TITUS (79 - 81 AD)



Titus's short but memorable reign. He opened the Colosseum (Flavian amphitheatre). Vesuvius erupted.


Titus Flavius Sabinus Vespasianus: born 30 December AD 40 in Rome, son of Vespasian and Flavia Domitilla. Legionary commander and then commander-in-chief in Judaea. Became associate emperor AD 71, emperor in AD 79. Married [1] Arrecina Tertulla; [2] Marcia Furnilla (one daughter, Flavia Julia). Died on 13 September AD 81. Deified in AD 81.

Titus lived long enough to demonstrate that he had some talent for government, but not long enough for any judgment to be made as to how effective a ruler he might have been. We do, however, have more tangible evidence from his short reign than from that of many emperors who ruled for much longer.

Arch of Titus

The massive Arch of Titus, celebrating his triumphs over the Jews, still stands today in the Forum in Rome. (René Seindal)


Model of the Flavian Amphitheatre (Colosseum)

Model of the Colosseum (originally known as the Flavian amphitheatre) was begun in AD 72 in the grounds of Nero’s “Golden Palace” and finished in AD 80. Much of it still stands. Oval in shape and almost 200 metres long and over 150 metres wide, it could seat 45,000 spectators. (EUR (Rome), Museum of Roman Civilization: Barbara McManus)

In August AD 79 the volcanic Mount Vesuvius erupted, engulfing within an hour Pompeii and Herculaneum, as well as several other towns and villages in the area. Many survivors managed to escape with the help of the fleet stationed at Misenum. Others died where they were.

Victim of Vesuvius

Plaster cast of Pompeii victim, whose body, including skull and teeth, was preserved when the ash and lava cooled. (VRoma: Barbara McManus)

Some people suggested that the tragedy was divine retribution on Titus for his destruction of Jerusalem. Though he had been emperor for only a few weeks, he announced a state of emergency, set up a relief fund for the homeless, offered practical assistance in rehousing survivors, and appointed a team of commissioners to administer the disaster area.

Titus was twice married; his only legitimate child was a daughter. While he was in Judaea he had a passionate affair with Berenice, daughter of the Jewish king Herod Agrippa, and brought her back to Rome. The pressure of public opinion, however, forced them apart, and she returned home. He was 40 when he died suddenly. Some people suspected that it was the work of his younger brother, Domitian.



Marble bust of Titus. As a young man he was dangerously like Nero in his charm, intellect, and proclivities. (VRoma: British Museum: Barbara McManus)

Pen portrait of Titus

“As early as his boyhood it was clear that he was gifted physically and intellectually, and he became more and more so as he grew up. He was very good-looking, with an authoritative as well as a pleasing manner, and exceptionally strong, though he was short and had a small pot belly. He had an excellent memory and excelled at practically all the arts of war and peace.” (Suetonius, Titus 3)

Believe it or not:

According to the contemporary poet Martial, female gladiators performed at the opening of the Colosseum in AD 80.

Titus was an inherently kindly man and a benevolent ruler who maintained that no-one should leave disappointed from an audience with the emperor. Once, conscious that he had done no personal favour to anyone during the day, he observed at dinner, “Friends, I have wasted a complete day.”