TITUS: Darling of the Human Race?

Titus "was the delight and darling of the human race" (Titus 1). Suetonius used language that was, for him, unprecedented in describing a Roman emperor. This is a larger- than-life opinion that has persisted over time -- Titus, the emperor celebrated for his clemency and fatherly care of his subjects. This became the subject of Mozart's opera La Clemenza di Tito, where a conspiracy against Titus (led by, of all people, Vitellia, the daughter of Vitellius) ends with the emperor living up to his code of honor and forgiving the conspirators. Drama, however, does not necessarily reflect life. In recent times, romanticized historical novels have made Titus into the perfect hero, even including encounters between Saints Mark, Paul and Peter and the future emperor in Neroís Rome! How much of Titusís reputation is deserved? This article will explore the life of Titus in an attempt to answer this question.

Family and Education

Titus Flavius Vespasianus, named for his father, was born at Rome on December 30, 39 CE, by tradition in a small room of a modest house. In contrast to his fatherís senatorial rank, his mother, Flavia Domitilla, was the daughter of a freedman. Suetonius creates some confusion in his biography of Titus (Titus 1) by giving his birth-year as occurring when the emperor Gaius was assassinated (41 CE) and goes on to state, using poor addition, that Titus died at the age of 42 (81 CE). Dio more accurately gives Titusís age on becoming emperor, on June 24, 79, as 39 years 5 months and 25 days (68.18.4).

Titusís great-grandfather, Titus Flavius Petro, had been a soldier in Pompeyís army, perhaps as a centurion. All that is known of his military service is that he fled from the battlefield at Pharsalus; he was pardoned by Caesar and later became a successful banker. Petroís son, Titus Flavius Sabinus, also had a lackluster military career. According to Suetonius, he was: a senior centurion, was forced to retire the command of a cohort due to ill health, or he avoided service completely. Sabinus attained equestrian rank and was in charge of the collection of various import duties from Asian goods. His reputation for honesty was such that the citizens of Asia erected statues to Sabinus inscribed "An honest tax-gatherer" (Vesp. 1.2-3). Sabinusís wife, Vespasia Polla, was the most eminent of Titusís grandparents. Her father, Vespasius Pollio, had become praefectus castorum, a rank held by senior centurions, and her brother had become a member of the Senate. Sabinus, too, became a banker and acquired enough wealth to help his sons, Vespasian and Sabinus II, begin senatorial careers.

Much of the old Republican nobility had died out during the civil wars and early empire; a new aristocracy was needed to fill the void. To become part of this emerging group one needed: wealth, access to patronage and not a little ambition. Who the patrons of the Flavians were cannot be determined with certainty, but as Sabinus I prospered he may have gained access to the circle of Germanicus. On Germanicusís death, Sabinus would have frequented the circle of his mother, Antonia, which included some of the most powerful families, such as the Plautii and Vitellii. Lucius Vitellius became one of Vespasianís patrons. Vespasianís ties to this group were strengthened through his mistress, Caenis; the most trusted of Antoniaís freedwomen (Dio 65.14.1-2). He probably got to know the oriental group that frequented Antoniaís circle, particularly M. Julius Agrippa and T. Julius Alexander, both of whom would play decisive roles in Vespasianís assumption of power.

Vespasianís early career was unspectacular. In his first attempt to become aedile he was defeated, but was elected the following year, albeit with the fewest number of votes.

The emperor Gaius was not impressed with Vespasian (Vesp. 5.3), and it was only through flattery that he was noticed. After Gaius claimed a victory against the Cannenefates (a German tribe on the North Sea coast) Vespasian made a speech before the Senate suggesting that games be held to celebrate the victory. He also thanked the emperor during a session of the Senate for an invitation to dinner and, more important, he introduced a proposal to refuse burial for Lepidus and Gaetulicus, who had conspired against Gaius with his sister, Agrippina (40 CE). All this helped Vespasianís election to the praetorship, this time as a favorite candidate (Vesp. 2.3).

When Claudius became emperor Vespasianís career soared. Control of the state lay in the hands of Claudiusís freedmen: Pallas, the chief financial officer, Narcissus, in crisis situations virtual deputy emperor and Callistus, who carried out judicial duties. When Britain was invaded in 43, Narcissus used his influence to obtain for Vespasian the command of legio II Augusta. Vespasian won several spectacular victories and captured over 20 towns (Vesp. 4.1). As a result of his success, the future emperor received the triumphal regalia, two priesthoods and became consul in 51. Because of his fatherís achievements Titus was granted an education in the imperial court (Titus 2). Although the sons of foreign rulers had been granted such an education it was rare for a Roman, and noteworthy. Othoís grandfather had been reared in Liviaís household (Otho 1.1) and Marcus Aurelius was educated in Hadrianís court. Titus was brought up with Claudiusís son, Britannicus, (Titusís junior by 14 months) sharing the same teachers and curriculum; they also became friends. Narcissus is said to have called in a physiognomist to examine Britannicusís features to prophesy his future. The man predicted that the prince would never succeed his father but Titus would do just that (Titus 2).

Titus was highly intelligent. He could read Greek and Latin and make a speech in either language. He is reported to have had a muscular physique, yet was graceful and dignified, and an expert in handling arms and riding (Titus 3; Dio 65.15.2). He was taught music and liked to play the cithara and sing, and wrote poetry (Titus 3). Military training was not neglected as part of his education. Titus was probably taught by the Praetorian prefects and he remained on good terms with the Praetorians. His first wife, Arrecina Tertulla, was the daughter of Arrecinus Clemens, prefect under Gaius. An advantage of his palace education was the friendships made with the most influential families. His skill as a diplomat, perhaps from contact with Narcissus, an expert at political maneuvering, is a likely product of his years at court.

The execution of Claudiusís wife, Messalina, in 48, caused a rift in Antoniaís circle over the selection of a new empress. The Vitellii and Pallas supported Agrippina the Younger while the Plautii and Narcissus favored Aelia Paetina; Vespasian followed the lead of his benefactor. His brother, Sabinus, favored Agrippina, as his continued good relations at court indicate. Claudiusís subsequent marriage to Agrippina, the death of Lucius Vitellius in 51 and Narcissusís loss of influence with Claudius placed Vespasianís favored position at court in jeopardy. Recalling his earlier insult, and being the sort who paid back her enemies, the empress had him dismissed, but Vespasian remained in Rome fulfilling his roles as senator and priest. It appears Titus remained at court, probably through the influence of his uncle Sabinus. As Britannicusís friend he placed his family at some risk by staying, especially since Agrippina was promoting Nero, whom she had Claudius adopt in 50, as the heir-apparent. She removed or killed those close to Claudiusís son. Sosibius, entrusted with Britannicusís education, was executed on the trumped up charge of plotting against Nero (Dio 61.32.5). Certainly, Titusís position must have fast become untenable and it is likely he was gone from court long before the murder of Claudius.

When Britannicus was poisoned by Nero at a banquet, Titus is reported to have drunk from the same cup and became dangerously ill (Titus 2). Contrary to what Suetonius reports, Titus was not present; the story was invented to lay claim to a Flavian connection with their good Julio-Claudian predecessors and distance them from Nero. Titus is not otherwise mentioned by the sources reporting the murder, even in Suetoniusís detailed version (Nero 33.2-3). The poison used was of such strength (Nero had it boiled down until a mere taste was enough to ensure death) that Titus certainly would have followed his friend in death (Annals 4.16). Propaganda aside, Titus remembered his friendship with Claudiusís son. As emperor, he had two statues made of Britannicus: one of gold that stood in the palace and one of ivory that was carried in processions in the circus (Titus 2).

Career and Marriage

On assuming the toga virilis Titus held the latus clarus (the senatorial strip) being the son of a senator and, like other such children, was encouraged to attend sessions of the Senate to make contacts. At the age of seventeen (56/57) , Titus was eligible for the vigintivirate but his career was placed on hold, like his father, because of the influence of Agrippina.

The vigintiviri were a group of minor magistrates at Rome organized into four colleges. Originally, there were 26 such positions but were reduced to 20 by Augustus. There were no official titles and the colleges covered such diverse functions as mint supervision, judicial responsibilities and the patrol and maintenance of the city streets. Many holders of the vigintivirate went on to hold a military tribunate but there were fewer by half of these positions available each year, so as to obtain a tribunate. It was not unusual for a candidate to postpone holding the vigintivirate.

With the murder of Agrippina in 59, the careers of the Flavians were once more advanced. Vespasian held a proconsulship in Africa, perhaps as early as 61/62 and Titus, after his term as vigintivirate, served as a military tribune in Germany and Britain. It is not recorded when Titus held the tribunate but the elder Pliny comments on being with Titus on active service in Germany (NH Praef. 3). Although the dates for Plinyís own service are uncertain, it is known that he was in Italy during 59, witnessed by his vivid account of an eclipse seen in Campania on April 30 of that year (NH 2.180). He probably began his military service in Germany sometime after 59, which coincides with Titusís vigintivirate. Titus had enough time to begin a military tribunate in 61. The dating of Titusís tribunate to 61 also coincides with the presence in Britain of the army commander Petronius Turpilianus, whose family were long-time patrons of the Flavians. Because of the small number of military tribunates, they were often the gift of an army commander, so Turpilianus was in a position to give Titus his second tribunate. The commander returned to Rome in 63 when he received the insignia triumphalia from Nero, perhaps making the journey with Titus. Therefore, it is reasonable to assign Titusís tribunate to 61/63. [1]

Titus received much praise from his service in Germany and Britain. Dio mistakenly places his rescue of his father during a battle in Britain (when he was eight years old) instead of Judea (61.30.1). Such a slip may be meant to refer to some other story of Titusís bravery. Suetonius noted that numerous statues were put up in Germany and Britain commemorating his achievements (Titus 4.1), but these were probably all erected after the Flavians came to power. The suggestion made by Tacitus, related in a speech of Mucianus to Vespasian (Hist 2.77), that Titus served with great distinction in Germany is another example of post-power propaganda. It is more likely that Titus was a competent rather than extraordinary officer.

Following military service, Titus returned to Rome practicing law to advance his reputation (Titus 4.2). His charismatic personality probably added to his success. Now in his early twenties, Titus could consider a marriage that would further his senatorial ambitions. He married Arrecina Tertulla, daughter of the former Praetorian prefect M. Arrecinus Clemens. Little is known of Tertullaís family and it has been postulated that there was a family connection to the Flavians (Vespasianís grandmother bore the cognomen Tertulla). The marriage may have been arranged not only to further Titusís career but to provide financial relief from the debt incurred by Vespasianís proconsulship (Vesp. 4.3).

Not long after the marriage, Tertulla died and Titus married Marcia Furnilla, daughter of Q. Marcus Barea Sura. There probably was a family connection here as well. Barea Soranus, was the brother of Barea Sura, a friend of Vespasian (Hist. 4.7). A full-length marble portrait identified as Marcia Furnilla (in the Ny Carlsburg Glyptotek, Copenhagen) shows her to be neither young or beautiful. The marriage was an influential one for Titus as his wifeís paternal grandfather had been proconsul of Africa twice; but like his first marriage, his second proved to be short-lived. Suetonius informs us that Furnilla was divorced after Titus "acknowledged his daughter" (Titus 4.2) but neglects to give her name. Philostratus indicated that Titus had more than one daughter (Vita Apoll. 7.7), which raises the question that Julia may not have been the daughter of Marcia Furnilla. Among the Flavians there was no other family member named Julia, so her name is likely to have come from her maternal family. Arrecina Tertulla could have been the mother of Julia as her family had the name in its line. [2] Titus divorced Marcia Furnilla when her uncle, Barea Soranus, was accused of sedition following the Pisonian conspiracy against Nero. Even a brilliant marriage had to be sacrificed when it threatened a familyís survival.

Titusís political career moved onward but was unremarkable. He held the questorship probably in 63/64, when eligible at the age of 24. Following this, the praetorship could be held at 29 with the aedileship in between, or election as a tribune of the people; but Titus is not recorded as having held either office. However, Titusís education gave him a great advantage, especially in his diplomatic abilities. Vespasian was to show no hesitation in giving his son the delicate task of negotiating the retention of his governorship with Galba (Hist. 2.1) and the Flavian seizure of power with Mucianus (Hist. 2.5). His military experience, later claims to the contrary, had been unspectacular but prepared him for commanding the loyalty of soldiers, for which he was to show outstanding ability.

The Judean War

The Jewish king Agrippa II and his sister and co-ruler, Berenice, were faithful client rulers to Rome, but were willing to defend the interests of their subjects. Agrippa was born Marcus Julius Agrippa, the eldest son of Agrippa I. The king had been educated in Rome, as most of the Herods were and bore a Roman name; he was a friend of the emperor Claudius. In fact, he spent all but 17 years of his life in Rome. He was 16 when his father died, too young to become king, and the kingdom of Agrippa I, as large as the domain of his grandfather, King Herod, was divided. On the death of his uncle, Herod of Chalcis in 48, Claudius allowed Agrippa to inherit his kingdom: Chalcis, Abilene, Trachonefis and Ituraea, later Nero allowed him Peraea and part of Galilee. Agrippa also had the right to appoint the high priest of the Temple and to occupy the Hasmonaean Palace in Jerusalem, but he had no authority in Judea.

In the summer of 66, a band of Jewish freedom fighters succeeded in capturing the Roman garrison at Masada. This event electrified Jerusalem, where the rebels stopped the twice-daily sacrifice on behalf of Nero. Agrippa was traveling to Jerusalem, where Berenice was in residence at the palace, when the Jewish revolt began. Knowing there was little chance for a revolt to succeed against Rome, Agrippa entered the city and tried to persuade his countrymen to keep the peace, but he was forced to leave Jerusalem and was declared banished by the rebels (Josephus, Bellum Judaicum 2.320 ff.). The fortress Antonia was taken by the rebels and the Roman palace garrison surrendered on the guarantee their lives would be spared, but they were slaughtered. The Syrian governor, Cestius Gallus, marched with a legion in October and made a half-hearted attack on Jewish strongholds near Jerusalem. Meeting greater resistance than he expected Gallus broke off his attack and retreated. His troops were ambushed by the Jews with a loss of nearly six thousand men; the worst military disaster since the massacre of Varusís soldiers in the Teutoburg forest (BJ 2.430-567).

Vespasian was with Nero on the emperorís tour of Greece when news of the Jewish revolt arrived. Nero acted promptly and recalled the Judean procurator, Gessius Florus, giving the office to Vespasian, with temporary control of Syria until Gaius Licinius Mucianus arrived to replace Cestius Gallus. The new commander was probably chosen because he was an energetic commander and his familyís reputation gave no concern (Vesp. 4.3), and he was in Greece -- the man on the spot. Nor was Nero bothered by the appointment of Titus to command legio XV Apollinaris, clearly, the Flavians were not considered a threat. This was an unprecedented appointment as Titus had not held the praetorship, usually required prior to commanding a legion, and could not have been recommended solely from his military tribunate.

Vespasian crossed the Hellespont and reached Antioch by February 67 (BJ 3.8) where two legions, V Macedonica and X Fretensis (the latter commanded by M. Ulpius Traianius, father of the future emperor) were waiting. Titus had marched his legion from Alexandria to Ptolemiais (BJ 3.64-65) where his father met him with his legions. The arrival of Vespasian as the new procurator of Judea was probably welcomed by Agrippa II, whom he had known at the imperial court. The king supplied him with auxiliary troops. In the spring of 67, Titus probably met Berenice, then in her late thirties. She had been married three times before she met Titus, including Marcus Julius Alexander, brother of T. Julius Alexander, and her uncle, Herod of Chalcis. On the latterís death, she joined her brother and became joint-ruler with him. Rumors of incest caused Berenice to marry Polemo of Cilicia, who consented to be circumcised for his bride. However, the marriage failed and Berenice returned to Agrippa. She was an intelligent and capable ruler, and Tacitus refers to her as regina (Hist. 2.2.1, 81.2). Titus appears to have been captivated by Berenice from the start and hoped to marry her.

Vespasianís plan was to gain control of Galilee, cut off Jerusalem and lay siege to the capital. During the campaigns of 67 and 68, Titus played a supporting role in military operations by providing assistance where and when needed. The first major Jewish stronghold laid siege during the Galilean campaign was Jotapata, commanded by the future historian Josephus. The natural fortifications of the area had been enhanced with walls built by Josephus making the Roman attack difficult and lengthened the siege to 47 days. It was at Jotapata that Vespasian was wounded (BJ 3.236). While the siege dragged on, Traianius, who had all but captured the town of Japha, invited Vespasian to send Titus to complete the victory (BJ 3.298). Titus was duly dispatched and the town was taken with little difficulty.

On Titusís return to Jotapata, resistance was fast crumbling. He led a surprise night attack on the walls (BJ 3.339 ff.) that succeeded in taking the city. Josephus was brought before Vespasian, while a mob of soldiers called for his death. Titus, sensing the whim of fortune that had brought about the defeat of the Jews and impressed by the captiveís courage, felt pity and asked that his life be spared (BJ 3.392 ff.), which Vespasian granted. In turn, Josephus related to Vespasian and Titus his prediction of the Flavian ascension to power (BJ 3.401) -- a prophecy noted by other writers (Vesp. 5.6; Dio 66.1.4).

Following the fall of Jotapata, Titus led 600 cavalry men to capture a group of rebels who had fled to Tarichaeae. His forces were outnumbered and, sensing that his men were alarmed by the enemy, sent for reinforcements. In the meantime, Titus addressed the soldiers and so fired them with enthusiasm when additional troops came from Traianus his soldiers were disappointed in having to share their certain victory (BJ 3.472-484). This provides an example of Titusís charisma and ability to influence, and the trust his soldiers had in him. Tarichaeae fell in the ensuing engagement as Titus took incredible risks by charging the defenders. However, many rebels were able to escape the town to Lake Gennesaret where they embarked by boat. Titus sent a dispatch to his father who pursued and captured them (BJ 3.495-521). The event was commemorated on coins issued ca. 77-78 with a reverse showing a victory on a shipís prow holding a wreath with the legend VICTORIA NAVALIS.

All of Galilee had been reduced except for the strongholds of Mt. Tabor and Gischala; Titus drew the latter as his first sole command of the campaign. Gischala was largely a farming community and lacked defenses. The Jewish commander, John, son of Levi, realized that the town had no hope of withstanding a siege. He responded to Titusís call for surrender asking for the Romans to respect the Jewish Sabbath, explaining that war was not conducted nor peace negotiated on a holy day. Titus agreed to the delay, and during the night John evacuated his force. The next day, the people opened their gates to the Romans hailing them as benefactors. When Titus learned the rebels had departed he pursued them, but they had made good their escape (BJ 4.99 ff.).

Clearly, during the campaigns of 67 and 68 Titus took a supporting role to more experienced commanders. Vespasian put greater reliance in his son when it came to negotiation. During the siege of Gamala (August/September 67), Titus had gone to Syria to welcome Mucianus to his command (BJ 4.32). When Vindex revolted against Nero (March 68) letters were sent to the provincial governors informing them of the aims of the revolt. Titus was called upon to learn Mucianusís attitude toward the rebels. He was obliged to visit Mucianus frequently, especially when the governor learned Vespasian had encroached into his territory. Titus also had to overcome the feeling of rivalry between the neighboring governors and was successful in restoring confidence (Hist. 2.5; Vesp. 5.1; Dio 66.8.3). Mucianus made a telling comment on Titusís ability to charm and persuade; while not unfriendly toward Vespasian, he was more attached to Titus (Hist. 2.74).

The civil war coincided with a period of military inactivity in Judea; all eyes were directed to the outcome of the ensuing power struggle (Hist. 5.10). Following Neroís suicide, Galba made a slow, bloody march on Rome followed by the execution of the dead emperorís supporters (Hist. 1.6). The situation for Vespasian, who owed his command to Nero, became uncertain; he was not confirmed in his position of governor by the new emperor and Sabinus II had been dismissed as city prefect. An embassy to the new emperor was formed, including King Agrippa, with Titus given the responsibility to secure Vespasianís command. The delegation had gotten as far as Corinth when news arrived of Galbaís assassination (February 69). Titus appreciated the situation in terms of Flavian imperial aspirations (Hist 2.1). At a meeting of the delegation it was decided that Agrippa and the other members would go on to Rome but Titus would rejoin his father, since it was better for him to be in Judea than a hostage in Rome. Tacitus suggests that the motive for Titus breaking off his journey was his desire to be with Berenice (Hist. 2.2.1).

This meeting marked the first time that Flavian supporters considered seizing power; Titus provided the stimulus for these early thoughts toward the preparation of revolt. The embassy was later used as Flavian propaganda to suggest that Titus was to be adopted by Galba as his successor to help legitimize their usurpation. Titus paused on his return journey at Cyprus to visit the oracle of Venus at Paphos (Hist. 2.2-4), where he was assured that the goddess was favorable to Flavian aspirations to power. Titusís arrival, just after the troops had taken an oath of loyalty to Otho, gave renewed confidence to Vespasianís soldiers. When it was learned that Otho and Vitellius were at war Vespasianís troops feared that others would win the empire when they were just as deserving. At this time, Vespasian and Mucianus decided they would sooner fight than remain bystanders (Hist. 2.6-7; Vesp. 5; Dio 66.5.8).

From February until June, Titus conducted diplomatic negotiations with Mucianus in Syria, Tiberius Julius Alexander in Egypt and Berenice in Caesarea Philippi. Soon, news arrived that Otho had committed suicide and Vitellius was acknowledged as emperor. Vespasian continued to played a waiting game. The pivotal figure in the Flavian assumption of power was the Romanized Jew and Prefect of Egypt Tiberius Julius Alexander. Alexander had been acquainted with emperors Tiberius, Gaius and Claudius and had served on Corbuloís staff in Armenia. He had made his way through administrative and military ranks and served as procurator of Judea. He was a former brother-in-law to the Herods and his ties to them remained close. [3] On his appointment as Prefect of Egypt in 66, Agrippa II went to Alexandria to congratulate Alexander (BJ 2.309). As prefect, Alexander quelled riots in Alexandria between Jews and Greeks using Roman troops (BJ 2.492).

Sometime in June, a meeting was held at Mt. Carmel (Hist. 2.74 ff.) between Vespasian, Mucianus and their supporters. The decision was taken to proceed with the revolt and dates were fixed. Alexander received a letter from Vespasian informing him of the decision (BJ 4.628). The role played by Berenice is one of conjecture but with her brother in Rome until July she must have played a highly important role in the negotiations, coupled with the fact that Titus was in love with her and probably sought her advice. [4] The circulation of a letter written by Otho, which Suetonius thought could have been forged, urging Vespasian to come to the aid of his country helped the Flavian cause (Vesp. 6.4). It is interesting to speculate that the letter was the work of Titus, the master forger (Titus 3.2). On July 1, 69, Alexander proclaimed Vespasian emperor, followed two days later by the Judean troops, and no later than the 15th by the Syrian army (Hist. 2.79-81). Mucianus began the long march to Rome with his legions while Vespasian remained in Alexandria to cut off the vital grain supply. Events overtook both plans when the legions of the Danube proclaimed Vespasian emperor and began their own march on Rome. Vitellius was captured and murdered by the Danubians on December 20.

The Siege of Jerusalem

The siege of Jerusalem remains the primary exploit of Titus for which he is remembered. In the spring of 70, Vespasian sailed from Alexandria to Rome and handed overall control of Judea and Syria to his son. The attack on the city had undoubtedly been planned earlier by the new emperor. Titus was given the responsibility of executing the plan, in recognition of his tireless service to his father and despite his lack of experience in military command. Accompanying Titus as his chief of staff was Tiberius Julius Alexander, who would be able to give the new commander valuable military advice and try to curb any rash behavior.

Jerusalem was held by three extremist factions; each violently opposed to each other. The city was also burdened with the presence of the faithful who had come to celebrate Passover; there were about four to five times the population in the city. The only advantage the defenders had were their superb defenses: Jerusalem was protected by three walls except where there were impassable ravines. The fortress Antonia stood next to the Temple complex, built on a precipitous rock, and rose 60 feet. The Temple itself was built on a large plateau and had its own formidable fortifications.

After unsuccessful attempts to persuade the rebels to surrender, the siege commenced at the end of April at the New City, or suburb of Bezetha, against the wall built by Agrippa I. The wall was to have been so massive the king feared Claudius would suspect him of plotting revolt, so it was left unfinished. Had it been completed around the entire city Jerusalem would have been impregnable, however the wall was breached after 15 days. The second wall was taken four days later. By this time famine and disease had spread throughout the city, the death toll rising daily. The most difficult stage of the siege began against the Antonia fortress and the Temple. Direct assault of the wall by the Romans was a failure. At a council of war, Titusís plan to build a wall around Jerusalem was adopted; the city would be sealed off, thereby relying upon famine and disease to do their work.

Titusís wall was over a mile in circumference with 13 towers, allowing the Romans to keep the Jews under surveillance (BJ 5.490 ff.). It was built in an amazing three days. Platforms were built around Antonia in order to launch the inevitable assault, but the walls of the fortress suddenly subsided due to a tunnel dug by the defenders to undermine the Roman siege works. Antonia was easily captured and demolished to allow a wider front of attack on the Temple. Titusís war of attrition, however, was too slow for the besiegers, so it was agreed to begin the assault on the Temple.

Platforms were built and an attempt made to scale the walls but each time the Romans were beaten back. Instead, Titus had the wooden gates set afire and thereby gained access to the outer courtyard (BJ 6.228). A council of war was held to determine the fate of the Temple. According to Josephus, at Titusís urging, it was decided to spare the building (BJ 6.237-243). However, on August 10, the Jews attacked the Romans from the inner courtyard and while repelling the attackers a soldier threw a firebrand into the antechamber of the Temple (BJ 6.252). Titus is said to have ordered the blaze extinguished but his soldiers ignored his orders (BJ 6.266). Before the flames spread, Titus and his staff entered the Holy of Holies, while their soldiers removed the golden furniture, the Table of Shewbread and the seven-branched candelabrum.

Titusís conduct during the siege, once again, stands in evidence of his reckless conduct by placing himself in danger and turning a deaf ear to appeals for his safety (BJ 5.88). He displayed the same naivetť he had at Gischala when tricked by a would-be deserter named Castor who succeeded in delaying the capture of the second wall. On several occasions, Titus placed himself in jeopardy. Josephus, a biased writer, termed such behavior as bravery but, at best, was foolhardy. In one such engagement, Titus had placed himself too close to the fighting and was struck on the left shoulder by a stone, and as a result the arm was always weak (Dio 66.5.1). Significantly, Josephus neglects to mention this wounding preferring to recall glory not reality. Ultimately, Titusís conduct reflects his lack of experience rather than professional incompetence. Had he pursued an army career Titus could have developed into a great commander.

Historians have looked for a culprit in the burning of the Temple treating the account of Josephus, who wrote his history presenting the later, clement Titus and not the military commander, with skepticism. The 4th century Christian writer Sulpicius Severus wrote an account of the siege of Jerusalem, probably following the lost histories of Tacitus and M. Antonius Galius, procurator of Judea in 70, who was a member of Titusís staff. Severus states that Titus thought the destruction of the Temple was necessary to destroy the religion of the Jews (Chron. 2.30 6-7). The Flavian poet Valerius Flaccus praised Titus for his role in the destruction of the Temple (Arg. 1.13-14). The Temple was symbolic of Jewish resistance and Vespasianís policy had been to bottle up all of the rebels in Jerusalem, kill them and destroy the city as a means of limiting future rebellion. But the destruction of the Temple did not mark the end of the siege, which continued for another month against the Upper City.

With the capture of Jerusalem completed in October, Titus decided to spend the winter in the East. He traveled to Caesarea Philippi to stay at Agrippaís palace. This time the presence of Berenice probably influenced his choice. Here games were held to celebrate Domitianís birthday (October 24) when over 2500 Jews perished in staged battles and animal combats (BJ 7.36). Titus moved on to Berytus (Beirut) to celebrate Vespasianís birthday (November 17) with even more elaborate butchery (BJ 7.39-40). He traveled to Antioch, where he refused a request to expel the Jews living in the city, and to Zeugma, where envoys of the Parthian king gave him a golden crown in honor of his victory. The Parthians were jittery as Titus had sent legio XII Fulminata to Cappadocia and his uncle by marriage, L. Caesennius Paetus, who had suffered a defeat at the hands of the Parthians at Rhandia in 64 (Dio 62.21.1), was named governor of Syria. All of this appeared to be a prelude to invasion. Titus, acting on behalf of his father, assured the envoys that the new emperor was not contemplating such an invasion. Titus traveled on to Egypt pausing at Jerusalem to view its desolation (BJ 7.112-115). In Egypt, he attended a sacred ritual of Apis at Memphis wearing a diadem (Titus 5.3). Then, quite suddenly, he dismissed the two legions that had accompanied him on his journey and took ship from Alexandria for Rome.

Titusís journey had taken seven months and was characterized by elaborate displays and games that cost a great deal. Vespasian may have wanted his son to remain outside of Rome until he was firmly established in power, so as not to remind people of the circumstances of his elevation. However, stories began to circulate that Titus was aiming to usurp power. Two incidents were responsible for these rumors. The first occurred at the fall of Jerusalem when Titus was saluted as imperator by his soldiers (BJ 6.316). Such a salutation had been the fashion during the Republic but Augustus had reserved the award for the emperor or his heir. Titus was nothing but Vespasianís deputy thus far. What made things worse was a speech Titus made to his troops, recorded by Josephus most likely in an expurgated version, (BJ 6.326-350) accepting their salutation. The wrong words could easily be viewed as inciting his soldiers to rebel.

The second incident was the wearing of a diadem during the Apis ritual. Augustus had refused to pay homage to the god (Aug. 93) and a diadem held regal connotations. Added to this was Titusís affair with Berenice bringing with it reminders of Mark Antony, so it can easily be understood why such rumors could alarm Vespasian. Titus never intended his actions to reflect such an attitude, and these incidents are an indication of his political naivetť. According to Suetonius, all doubt was dispelled when Titus returned to Rome (Titus 5.3).

(C) David A. Wend 1995, 1999


1 Jones, Brian W., The Emperor Titus, (St. Martinís Press, 1984), p. 16.

2 Jones, ibid., p. 19.

3 Turner, E.A., "Tiberius Julius Alexander", Journal of Roman Studies 44, 1954, pp. 59-61.

4 Sullivan, Philip B., "A Note on the Flavian Accession", Classical Journal 49, 1953, pp. 69-70.