By Martina Bollini

Emperor Titus died on 13 September 81 CE only two years into his reign. His death was probably caused by a fever, although some historians have raised suspicions around his brother Domitian, his successor as emperor.

When Titus succeeded his father Vespasian in 79 CE, he did not enjoy popularity. This was largely due to his relationship with the Jewish princess Berenice, whom he eventually forced to leave the court.

Two months after Titus’ accession, the eruption of Vesuvius devastated the bay of Naples area. The emperor promptly gave both public and private funds to aid victims. Titus showed a twin effort in rebuilding the city of Rome after the fire of 80 CE, followed by a severe outbreak of plague. His extreme generosity overturned his past reputation and Titus was later described by Roman historian Suetonius as amor ac deliciae generis humani (“the love and delight of mankind”).

Shortly before dying, he completed the construction of the Flavian Amphitheater or Colosseum and presided over the lavish inaugural games, which went on for more than one hundred days.

Like many of his predecessors, Titus was elevated to divine status upon his death. This fact is recalled in the monumental inscription on the front of the Arch of Titus, erected by Domitian in 82 CE to commemorate his brother’s victories in the Jewish–Roman War (66–73 CE).

Portait head of Titus, Musée du Louvre (MND 2224), Paris.

Marble bust of Titus, Musei Capitolini (MC0433), Rome. Formerly in the Albani Collection in Rome.

Arch of Titus and Colosseum, Rome.

Inscription from the Arch of Titus, ca. 82 CE, Via Sacra, Rome.

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