Who Was Titus?

Who Was Titus?

titus May 20, 2021

Emperor for only 2 years, 2 months, and 20 days, Titus presents somewhat of a mystery to history. His military career hardened him like most other leaders before him, and he gained a pretty rough reputation among the Roman people before he was ever elected emperor. However, during his reign as Roman Emperor, he very suddenly and inexplicably had a change of heart. He became a beloved, merciful leader, and even through the challenges that rocked his leadership, he maintained that selflessness.

Titus was a rough military leader. Seriously, the guy was kind of a monster. Throughout his career he grew infamous for his cruelty, especially for his part in the conquest of Judea. The city had tried to split from the Empire, and when Titus went in, he made them pay for their mistake. He tore down the walls of the city, crucified thousands, and left the rest starving. The only part of the great walls that he left was a small section to remind them that even stone barriers were useless against the force of the Roman Empire. Overkill much?

(Not so) fun fact: that part of the wall still stands, the Weeping Wall. It’s considered one of the most holy places in Judea.

Carving on Arch of Titus depicting the taking of the Menorah from the Jewish Temple in 70 AD
Carving on Arch of Titus depicting the taking of the Menorah from the Jewish Temple in 70 AD

Titus returned to Rome when his father finished his fist fights and hair pulling with the previous guy in charge, naming himself emperor and Titus his heir. He put Titus in charge of the Praetorian Guard, which was basically the Secret Service to the President. Especially because of that position, Titus became his father’s biggest defender. He sunk to a whole new level of slimy while he protected his father’s claim to the throne. He was known as an expert forger; he could copy anyone’s handwriting. Titus used that specific skill against his father’s enemies. This cemented his reputation as callous and cruel.

This is where historians get fuzzy on the details. The moment that his father passed and he was handed the throne, Titus did a full 180. All descriptions of his reign say that he was a generous, kind-hearted ruler.

Say who?!

arch of titus
Iconic Arch of Titus on Via Sacra in the Roman Forum in Rome, Italy

But really, by all accounts, his people loved him! He weeded out corruption in the Senate, funded projects in the community, and cared for his people like they were his children.

And it’s not like that was an easy job, either. Disaster struck soon after he became emperor. Ever heard of Pompeii? Well, unfortunately for Titus, he was the guy in charge when that happened. The volcano on Mount Vesuvius erupted and buried two entire cities: Pompeii and Herculaneum. An estimated 20,000 Roman citizens died from the tragic event--remember, there weren’t that many people on the planet in 79 CE. Titus, the gracious--we still feel weird saying it--leader that he was, donated finances from the empire to fund the relief teams that were sent to help any survivors of the tragedy. He even personally took time to visit the city twice in order to make sure that the funds weren’t being misused.

Marble Statue of Titus Excavated Near Pompeii
Marble Statue of Titus Excavated Near Pompeii

In fact, it was while he was on one of those trips, that a gigantic fire began back in Rome. Historians don’t have a lot to say on it since, weirdly enough, it lasted for exactly 3 days and 3 nights with no sign of what started it. Cassius Dio, a Roman historian said that the fire was “of divine origin”. We’ll let you be the judge of that.

The fire burnt a significant portion of the city before Titus was able to rush home to take care of his people. He was devastated. We’re sure it felt like he just couldn’t catch a break! But the fearless leader kept on and did everything he could in order to replace the damages and help his citizens. He even stripped the decorations out of his own home to renovate the new temples he ordered to be built in the places that they had been burnt.

Temple of Vespasian and Titus
Temple of Vespasian and Titus at Western End of Roman Forum

A plague was the last straw for Titus. He did everything he could possibly think of to control the outbreak. He even resorted to sacrifices to the gods, but the plague raged on. In 81 CE, Titus took a trip away from Rome with his brother, Domitian, who would become emperor when he passed. Titus’s last words are said to have been, “I have made only one mistake.” Haunting, right? No one ever got the chance to ask him what that mistake was, but the mystery behind his last words nicely complements the mystery behind the oddly exact amount of time that he was emperor, the three inexplicable disasters during his reign, and his complete change of heart two years before his death. Whatever you want to believe, Titus makes for a pretty interesting story and that wins him a spot on his very own 7k Metals coin.

2021 Roman Empire Titus 1oz Silver Coin

Year of Issue : 2021
Country of Issue : Cook Islands
Face Value : 5 Dollars
Coin Weight : 1 Troy Ounce
Metal Purity : .999
Metal Composition : Fine Silver
Mintage : 500

Although Titus was the Roman Emperor for only 3 years (79-81 AD), he was a renowned military commander under his Emperor father, Vespasian, for years prior. He is known for leading the campaign to defeat and capture Jerusalem, the completion of the famed Roman Colosseum, opening it with ceremonies lasting more than 100 days, and giving aid to Campania after the eruption of Vesuvius. He was called “the darling of the human race” due to his incredible good looks and likeability. He’d probably be pretty proud to be featured on this coin.

2021 Roman Empire Titus 1oz Silver Coin MS70
2021 Roman Empire Titus 1oz Silver Coin MS70

Roman Empire Coin Series
Exclusively from 7k Metals: A 12 coin series featuring prominent historical figures from the Roman Empire.
See the Collection as it is revealed!


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