79 - 81 CE
|As Caesar under his father, Titus had personally handled much of Vespasian's "dirty work". It was with some trepidation, therefore, that Rome faced his accession. But Titus became wildly popular in his two short years, gaining praise for his humane handling of the three major disasters that occurred while he was in office.|
|About this coin:|
The oldest of Vespasian's two sons, Titus was Vespasian's chosen successor. Titus was best known as the general who presided over the final suppression of the Jewish rebellion, including the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. There is disagreement as to whether Titus ordered the Temple burned or whether it was an accident, but he was in charge in 70 CE when it burned. He had been left in charge by his father, Vespasian, when daddy headed off to claim the Roman emperorship.
Earlier, Titus had nearly shared the fate of Nero's step-brother, Britannicus, when he shared Britannicus's drink. When Nero or his mother fed Britannicus a poisoned drink, Titus drank from the same cup and became violently ill. But unlike Britannicus, Titus recovered.
Thought to be a callous and cruel man before he became Emperor, Titus seems to have grown into the role. He became known as a kind leader, well liked by the Roman citizens. Several calamities befell Rome during his reign, including a major fire in Rome, a severe plague, and the famed eruption of Vesuvius that destroyed the Roman resort city of Pompeii. And yet his handling of these calamities seems to have met with popular approval. Also, the public games he staged were legendary, and quite memorable. At one point, he had a machine toss wooden balls into the crowd. Upon each ball was carved the name of a prize that the lucky recipient could claim.
In the summer of 81, Titus died rather abruptly, probably of a sudden attack of Malaria. However, rumors ran rampant that he was poisoned by his younger brother, Domitian, or at least that Domitian had worked to hasten his death. But once again, there is no hard evidence that Domitian did anything wrong.
In the end, Titus left us with a riddle that will never be answered. His final words were, "I have made but one mistake." Though there has been no end to the speculation, no one knows for sure what he meant by this.
And perhaps he wanted it that way.