1902 Encyclopedia > Titus (Roman emperor)

Titus
Roman emperor
(ruled 79-81 AD)




TITUS. By this, his Roman prmnomen, is usually known the eleventh of the Twelve Caesars, TITUS FLAVIUS SABINUS VESPASL4NUS, emperor from 79 to 81 A.D. With his father Irespasian, who rose to empire from the camp, began the Flavian line of emperors, the last three Caesars. Titus was born in 40, the year of the assassination of the fourth Caesar, Caius Caligula, and was brought up in the household of Claudius, with that emperor's son, Britannicus. There was a story that he was dining at Nero's table when Britannicus was poisoned, and that he himself tasted the fatal cup, and had in consequence a serious illness. Some time afterwards he erected two statues to the young prince's memory. Educated in the imperial court, he was thoroughly trained in all elegant accomplishments : he could speak Greek fluently, and could compose verses ; he was a proficient in music ; he could write shorthand, and could imitate handwriting so skilfully that he used to say that he might have been a most successful forger. He was very handsome, with a fine commanding expression, and a vigorous frame, well trained in all the exercises of a soldier. As a young man he served with credit in Germany and in Britain, and he practised at the bar. Soon he had the command of a legion, and joined his father in Syria ; he took an active part in the Jewish war, capturing several important fortresses, among them Taricham and Gamala. In 68 he went at his father's bidding on a visit of congratulation to the newly proclaimed emperor, Galba ; but, hearing of Galba's death and of the general confusion in the Roman world, he returned to his father in Palestine, having in the meantime consulted the oracle of the Paphian Venus as to his prospects and received a favourable answer. In the following year Vespasian, who, through his son's pleasing manner and adroit management, had made a friend of Mucianus, the governor of Syria, became emperor, and left Titus to finally settle the Jewish war by the capture of Jerusalem. Titus conducted the siege of the city, which for some months was defended amid incredible horrors, with signal ability, and took and destroyed it in September 70. The army saluted their victorious general by the title of " imperator " ; in the East Titus was now supreme, and practically emperor. On his return to Italy by way of Alexandria he fell in with that strange professor of mystical philosophy and magic, Apollonius of Tyana, and listened, it is said, to his pedantic talk and advice. As soon as he arrived at Rome there was the usual triumph for a decisive victory, and both father and son shared it. On the arch of Titus, as it is called, erected some few years afterwards (see vol. xx. p. 830), may still be seen sculptured representations of Jewish captives and of the captured trophies. Titus was now formally associated with his father in the government, with the title of Caesar, and during the nine remaining years of Vespasian's reign he controlled the administration, and was in fact emperor. He was anything but popular ; he had the character of being luxurious, self-indulgent, profligate, and cruel. Summary execution of obnoxious persons seems to have been not uncommon. There was a bad scandal too about his connexion with the shameless Jewish beauty Berenice, the sister of the Agrippa of the Acts of the Apostles ; both brother and sister followed Titus to Rome, and were allowed to reside in the imperial palace. Public opinion at Rome was outraged, and Titus, though he had promised Berenice marriage, felt obliged to send her back to the Fast. Vespasian died in 79, leaving his son a safe throne and a well-filled treasury. The forebodings of the people were agreeably disappointed, for Titus, who, it was feared, would be a second Nero, was known as the "love and delight of mankind." It is possible that his popularity was in some degree due to the fears which the depravity of his brother Domitian, who, it was known, was to succeed him, had begun to excite ; but he had the tact to make himself liked by all. He seems to have been thoroughly kindly and good-natured ; he delighted in giving splendid presents, and his memorable saying, "I have lost a day," is said to have been uttered one evening at the dinner table when he suddenly remembered that he had not bestowed a gift on any one that day.





Titus, like his father, spent money on great public works and in adding to the magnificence of Rome. The Colosseum was completed and dedicated in his reign, with combats of gladiators, shows of wild beasts, and sham sea-fights and representations of some of the great Greek naval battles. He gave the city what we should now call "a people's palace" in his splendid baths, which surpassed those of Agrippa and of Nero, and supplied the mob with every luxurious appliance free of cost.

During his reign, in 79, occurred the memorable eruption of Vesuvius which destroyed Herculaneum and Pompeii. The emperor visited the scenes of desolation and contributed liberally to the relief of the distressed inhabitants. During his absence a fire raged for three days at Rome, in which the Capitol was burnt ; then followed a pestilence, and again Titus not only helped freely with his purse, but took pains to acquaint himself with the sufferers and gave them his personal sympathy. Italy and the Roman world generally were quiet and peaceful during this brief reign. The only fighting was in Britain under Agricola, who in the year 80 carried the Roman arms into Scotland as far as the Tay. In the following September Titus died, being in his fortieth year, after a reign of two years and rather more than two months. On his deathbed he said, so the story went, that there was but one thing of which he repented : this was commonly supposed to point to his having spared to punish his brother Domitian, who had more than once plotted against his life, and whose succession to empire he must have felt would be a calamity for Rome. The verdict of history is on the whole favourable to Titus, and perhaps deservedly so ; but the general feeling throughout the Roman world after his death was that he had been fortunate in the briefness of his reign.

An admirable account of this emperor will be found in Merivale's History of the Romans under the Empire, ch. 60. (W. J. B.)






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