By C. Suetonius Tranquillus; To which are added, his Lives of the
Grammarians, Rhetoricians, and Poets.
|Titus, A.D. 39-81; ruled A.D.79-81||
TITUS FLAVIUS VESPASIANUS AUGUSTUS.
I. Titus, who had the same cognomen with his father, was the darling and delight of mankind; so much did the natural genius, address, or good fortune he possessed tend to conciliate the favour of all. This was, indeed, extremely difficult, after he became emperor, as before that time, and even during the reign of his father, he lay under public odium and censure. He was born upon the third of the calends of January, [30th Dec.] in the year remarkable for the death of Caius [Caligula], near the Septizonium, in a mean house, and a very small and dark room, which still exists, and is shown to the curious.
|II. He was educated in the palace with Britannicus, and instructed in the same branches of learning, and under the same masters. During this time, they say, that a physiognomist being introduced by Narcissus, the freedman of Claudius, to examine the features of Britannicus, positively affirmed that he would never become emperor, but that Titus, who stood by, would. They were so familiar, that Titus being next him at table, is thought to have tasted of the fatal potion which put an end to Britannicus's life, and to have contracted from it a distemper which hung about him a long time. In remembrance of all these circumstances, he afterwards erected a golden statue of him in the Palatium, and dedicated to him an equestrian statue of ivory; attending it in the Circensian procession, in which it is still carried to this day.|
|III. While yet a boy, he was remarkable for his noble endowments both of body and mind; and as he advanced in years, they became still more conspicuous. He had a fine person, combining an equal mixture of majesty and grace; was very strong, though not tall, and somewhat corpulent. Gifted with an excellent memory, and a capacity for all the arts of peace and war; he was a perfect master of the use of arms and riding; very ready in the Latin and Greek tongues, both in verse and prose; and such was the facility he possessed in both, that he would harangue and versify extempore. Nor was he unacquainted with music, but could both sing and play upon the harp sweetly and scientifically. I have likewise been informed by many persons, that he was remarkably quick in writing short-hand, would in merriment and jest engage with his secretaries in the imitation of any hand-writing he saw, and often say, "that he was admirably qualified for forgery."|
|IV. He filled with distinction the rank of a military tribune both in Germany and Britain, in which he conducted himself with the utmost activity, and no less modesty and reputation; as appears evident from the great number of statues, with honourable inscriptions, erected to him in various parts of both those provinces. After serving in the wars, he frequented the courts of law, but with less assiduity than applause. About the same time, he married Arricidia, the daughter of Tertullus, who was only a knight, but had formerly been prefect of the pretorian guards. After her decease, he married Marcia Furnilla, of a very noble family, but afterwards divorced her, taking from her the daughter he had by her. Upon the expiration of his quaestorship, he was raised to the rank of commander of a legion, and took the two strong cities of Tarichaea and Gamala, in Judaea; and having his horse killed under him in a battle, he mounted another, whose rider he had encountered and slain.|
|V. Soon afterwards, when Galba came to be emperor, he was sent to congratulate him, and turned the eyes of all people upon himself, wherever he came; it being the general opinion amongst them, that the emperor had sent for him with a design to adopt him for his son. But finding all things again in confusion, he turned back upon the road; and going to consult the oracle of Venus at Paphos about his voyage, he received assurances of obtaining the empire for himself. These hopes were speedily strengthened, and being left to finish the reduction of Judaea, in the final assault of Jerusalem, he slew seven of its defenders, with the like number of arrows, and took it upon his daughter's birth-day. So great was the joy and attachment of the soldiers, that, in their congratulations, they unanimously saluted him by the title of Emperor; and, upon his quitting the province soon afterwards, would needs have detained him, earnestly begging him, and that not without threats, "either to stay, or take them all with him." This occurrence gave rise to the suspicion of his being engaged in a design to rebel against his father, and claim for himself the government of the East; and the suspicion increased, when, on his way to Alexandria, he wore a diadem at the consecration of the ox Apis at Memphis; and, though he did it only in compliance with an ancient religious usage of the country, yet there was some who put a bad construction upon it. Making, therefore, what haste he could into Italy, he arrived first at Rhegium, and sailing thence in a merchant ship to Puteoli, went to Rome with all possible expedition. Presenting himself unexpectedly to his father, he said, by way of contradicting the strange reports raised concerning him, "I am come, father, I am come."|
|VI. From that time he constantly acted as colleague with his father, and, indeed, as regent of the empire. He triumphed /1/ with his father, bore jointly with him the office of censor, and was, besides, his colleague not only in the tribunitian authority, but in seven consulships. Taking upon himself the care and inspection of all offices, he dictated letters, wrote proclamations in his father's name, and pronounced his speeches in the senate in place of the quaestor. He likewise assumed the command of the pretorian guards, although no one but a Roman knight had ever before been their prefect. In this he conducted himself with great haughtiness and violence, taking off without scruple or delay all those he had most reason to suspect, after he had secretly sent his emissaries into the theatres and camp, to demand, as if by general consent, that the suspected persons should be delivered up to punishment. Among these, he invited to supper A. Caecina, a man of consular rank, whom he ordered to be stabbed at his departure, immediately after he had gone out of the room. To this act, indeed, he was provoked by an imminent danger; for he had discovered a writing under the hand of Caecina, containing an account of a plot hatched among the soldiers. By these acts, though he provided for his future security, yet for the present he so much incurred the hatred of the people, that scarcely ever any one came to the empire with a more odious character, or more universally disliked.|
|VII. Besides his cruelty, he lay under the suspicion of giving way to habits of luxury, as he often prolonged his revels till midnight with the most riotous of his acquaintance. Nor was he unsuspected of lewdness, on account of the swarms of catamites and eunuchs about him, and his well-known attachment to queen Berenice /2/, who received from him, as it is reported, a promise of marriage. He was supposed, besides, to be of a rapacious disposition; for it is certain, that, in causes which came before his father, he used to offer his interest for sale, and take bribes. In short, people publicly expressed an unfavourable opinion of him, and said he would prove another Nero. This prejudice, however, turned out in the end to his advantage, and enhanced his praises to the highest pitch when he was found to possess no vicious propensities, but, on the contrary, the noblest virtues. His entertainments were agreeable rather than extravagant; and he surrounded himself with such excellent friends, that the succeeding princes adopted them as most serviceable to themselves and the state. He immediately sent away Berenice from the city, much against both their inclinations. Some of his old eunuchs, though such accomplished dancers, that they bore an uncontrollable sway upon the stage, he was so far from treating with any extraordinary kindness, that he would not so much as witness their performances in the crowded theatre. He violated no private right; and if ever man refrained from injustice, he did; nay, he would not accept of the allowable and customary offerings. Yet, in munificence, he was inferior to none of the princes before him. Having dedicated his amphitheatre /3/, and built some warm baths close by it with great expedition, he entertained the people with most magnificent spectacles. He likewise exhibited a naval fight in the old Naumachia, besides a combat of gladiators; and in one day brought into the theatre five thousand wild beasts of all kinds.|
|VIII. He was by nature extremely benevolent; for whereas all the emperors after Tiberius, according to the example he had set them, would not admit the grants made by former princes to be valid, unless they received their own sanction, he confirmed them all by one general edict, without waiting for any applications respecting them. Of all who petitioned for any favour, he sent none away without hopes. And when his ministers represented to him that he promised more than he could perform, he replied, "No one ought to go away downcast from an audience with his prince." Once at supper, reflecting that he had done nothing for any that day, he broke out into that memorable and justly-admired saying, "My friends, I have lost a day." /4/ More particularly, he treated the people on all occasions with so much courtesy, that, on his presenting them with a show of gladiators, he declared, "He should manage it, not according to his own fancy, but that of the spectators," and did accordingly. He denied them nothing, and very frankly encouraged them to ask what they pleased. Espousing the cause of the Thracian party among the gladiators, he frequently joined in the popular demonstrations in their favour, but without compromising his dignity or doing injustice. To omit no opportunity of acquiring popularity, he sometimes made use himself of the baths he had erected, without excluding the common people. There happened in his reign some dreadful accidents; an eruption of Mount Vesuvius /5/, in Campania, and a fire in Rome, which continued during three days and three nights; besides a plague, such as was scarcely ever known before. Amidst these many great disasters, he not only manifested the concern which might be expected from a prince but even the affection of a father, for his people; one while comforting them by his proclamations, and another while relieving them to the utmost of his power. He chose by lot, from amongst the men of consular rank, commissioners for repairing the losses in Campania. The estates of those who had perished by the eruption of Vesuvius, and who had left no heirs, he applied to the repair of the ruined cities. With regard to the public buildings destroyed by fire in the City, he declared that nobody should be a loser but himself. Accordingly, he applied all the ornaments of his palaces to the decoration of the temples, and purposes of public utility, and appointed several men of the equestrian order to superintend the work. For the relief of the people during the plague, he employed, in the way of sacrifice and medicine, all means both human and divine. Amongst the calamities of the times, were informers and their agents; a tribe of miscreants who had grown up under the licence of former reigns. These he frequently ordered to be scourged or beaten with sticks in the Forum, and then, after he had obliged them to pass through the amphitheatre as a public spectacle, commanded them to be sold for slaves, or else banished them to some rocky islands. And to discourage such practices for the future, amongst other things, he prohibited actions to be successively brought under different laws for the same cause, or the state of affairs of deceased persons to be inquired into after a certain number of years.|
|IX. Having declared that he accepted the office of Pontifex Maximus for the purpose of preserving his hands undefiled, he faithfully adhered to his promise. For after that time he was neither directly nor indirectly concerned in the death of any person, though he sometimes was justly irritated. He swore "that he would perish himself, rather than prove the destruction of any man." Two men of patrician rank being convicted of aspiring to the empire, he only advised them to desist, saying, "that the sovereign power was disposed of by fate," and promised them, that if there was any thing else they desired of him, he would grant it. He also immediately sent messengers to the mother of one of them, who was at a great distance, and in deep anxiety about her son, to assure her of his safety. Nay, he not only invited them to sup with him, but next day, at a show of gladiators, purposely placed them close by him; and handed to them the arms of the combatants for his inspection. It is said likewise, that having had their nativities cast, he assured them, "that a great calamity was impending on both of them, but from another hand, and not from his." Though his brother was continually plotting against him, almost openly stirring up the armies to rebellion, and contriving to get away, yet he could not endure to put him to death, or to banish him from his presence; nor did he treat him with less respect than before. But from his first accession to the empire, he constantly declared him his partner in it, and that he should be his successor; begging of him sometimes in private, with tears in his eyes, "to return the affection he had for him."|
|X. Amidst all these favourable circumstances, he was cut off by an untimely death, more to the loss of mankind than himself. At the close of the public spectacles, he wept bitterly in the presence of the people, and then retired into the Sabine country, rather melancholy, because a victim had made its escape while he was sacrificing, and loud thunder had been heard while the atmosphere was serene. At the first resting-place on the road, he was seized with a fever, and being carried forward in a litter, they say that he drew back the curtains, and looked up to heaven, complaining heavily, "that his life was taken from him, though he had done nothing to deserve it; for there was no action of his that he had occasion to repent of, but one." What that was, he neither disclosed himself, nor is it easy for us to conjecture. Some imagine that he alluded to the connection which he had formerly had with his brother's wife. But Domitia solemnly denied it on oath; which she would never have done, had there been any truth in the report; nay, she would certainly have gloried in it, as she was forward enough to boast of all her scandalous intrigues.|
XI. He died in the same villa where his father had died before him,
upon the Ides of September [the 13th of September]; two years, two months, and
twenty days after he had succeeded his father; and in the one-and-fortieth year
of his age. As soon as the news of his death was published, all
people mourned for him, as for the loss of some near relative. The senate
assembled in haste, before they could be summoned by proclamation, and locking
the doors of their house at first, but afterwards opening them, gave him such
thanks, and heaped upon him such praises, now he was dead, as they never had
done whilst he was alive and present amongst them.
Here Ends the Life of Titus, from The Twelve Caesars by Suetonius
/1/ The joint triumph of Vespasian and Titus, which was celebrated, is fully described by Josephus, De Bell. Jud. vii. 24. It is commemorated by the triumphal monument called the Arch of Titus, erected by the senate and people of Rome after his death, and still standing at the foot of the Palatine Hill, on the road leading from the Colosseum to the Forum, and is one of the most beautiful as well as the most interesting models of Roman art. It consists of four stories of the three orders of architecture, the Corinthian being repeated in the two highest. Some of the bas-reliefs, still in good preservation, represent the table of the shew-bread, the seven-branched golden candlestick, the vessel of incense, and the silver trumpets, which were taken by Titus from the Temple at Jerusalem, and, with the book of the law, the veil of the temple, and other spoils, were carried in the triumph. The fate of these sacred relics is rather interesting. Josephus says, that the veil and books of the law were deposited in the Palatium, and the rest of the spoils in the Temple of Peace. When that was burnt, in the reign of Commodus, these treasures were saved, and they were afterwards carried off by Genseric to Africa. Belisarius recovered them, and brought them to Constantinople, A.D. 520. Procopius informs us, that a Jew, who saw them, told an acquaintance of the emperor that it would not be advisable to carry them to the palace at Constantinople, as they could not remain anywhere else but where Solomon had placed them. This, he said, was the reason why Genseric had taken the Palace at Rome, and the Roman army had in turn taken that of the Vandal kings. Upon this, the emperor was so alarmed, that he sent the whole of them to the Christian churches at Jerusalem.
/2/ Berenice, was daughter of Agrippa the Great, who was by Aristobulus, grandson of Herod the Great. Having been contracted to Mark, son of Alexander Lysimachus, he died before their union, and Agrippa married her to Herod, Mark's brother, for whom he had obtained from the emperor Claudius the kingdom of Chalcis. Herod also dying, Berenice, then a widow, lived with her brother, Agrippa, and was suspected of an incestuous intercourse with him. It was at this time that, on their way to the imperial court at Rome, they paid a visit to Festus, at Caesarea, and were present when St. Paul answered his accusers so eloquently before the tribunal of the governor. Her fascinations were so great, that, to shield herself from the charge of incest, she prevailed on Polemon, king of Cilicia, to submit to be circumcised, become a Jew, and marry her. That union also proving unfortunate, she appears to have returned to Jerusalem, and having attracted Vespasian by magnificent gifts, and the young Titus by her extraordinary beauty, she followed them to Rome, after the termination of the Jewish war, and had apartments in the palace, where she lived with Titus, "to all appearance, as his wife," as Xiphilinus informs us; and there seems no doubt that he would have married her, but for the strong prejudices of the Romans against foreign alliances. Suetonius tells us with what pain they separated.
/4/ "Diem perdidi." This memorable speech is recorded by several other historians, and praised by Eusebius in his Chronicles.
/5/ In A.D. 79.
Dr. Alexander Thomson, Essay appended to Suetonius's Titus.