Childhood & Early Life
Titus was born on December 30, 39 AD to Titus Flavius Vespasianus and Domitilla the Elder. He was the eldest among the three siblings; his other siblings included: sister Domitilla the Younger and brother Titus Flavius Domitianus.
Not much is known about Titus’ early life except for the fact that he was brought up at the imperial court in the company of Britannicus, son of Emperor Claudius.
As a child, Titus excelled in both Greek and Latin. He was blessed with both poetic and oratory skills. On the military front, Titus was courageous and showed promise.
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Accession & Reign
From 57 AD to 59 AD, Titus served the military in Germania and Britannia. Following this, he commanded the fifteenth legion in Judaea under his father who was in-charge of crushing the rebellion. Titus played his role as a commander magnificently, attaining the title of a skilled general.
Following the unexpected death of Nero in 66 AD, there was a period of void within the Roman Empire. Two of Nero’s successors, Galba and Otho were short lived. While Galba was murdered by the enemies, Otho was defeated and subsequently committed suicide. Eventually, Titus’ father, Vespasian was declared as the Roman Emperor by the army professionals on July 1, 69 AD.
Immediately after his enthronement as the Roman Emperor, Vespasian gave his son Titus the charge of the Jewish War. Titus proved his mettle as a military leader by quickly taking over Jerusalem. The war led to the death of more than 1,100,000 people while several others were captured and enslaved. By the end of the siege, Jerusalem was captured but completely destroyed.
Following his victory in Jerusalem, he returned to Rome amidst extravagant celebrations. He was enthusiastically greeted by the populace that fervently enjoyed the lavish parade which displayed immensely valuable treasures taken from the war and the Temple of Jerusalem, which was followed by re-enactments of war and Jewish prisoners.
Upon his return, Titus and his younger brother received the title of Caesar. He held seven consulships under his father’s reign. Furthermore, he was appointed commander of the Praetorian Guard. As a commander, Titus reputation got somewhat stained as he ordered execution of traitors not merely by evidence but by suspicion as well.
Following the death of his father on June 23, 79 AD, Titus succeeded as the rightful heir to the Roman throne. Though many feared him to follow the footsteps of former emperor Nero, Titus contrastingly proved to be an efficient Emperor.
Following his accession to the throne, Titus first put an end to all the trials based on treason. As such, the custom of prosecuting people under slander and libel charges that started under Emperor Augustus was finally terminated. Subsequently, under Titus’ reign, no senators were given death sentence. Furthermore, he even banned trial of a person’s offence under different laws for the same offence.
Titus’ reign was filled with challenges. During his rule, the Roman Empire faced major disaster in the form of volcano eruption in Mount Vesuvius, which resulted in destruction of the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Just when relief works were in progress, a fire broke out in Rome that engulfed major part of the city, destroying important landmarks and monuments. Further aggravating the situation was a plague breakout that killed many.
While the natural disasters were wreaking havoc, a war that had resumed in Britannia further threatened his reign. As if this were any less, Terentius Maximus, a false Nero, started a rebellious uprising but was put down. Titus’ brother also challenged his leadership by plotting against him.
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Titus reign saw the completion of the Flavian Amphitheatre which had originally started under Vespasian in 70 AD. The gigantic monument finally became open to public in 80 AD. Apart from providing Romans with remarkable entertainment, the building commemorated the military achievements of the Flavians during the Jewish wars. A public bath house, Bath of Titus, was also constructed during his reign. It was located adjacently to the amphitheatre
The inaugural games at the Flavian Amphitheatre lasted for 100 days, comprising of extravagant events such as gladiatorial combat, mock naval battles, fights between wild animals and so on.
It was under Titus’ reign that the foundation of the Temple of Vespasian and Titus was laid. However, construction of the two monuments was eventually completed under Domitian’s rule.
Personal Life & Legacy
In 63 AD, Titus, upon returning to Rome from his military service in Britain and Germany, married Arrecina Tertulla. She was the daughter of a former Prefect of the Praetorian Guard. However, the marriage disbanded following Tertulla’s death in 65 AD.
Following the death of his first wife, Titus remarried Maria Furnilla, who belonged to an eminent family. However, since Furnilla’s family had close relations with opposition and were involved in the failed Pisonian conspiracy, Titus divorced her. Titus had multiple daughters but only one, Julia Flavia, survived past adulthood.
During the Jewish wars, Titus fell in love with Berenice, sister of Agrippa II. Though she openly declared her love for him and even came to live with him, Titus was aware of the resentment of the Romans against an eastern queen and thus sent her away.
Following the inaugural games at the Flavian Amphitheatre, Titus was at the first posting station in the Sabine territory when he fell ill. He died of fever on September 13, 81 AD. He was succeeded by his younger brother Domitian.
The Arch of Titus, which stands on the Via Sacra south-east of the Forum Romanum in Rome even today, marks the victory of Titus in the war against the Jews.
His life has been commemorated by authors and artists throughout the world in the form of literature, paintings, depictions and so on.