Egypt, to act as Titus' second in command. [31]

Titus surrounded the city, with three legions (Vth, XIIth and XVth) on the western side and one (Xth) on the Mount of Olives to the east. He put pressure on the food and water supplies of the inhabitants by allowing pilgrims to enter the city to celebrate Passover, and then refusing them egress. Jewish raids continuously harassed the Roman army, one of which nearly resulted in Titus being captured. [32]

After attempts by Josephus to negotiate a surrender had failed, the Romans resumed hostilities and quickly breached the first and second walls of the city. [33] To intimidate the resistance, Titus ordered deserters from the Jewish side to be crucified around the city wall. [34] By this time the Jews had been exhausted by famine, and when the weak third wall was breached, bitter street fighting ensued. [35]

The Romans finally captured the Antonia Fortress and began a frontal assault on the gates of the Temple. [36] As they breached the gate, the Romans set the upper and lower city aflame, culminating with the destruction of the Second Temple. When the fires subsided, Titus gave the order to destroy the remainder of the city, allegedly intending that no one would remember the name Jerusalem. [37] The Temple was demolished, after which Titus' soldiers proclaimed him imperator in honor of the victory. [38]

Jerusalem was sacked and much of the population killed or dispersed. Josephus claims that 1,100,000 people were killed during the siege, of which a majority were Jewish. [39] Josephus' death toll assumptions are rejected as impossible by modern scholarship, since around the time about a million people lived in Palestine, about half of them were Jews, and sizable Jewish populations remained in the area after the war was over, even in the hard-hit region of Judea. [40] 97,000 were captured and enslaved, including Simon Bar-Giora and John of Jish. [39] Many fled to areas around the Mediterranean Sea. Titus reportedly refused to accept a wreath of victory, as he claimed that he had not won the victory on his own, but had been the vehicle through which their God had manifested his wrath against his people. [41]

The Jewish diaspora at the time of the Temple’s destruction, according to Josephus, was in Parthia (Persia), Babylonia (Iraq), and Arabia, as well as some Jews beyond the Euphrates and in Adiabene (Kurdistan). [42]

Heir to Vespasian

Titus' triumph after the First Jewish-Roman War was celebrated with the Arch of Titus in Rome, which shows the treasures taken from the Temple, including the Menorah and the trumpets of Jericho. Arch of Titus Menorah.png
Titus' triumph after the First Jewish-Roman War was celebrated with the Arch of Titus in Rome, which shows the treasures taken from the Temple, including the Menorah and the trumpets of Jericho.

Unable to sail to Italy during the winter, Titus celebrated elaborate games at Caesarea Maritima and Berytus, then travelled to Zeugma on the Euphrates, where he was presented with a crown by Vologases I of Parthia. While visiting Antioch he confirmed the traditional rights of the Jews in that city. [43]

Statue of Titus modelled after the Doryphoros of Polykleitos, 79-81 AD, Vatican Museums Torso di doriforo di policleto con ritratto di tito, 79-81 dc..JPG
Statue of Titus modelled after the Doryphoros of Polykleitos, 79–81 AD, Vatican Museums

On his way to Alexandria, he stopped in Memphis to consecrate the sacred bull Apis. According to Suetonius, this caused consternation: the ceremony required Titus to wear a diadem, which the Romans associated with monarchy, and the partisanship of Titus's legions had already led to fears that he might rebel against his father. Titus returned quickly to Rome – hoping, says Suetonius, to allay any suspicions about his conduct. [44]

Upon his arrival in Rome in 71, Titus was awarded a triumph. [45] Accompanied by Vespasian and Domitian, Titus rode into the city, enthusiastically saluted by the Roman populace and preceded by a lavish parade containing treasures and captives from the war. Josephus describes a procession with large amounts of gold and silver carried along the route, followed by elaborate re-enactments of the war, Jewish prisoners, and finally the treasures taken from the Temple of Jerusalem, including the Menorah and the Pentateuch. [46] Simon Bar Giora was executed in the Forum, after which the procession closed with religious sacrifices at the Temple of Jupiter. [47] The triumphal Arch of Titus, which stands at one entrance to the Forum, memorializes the victory of Titus.

With Vespasian declared emperor, Titus and his brother Domitian received the title of Caesar from the Senate. [48] In addition to sharing tribunician power with his father, Titus held seven consulships during Vespasian's reign [49] and acted as his secretary, appearing in the Senate on his behalf. [49] More crucially, he was appointed Praetorian prefect (commander of the Praetorian Guard), ensuring the Guard's loyalty to the Emperor and further solidifying Vespasian's position as a legitimate ruler. [49]

In this capacity Titus achieved considerable notoriety in Rome for his violent actions, frequently ordering the execution of suspected traitors on the spot. [49] When in 79, a plot by Aulus Caecina Alienus and Eprius Marcellus to overthrow Vespasian was uncovered, Titus invited Alienus to dinner and ordered him to be stabbed before he had even left the room. [49] [50]

During the Jewish wars, Titus had begun a love affair with Berenice, sister of Agrippa II. [23] The Herodians had collaborated with the Romans during the rebellion, and Berenice herself had supported Vespasian in his campaign to become emperor. [51] In 75, she returned to Titus and openly lived with him in the palace as his promised wife. The Romans were wary of the eastern queen and disapproved of their relationship.[ citation needed ] When the pair was publicly denounced by Cynics in the theatre, Titus caved in to the pressure and sent her away, [52] but his reputation suffered further regardless.

Emperor (79–81)


A Roman denarius depicting Titus, c. 79. The reverse commemorates his triumph in the Judaean wars, representing a Jewish captive kneeling in front of a trophy of arms. Caption: IMP. T. CAESAR VESPASIANVS AVG. / TRibunus POTestas VIII, COnSul VII Titus Augustus Denarius.png
A Roman denarius depicting Titus, c. 79. The reverse commemorates his triumph in the Judaean wars, representing a Jewish captive kneeling in front of a trophy of arms. Caption: IMP. T. CAESAR VESPASIANVS AVG. / TRibunus POTestas VIII, COnSul VII

Vespasian died of an infection on 23 June 79 AD, [53] and was immediately succeeded by his son Titus. [54] As Pharaoh of Egypt, Titus adopted the titulary Autokrator Titos Kaisaros Hununefer Benermerut (“Emperor Titus Caesar, the perfect and popular youth”). [55] Because of his many (alleged) vices, many Romans feared that he would be another Nero. [56] Against these expectations, however, Titus proved to be an effective Emperor and was well loved by the population, who praised him highly when they found that he possessed the greatest virtues instead of vices. [56]

One of his first acts as Emperor was to order a halt to trials based on treason charges, [57] which had long plagued the principate. The law of treason, or law of majestas, was originally intended to prosecute those who had corruptly "impaired the people and majesty of Rome" by any revolutionary action. [58] Under Augustus, however, this custom had been revived and applied to cover slander and libel as well. [58] This led to numerous trials and executions under Tiberius, Caligula, and Nero, and the formation of networks of informers ( Delators ), which terrorized Rome's political system for decades. [57]

Titus put an end to this practice, against himself or anyone else, declaring:

It is impossible for me to be insulted or abused in any way. For I do naught that deserves censure, and I care not for what is reported falsely. As for the emperors who are dead and gone, they will avenge themselves in case anyone does them a wrong, if in very truth they are demigods and possess any power. [59]

Consequently, no senators were put to death during his reign; [59] he thus kept to his promise that he would assume the office of Pontifex Maximus "for the purpose of keeping his hands unstained". [60] The informants were publicly punished and banished from the city. Titus further prevented abuses by making it unlawful for a person to be tried under different laws for the same offense. [57] Finally, when Berenice returned to Rome, he sent her away. [56]

As Emperor he became known for his generosity, and Suetonius states that upon realising he had brought no benefit to anyone during a whole day he remarked, "Friends, I have lost a day." [57]


The Eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 completely destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum. Today plaster casts of actual victims found during excavations are on display in some of the ruins. Pompeii Garden of the Fugitives 02.jpg
The Eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 completely destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum. Today plaster casts of actual victims found during excavations are on display in some of the ruins.

Although his administration was marked by a relative absence of major military or political conflicts, Titus faced a number of major disasters during his brief reign. On 24 October 79, four months after his accession, Mount Vesuvius erupted. [61] The eruption almost completely destroyed the cities and resort communities around the Bay of Naples. The cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum were buried under metres of stone and lava, [62] killing thousands. [63] Titus appointed two ex-consuls to organize and coordinate the relief effort, while personally donating large amounts of money from the imperial treasury to aid the victims of the volcano. [57] Additionally, he visited Pompeii once after the eruption and again the following year. [64]

During the second visit, in spring of AD 80, a fire broke out in Rome, burning large parts of the city for three days and three nights. [57] [64] Although the extent of the damage was not as disastrous as during the Great Fire of 64—crucially sparing the many districts of insulaeCassius Dio records a long list of important public buildings that were destroyed, including Agrippa's Pantheon, the Temple of Jupiter, the Diribitorium, parts of the Theatre of Pompey, and the Saepta Julia among others. [64] Once again, Titus personally compensated for the damaged regions. [64] According to Suetonius, a plague also broke out during the fire. [57] The nature of the disease, however, or the death toll are unknown.

Meanwhile, war had resumed in Britannia, where Gnaeus Julius Agricola pushed further into Caledonia and managed to establish several forts there. [65] As a result of his actions, Titus received the title of Imperator for the fifteenth time, between September 9 and December 31, 79 AD. [66]

His reign also saw the rebellion led by Terentius Maximus, one of several false Neros who appeared throughout the 70s. [67] Although Nero was primarily known as a universally hated tyrant, there is evidence that for much of his reign, he remained highly popular in the eastern provinces. Reports that Nero had in fact survived his overthrow were fueled by the confusing circumstances of his death and several prophecies foretelling his return. [68]

According to Cassius Dio, Terentius Maximus resembled Nero in voice and appearance and, like him, sang to the lyre. [59] Terentius established a following in Asia minor but was soon forced to flee beyond the Euphrates, taking refuge with the Parthians. [59] [67] In addition, sources state that Titus discovered that his brother Domitian was plotting against him but refused to have him killed or banished. [60] [69]

Public works

The Flavian Amphitheatre, better known as the Colosseum, was completed after 10 years construction during the reign of Titus and inaugurated with spectacular games that lasted for 100 days. See Inaugural games of the Flavian Amphitheatre. Colosseum in Rome, Italy - April 2007.jpg
The Flavian Amphitheatre, better known as the Colosseum, was completed after 10 years construction during the reign of Titus and inaugurated with spectacular games that lasted for 100 days. See Inaugural games of the Flavian Amphitheatre .

Construction of the Flavian Amphitheatre, presently better known as the Colosseum, was begun in 70 under Vespasian and finally completed in 80 under Titus. [70] In addition to providing spectacular entertainments to the Roman populace, the building was also conceived as a gigantic triumphal monument to commemorate the military achievements of the Flavians during the Jewish wars. [71]

The inaugural games lasted for a hundred days and were said to be extremely elaborate, including gladiatorial combat, fights between wild animals (elephants and cranes), mock naval battles for which the theatre was flooded, horse races and chariot races. [72] During the games, wooden balls were dropped into the audience, inscribed with various prizes (clothing, gold, or even slaves), which could then be traded for the designated item. [72]

Adjacent to the amphitheatre, within the precinct of Nero's Golden House, Titus had also ordered the construction of a new public bath-house, the Baths of Titus. [72] Construction of this building was hastily finished to coincide with the completion of the Flavian Amphitheatre. [56]

Practice of the imperial cult was revived by Titus, though apparently it met with some difficulty as Vespasian was not deified until six months after his death. [73] To further honor and glorify the Flavian dynasty, foundations were laid for what would later become the Temple of Vespasian and Titus, which was finished by Domitian. [74] [75]

Death (81 AD)

Marble statue of Titus found near the Lateran Baptistry, Chiaramonti Museum of the Vatican Museums Tito, da vicinanze del battistero lateranense, inv. 2282, 02.JPG
Marble statue of Titus found near the Lateran Baptistry, Chiaramonti Museum of the Vatican Museums

At the closing of the games, Titus officially dedicated the amphitheatre and the baths, which was to be his final recorded act as Emperor. [69] He set out for the Sabine territories but fell ill at the first posting station [76] where he died of a fever, reportedly in the same farm-house as his father. [77] Allegedly, the last words he uttered before passing away were: "I have made but one mistake". [69] [76]

Titus had ruled the Roman Empire for just over two years, from the death of his father in 79 to his own on 13 September 81. [69] He was succeeded by Domitian, whose first act as emperor was to deify his brother. [78]

Historians have speculated on the exact nature of his death, and to which mistake Titus alluded in his final words. Philostratus writes that he was poisoned by Domitian with a sea hare ( Aplysia depilans ), and that his death had been foretold to him by Apollonius of Tyana. [79] Suetonius and Cassius Dio maintain he died of natural causes, but both accuse Domitian of having left the ailing Titus for dead. [69] [78] Consequently, Dio believes Titus's mistake refers to his failure to have his brother executed when he was found to be openly plotting against him. [69]

The Babylonian Talmud (Gittin 56b) attributes Titus' death to an insect that flew into his nose and picked at his brain for seven years, in a repetition of another legend referring to the biblical King Nimrod. [80] [81] [82] Jewish tradition says that Titus was plagued by God for destroying the second Temple Mount and a gnat went up his nose and he had a large growth inside of his brain that killed him. [83] [84]




The Arch of Titus, located on the Via Sacra, just to the south-east of the Forum Romanum in Rome. Arco de Tito.jpg
The Arch of Titus, located on the Via Sacra, just to the south-east of the Forum Romanum in Rome.
Marble statue of Titus, late 1st century AD, now in the Louvre, Paris Tito, fine I sec. dc..JPG
Marble statue of Titus, late 1st century AD, now in the Louvre, Paris

Titus's record among ancient historians stands as one of the most exemplary of any emperor. All the surviving accounts from this period, many of them written by his own contemporaries, present a highly favorable view toward Titus. His character has especially prospered in comparison with that of his brother Domitian.

The Wars of the Jews offers a first-hand, eye-witness account of the Jewish rebellion and the character of Titus. The neutrality of Josephus' writings has come into question however, as he was heavily indebted to the Flavians. In 71, he arrived in Rome in the entourage of Titus, became a Roman citizen and took on the Roman nomen Flavius and praenomen Titus from his patrons. He received an annual pension and lived in the palace. [85]

It was while in Rome, and under Flavian patronage, that Josephus wrote all of his known works. The War of the Jews is heavily slanted against the leaders of the revolt, portraying the rebellion as weak and unorganized, and even blaming the Jews for causing the war. [86] The credibility of Josephus as a historian has subsequently come under fire. [87]

Another contemporary of Titus was Publius Cornelius Tacitus, who started his public career in 80 or 81 and credits the Flavian dynasty with his elevation. [88] The Histories —his account of this period—was published during the reign of Trajan. Unfortunately only the first five books from this work have survived until the present day, with the text on Titus's and Domitian's reign entirely lost.

Suetonius Tranquilius gives a short but highly favourable account on Titus's reign in The Lives of Twelve Caesars , [89] emphasizing his military achievements and his generosity as Emperor, in short describing him as follows:

Titus, of the same surname as his father, was the delight and darling of the human race; such surpassing ability had he, by nature, art, or good fortune, to win the affections of all men, and that, too, which is no easy task, while he was emperor. [89]

Finally, Cassius Dio wrote his Roman History over a hundred years after the death of Titus. He shares a similar outlook as Suetonius, possibly even using the latter as a source, but is more reserved, noting:

His satisfactory record may also have been due to the fact that he survived his accession but a very short time, for he was thus given no opportunity for wrongdoing. For he lived after this only two years, two months and twenty days—in addition to the thirty-nine years, five months and twenty-five days he had already lived at that time. In this respect, indeed, he is regarded as having equalled the long reign of Augustus, since it is maintained that Augustus would never have been loved had he lived a shorter time, nor Titus had he lived longer. For Augustus, though at the outset he showed himself rather harsh because of the wars and the factional strife, was later able, in the course of time, to achieve a brilliant reputation for his kindly deeds; Titus, on the other hand, ruled with mildness and died at the height of his glory, whereas, if he had lived a long time, it might have been shown that he owes his present fame more to good fortune than to merit. [54]

Pliny the Elder, who later died during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, [90] dedicated his Naturalis Historia to Titus. [91]

In contrast to the ideal portrayal of Titus in Roman histories, in Jewish memory "Titus the Wicked" is remembered as an evil oppressor and destroyer of the Temple. For example, one legend in the Babylonian Talmud describes Titus as having had sex with a whore on a Torah scroll inside the Temple during its destruction. [92]

Titus in later arts

The Triumph of Titus, by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1885). The composition suggests a love affair between Titus and Domitian's wife Domitia Longina (see below). The Triumph of Titus Alma Tadema.jpg
The Triumph of Titus, by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1885). The composition suggests a love affair between Titus and Domitian's wife Domitia Longina (see below).

The war in Judaea and the life of Titus, particularly his relationship with Berenice, have inspired writers and artists through the centuries. The bas-relief in the Arch of Titus has been influential in the depiction of the destruction of Jerusalem, with the Menorah frequently being used to symbolise the looting of the Second Temple.


  • The early medieval Christian text Vindicta Salvatoris anachronistically portrays Titus as Roman client king of Libya, north of Judah. [93]
  • Bérénice , a play by Jean Racine (1670) which focuses on the love affair between Titus and Berenice.
  • Tite et Bérénice , a play by Pierre Corneille which was in competition with Racine the same year, and concerns the same subject matter.
  • La clemenza di Tito , an opera by Mozart, that centers around a plot to kill Emperor Titus instigated by Vitellia, daughter of Vitellius, in order to gain what she believes to be her rightful place as Queen.
  • The Josephus Trilogy, novels by Lion Feuchtwanger, about the life of Flavius Josephus and his relation with the Flavian dynasty.
    • Der jüdische Krieg (Josephus), 1932
    • Die Söhne (The Jews of Rome), 1935
    • Der Tag wird kommen (The day will come, Josephus and the Emperor), 1942
  • The Marcus Didius Falco novels, which take place during the reign of Vespasian.
  • Titus figures prominently in "The Pearl-Maiden", a novel by H. Rider Haggard, first published in 1901.

Paintings and visual arts


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  1. Suetonius claims Titus was born in the year Caligula was assassinated, 41. However, this contradicts his statement that Titus died in his 42nd year, as well as Cassius Dio, who notes that Titus was 39 at the time of his accession. See Suetonius, The Lives of Twelve Caesars , Life of Titus 1, 11; Cassius Dio, Roman History LXVI.18; and Brian Jones; Robert Milns (2002). Suetonius: The Flavian Emperors: A Historical Commentary. London: Bristol Classical Press. p. 91. ISBN   978-1-85399-613-9.
  2. Jones (1992), p. 3
  3. Jones (1992), p. 1
  4. 1 2 Jones (1992), p. 2
  5. Jones, (1992), p. 8
  6. 1 2 Suetonius, The Lives of Twelve Caesars , Life of Titus 2
  7. Suetonius, The Lives of Twelve Caesars , Life of Titus 3
  8. Suetonius, The Lives of Twelve Caesars , Life of Titus 4, with Jones and Milns, pp. 95–96
  9. Tacitus, Annals XVI.30–33
  10. Gavin Townend, "Some Flavian Connections", The Journal of Roman Studies (1961), p 57. See Suetonius, The Lives of Twelve Caesars , Life of Titus 4
  11. Jones (1992), p. 11
  12. Philostratus, The Life of Apollonius of Tyana VII.7
  13. 1 2 3 Suetonius, The Lives of Twelve Caesars , Life of Titus 4
  14. Jones and Milns, pp. 96, 167.
  15. Josephus, The Wars of the Jews II.19.9
  16. 1 2 Josephus, The Wars of the Jews III.1.2
  17. 1 2 Josephus, The War of the Jews III.4.2
  18. Josephus, The Wars of the Jews III.7.34
  19. Josephus, The Wars of the Jews III.8.8
  20. Josephus, The Wars of the Jews III.10
  21. Josephus, The Wars of the Jews IV.9.2
  22. Tacitus, Histories II.1
  23. 1 2 Tacitus, Histories II.2
  24. Tacitus, Histories II.41–49
  25. Josephus, The Wars of the Jews IV.10.4
  26. Tacitus, Histories II.5
  27. Josephus, The Wars of the Jews IV.11.1
  28. Tacitus, Histories II.82
  29. Tacitus, Histories IV.3
  30. Josephus, The Wars of the Jews V.1.4
  31. Josephus, The Wars of the Jews V.1.6
  32. Josephus, The Wars of the Jews V.2.2
  33. Josephus, The Wars of the Jews V.6–V.9
  34. Josephus, The Wars of the Jews V.11.1
  35. Josephus, The Wars of the Jews VI.2–VI.3
  36. Josephus, The Wars of the Jews VI.4.1
  37. Sulpicius Severus, Chronicles II.30.6–7. For Tacitus as the source, see T.D. Barnes (July 1977). "The Fragments of Tacitus' Histories". Classical Philology. 72 (3): 224–231, pp. 226–228. doi:10.1086/366355.
  38. Josephus, The Wars of the Jews VI.6.1
  39. 1 2 Josephus, The Wars of the Jews VI.9.3
  40. Schwartz, Seth (1984). "Political, social and economic life in the land of Israel". In Davies, William David; Finkelstein, Louis; Katz, Steven T. (eds.). The Cambridge History of Judaism: Volume 4, The Late Roman-Rabbinic Period. Cambridge University Press. p. 24. ISBN   9780521772488.
  41. Philostratus, The Life of Apollonius of Tyana 6.29
  42. Josephus. BJ. 1.1.5.
  43. Josephus, The Wars of the Jews VII.3.1, VII.5.2
  44. Suetonius, The Lives of Twelve Caesars , Life of Titus 5
  45. Cassius Dio, Roman History LXV.6
  46. Josephus, The Wars of the Jews VII.5.5
  47. Josephus, The Wars of the Jews VII.5.6
  48. Cassius Dio, Roman History LXV.1
  49. 1 2 3 4 5 Suetonius, The Lives of Twelve Caesars , Life of Titus 6
  50. Cassius Dio, Roman History LXV.16
  51. Tacitus, Histories II.81
  52. Cassius Dio, Roman History LXV.15
  53. Cassius Dio, Roman History LXVI.17
  54. 1 2 Cassius Dio, Roman History LXVI.18
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  59. 1 2 3 4 Cassius Dio, Roman History LXVI.19
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  61. Cassius Dio, Roman History LXVI.22
  62. Cassius Dio, Roman History LXVI.23
  63. The exact number of casualties is unknown; however, estimates of the population of Pompeii range between 10,000 ( "Engineering of Pompeii: Ruins Reveal Roman Technology for Construction, Transportation, and Water Distribution". Archived from the original on 8 July 2008. Retrieved 10 March 2009.) and 25,000 (), with at least a thousand bodies currently recovered in and around the city ruins.
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  73. Coins bearing the inscription Divus Vespasianus were not issued until 80 or 81 by Titus.
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  75. Suetonius, The Lives of Twelve Caesars , Life of Domitian 5
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  77. Suetonius, The Lives of Twelve Caesars , Life of Titus 11
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Further reading

Primary sources

Secondary material

Born: December 30, 39 AD Died: September 13, 81 AD
Political offices
Preceded by
Gnaeus Caecilius Simplex,
and Gaius Quinctius Atticus
Consul of the Roman Empire
with Vespasian
Succeeded by
Gaius Licinius Mucianus II,
and Quintus Petillius Cerialis

as suffect consuls
Preceded by
Gnaeus Pompeius Collega,
and Quintus Julius Cordus

as suffect consuls
Consul of the Roman Empire
with Vespasian
Succeeded by
Gaius Licinius Mucianus III,
and Titus Flavius Sabinus II

as suffect consuls
Preceded by
Sextus Julius Frontinus,
and ignotus

as suffect consuls
Consul of the Roman Empire
with Vespasian,
followed by Domitian
Succeeded by
Gaius Catellius Celer,
and Marcus Arruntius Aquila

as suffect consuls
Preceded by
Quintus Articuleius Paetus,
and ignotus

as suffect consuls
Consul of the Roman Empire
Succeeded by
Aulus Didius Gallus Fabricius Veiento II,
and Lucius Aelius Lamia Plautius Aelianus

as suffect consuls
Preceded by
Roman Emperor
Succeeded by