TITUS (full name, Titus Flavius Sabinus Vespasianus):
Emperor of Rome from 79 to 81; born in 39 or 41; died Sept. 13, 81; son of Vespasian, the conqueror of Jerusalem. He was educated at the courts of Claudius and Nero. Titus served first in Germany and later in Britain under his father, whom he subsequently assisted greatly in Judea by suppressing the rebellion of the Jews.In Judea.
While Vespasian was operating in Galilee, the news of the death of Nero (June 9, 68) was received; and Titus, accompanied by Agrippa II., was sent to Rome to swear allegiance to Nero's successor. Galba was murdered in the meantime, however; and Titus hastened back to Judea, where the Egyptian and Syrian troops proclaimed Vespasian emperor, an occurrence which Josephus declares he had predicted in the presence of Titus himself (Josephus, "B. J." iii. 8, § 9; comp. Suidas, s.v. Ἰώσητος; in Dion Cassius, lxvi. 1, Titus is not mentioned). It was Titus, moreover, who, under the leadership of his father, reduced the cities of Jotapata, Taricheæ, and Giscala, where he displayed, on the one hand, great courage and contempt of death, and, on the other, bitter cruelty toward the conquered; when, therefore, Vespasian went to Rome as emperor, Titus was left to prosecute the Jewish war.Besieges Jerusalem.
With a considerable force he left Cæsarea andreached the walls of Jerusalem a few days before the Passover festival of the year 70. Omitting the details of this memorable war, only those events which concern Titus personally need be mentioned here. Together with 600 horsemen he rode ahead of his main army to reconnoiter the surrounding country, and had ventured so far in advance that only his valor saved him from capture in a Jewish attack ("B. J." v. 2, § 2). He endeavored at first to persuade the Jews to submit by making promises to them (Dion Cassius, lxvi. 4); and Josephus was sent to them several times with messages to that effect. They refused all overtures, however; and batteringrams were then set in action, and the beleaguerment of Jerusalem began. The Jews often destroyed these siege-works, and during one of their sorties Titus himself was so severely wounded in the left shoulder by a stone that his hand remained weak ever afterward (Dion Cassius, l.c. § 5; Josephus in "B. J." v. 6, § 2 relates a similar occurrence, although he does not mention the wounding of Titus). According to Dion Cassius, the Romans refused to attack the Temple on account of their respect for its sanctity; and Titus had to force them to do so. Josephus, on the other hand, differs on this point also, stating instead that Titus first held a council of war with his commanding officers, among them Tiberius Julius Alexander, and that certain generals advised the destruction of the Temple. He himself, however, wished to spare it ("B. J." vi. 4, § 3), and gave orders to extinguish the fire which had begun to consume the cloisters, apparently displaying this mildness either on account of Berenice or to show his friendship for Agrippa. Against this stands the narrative of the monk Sulpicius, who is said to have drawn his information from Tacitus; and, following this authority, Jacob Bernays ("Programm des Jüdisch-Theologischen Seminars in Breslau," 1861, p. 48) charges Josephus with untruthfulness; Grätz, however ("Gesch." iii. 539), is inclined to believe in the veracity of Josephus' statement.
On the following day (the tenth of Ab, 70) the Jews made a desperate sortie, and one of the Roman soldiers, weary of fighting, threw a burning piece of wood into the Temple. In vain did Titus give orders to extinguish the flames; his voice was drowned in the uproar. Titus himself, impelled by curiosity, entered the Sanctuary, but the smoke forced him to withdraw; and thus the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem became associated with his name. On the ruins of the Sanctuary Titus was proclaimed emperor by his soldiers ("B. J." vi. 6, § 1; Dion Cassius, l.c. § 7; Suetonius, "Titus," v.), although both he and his father refused the epithet "Judaicus," because the word might suggest an inclination toward the Jewish religion (see, however, Joël, "Blicke in die Religionsgeschichte," ii. 46).Arches of Titus.
Even Josephus was able to point to only scanty traces of mildness in the life of Titus, while, on the other hand, cruelties are recorded which must be attributed to personal hatred on his part, and not to the unavoidable harshness of war. In Cæsarea in Palestine, in Cæsarea Philippi, and in Berytus he forced the captive Jews to fight against wild animals and also against one another; and many thousands more were slain to please the revengeful Syrians and Greeks. It was in Rome, however, that he celebrated his triumphs, together with his father and his brother Domitian; there 700 Jews of splendid physique and the leaders of the Zealots, John of Giscala and Simon bar Giora, helped to grace his procession. Two triumphal arches were erected in his honor. Of these, one no longer exists, and is remembered only on account of the inscription which it bore ("C. I. L." vi. 444), but the other, a beautiful structure, still stands in Rome, and on it may be seen representations of the captured vessels of the Temple. See Titus, Arch of.Rabbinical Legends.
The Jews hated Titus on account of his share in the destruction of the Temple; and the Rabbis accordingly termed him "Titus the miscreant," thus contrasting sharply with the statements of the classical writers, who regarded him as an ornament of the human race. It may be proved, however, that he was anything but upright while he was crown prince; indeed, he was cruel, licentious, and ambitious, and was even suspected of having sought to poison his father. Only during the latter part of his reign did he display praiseworthy qualities. A significant saying of frequent recurrence in rabbinic sources is to the effect that he was honored in Rome as the conqueror of the barbarians (υικητὴς βαρβάρων; Gen. R. x.; Lev. R. xxii. 3; Lam. R., Introduction, No. 23, etc.), thus showing that the Jews were regarded as an inferior and barbarous nation. All the other accounts of Titus in rabbinical literature are purely legendary, and their utter unreliability is shown by the fact that he is called the nephew instead of the son of Vespasian, a view which was repeatedin medieval chronicles (Neubauer, "M. J. C." i. 50, 70). In the Holy of Holies, moreover, he was said to have pierced the veil of the Ark, to have had intercourse with two courtezans (a reminiscence of his relations with Berenice), and to have defiled the Torah (ib.; Giṭ. 56b); in short, to have blasphemed God. That he packed the sacred vessels in a basket and took them on board his ship was also stated in rabbinical tradition. As he stepped from his bath—so runs a legend—a drink was handed to him, when suddenly a gnat () stung him in the nose, and thus caused his death (Ab. R. N., Recension B, vii.; it is noteworthy that this form of retribution also figures in Arabic legends, which often confuse Titus with Nebuchadnezzar, who likewise destroyed the Temple; "R. E. J." lxix. 212). This has been interpreted as implying that Titus became melancholy and insane in his declining years (Hamburger, "R. B. T." s.v.); but such an explanation seems inadmissible. Despite the Jewish hatred of Titus, many Jews as well as Christians have borne his name (in the New Testament, Titus i. 4; Gal. ii. 3; II Cor. ii. 13, and elsewhere; for the Jews, see Krauss, "Lehnwörter," ii. 262); and in later times four prominent Jewish families of Italy have traced their descent from prisoners taken by him (see Rome).
The medieval Jews invented numerous legends concerning Titus; thus, according to "Yosippon" and Benjamin of Tudela, the Roman consuls (i.e., senators) blamed him for taking three years instead of two to conquer Jerusalem. Benjamin claims also to have seen the supposed palace of Titus at Rome; and, according to Abraham ibn Daud ("Sefer ha-Ḳabbalah)," ed. Prague, 1795, p. 40b), Titus put to death the high priest Ishmael b. Elisha and R. Simeon b. Gamaliel, although only the latter was actually executed. The names of hosts of other patriots and martyrs who lost their lives through Titus are unknown.
- Grätz, Gesch. 4th ed., iii. 494, 532, 539, et passim;
- Schürer, Gesch. 3d ed., i. 610-637 et passim;
- Vogelstein and Rieger, Gesch. der Juden in Rom, i. 22-25, 91.
- For the Jewish legends, see I. Lέvi in R. E. J. xv. 62-69.