#12.3: Temple of Vespasian and Titus

Still sitting there behind the Rostra see the three tall standing columns in front of you. Those are the remains of a Temple built there following the death of Emperor Vespasian in 79 AD that was to be dedicated to him alone.

His eldest son Titus became Emperor upon his death and started this Temple but died 26 months later (81 AD). Domitian who was the younger son and brother to Titus now (sadly) becomes Emperor. He completes the Temple and dedicates it to both his Father and Brother.

Even though it was dedicated to both of them the Architrave on the front only mentioned Vespasian [DIVO · VESPASIANO · AVGVSTO· S·P·Q·R·] Divine Vespasian Augustus (from) 'The Senate and the People of Rome'. That section is long gone but was copied in Medieval Times (seventh - eighth Century).

This Temple was 33 m long and 22 m wide and had to be squeezed in lengthwise into this small space between the Tabularium and the Clivus Capitolinus which is the ancient street you see before you running uphill to the Capitoline Hill. Because of this limited space they have to adjust the front steps. Most temple steps go up to a columned porch but these steps go up to the porch and then in-between the columns, if not they would have been much too steep. But like most of this temple they are long gone except for a small section of stairs between the two front columns.

What remains today is the core of the podium (foundation) with a bit of Peperino lining, a couple of Travertine fragments from the Cella Wall and in the back of the temple is part of a pedestal that once held the statues of Vespasian and Titus.

But the best survivor of this temple are the three tall standing white marble Corinthian columns (14.2 m) with an inscribed section of the Architrave and a decorated section of the Entablature still in place on top, all from the original temple. This ARCHITRAVE has only one incomplete word on it which is ESTITUER and if you put an R in front of it means RESTORED.

In the early 200's AD a second line was added to the original Vespasian dedication inscription [IMPP · CAESS · SEVERVS · ET · ANTONINVS · PII · FELIC · AVGG · RESTITVER] Basically Emperor Septimius Severus and Caracalla (his son) restored (this).

It didn't seem to be a major restoration and I find it odd that there was plenty of room for a second line inscription on the architrave but Domitian never added his brother Titus to it? Dad always liked Titus the best and never really groomed Domitian to become Emperor, he had always assumed Titus and his heirs would carry-on their dynasty. Brother rivalry perhaps? Or maybe he figured when he died they could add him and his brother to the inscription and dedicate the Temple to the three of them? But that never happened, when Domitian was assassinated all his statues were pulled down and anything inscribed to him was erased.

On the side of the Architrave is an ENTABLATURE with a nice frieze showing an adorned Bull skull (some say Ox) and implements of Sacrifice (jug/amphora, knife, axe, plate, aspergillum {stick with a ball on top for sprinkling a liquid- water? blood?}, spiked helmet and the start of a second Bull skull).

A small two-story concrete and brick vaulted marble-lined Shrine (gone today) was built on the right side and attached to this Temple. Marks of it's vault can still be seen on the Tabularium wall and 'Temple Vespasian' rough-worked remains (unseen - blocked by this shrine so just left rough) were also excavated there. It's believed it was a Shrine dedicated to Emperor Titus.

Also a restored cornice fragment from the Temple of Vespasian and Titus is in the Tabularium, nearby the piece from the Temple of Concord that you can see in the Tabularium's far right window.

The walls inside the Cella were covered with oriental marbles with marble columns around it. The outside of the Temple was faced in white marble.

I believe nothing major was in this space before because nothing is mentioned as far as I know. But there was a staircase leading from here through the Tabularium to atop the Capitoline Hill. This staircase predates the Tabularium so perhaps this area was always open to provide access to the Capitoline Hill via these stairs?

With the building of this Temple the Tabularium is now almost completely blocked from view from the Forum.

In 1811 the podium and remaining stairs were restored by Giuseppe Valadier and in that same period French archaeologists took down the columns and architrave/entablature and restored and secured them in place.

VESPASIAN was a General who took over as Emperor after defeating Vitellius in the 'Year of the Four Emperors' Civil Wars. He was a decent Emperor to the people and is mainly remembered as the builder of the Flavian Amphitheatre (Colosseum). He was from a very modest background compared to the earlier Emperors. His father was a tax-collector of Equestrian rank (a Knight) and his mother the same social status. Vespasian and his brother both became Senators which moved the family's status up a few notches. But *very unlikely* high enough to ever become Emperor but having a victorious army helped him get over that little speed bump :-) .

He always kept his soldier's rough sense of humor even to his dying day. Titus once complained about his father's public 'Urinal Tax' and Vespasian held a coin under his son's nose and said "Does it smell bad"? His final joke was on his deathbed with his last words "O Dear, I think I'm turning into a God". Emperors were often deified (made into Gods) after their deaths :-) .

What I find interesting and wonder about is this ancient outdoor staircase that lead from the Forum to the Asylum on the Capitoline Hill. The Asylum was a low point between the two higher crests at each end of the hill. These stairs became an internal corridor when the Tabularium was built over them but allowed no access to the interior of the Tabularium.

At the end of Vitellius' reign forces loyal to Vespasian are marching on Rome. In Rome is Vespasian's elder brother Sabinus who is the City Prefect and Vespasian's younger (about 18) son Domitian. Vitellius is leaving them alone (they have an agreement) but some people are trying to get Sabinus to seize power in the name of his brother. But he's content to wait it out. The Vitellius' army in Rome is basically now just an unruly mob. Sabinus and some of these soldiers have a minor confrontation with them. Sabinus and his out-numbered followers including Domitian decide to hole up in 'Temple of Jupiter' on the 'easy to defend' Capitoline Hill (this is also where Julius Caesar's assassins went after his murder for the same reason). The mob-army marches up the Clivus Capitolinus but is repelled by Sabinus' forces who are throwing stones and roof tiles at them from a porticus above that lined the right side of the street. Sabinus' men have uprooted statues and all kinds of stuff to barricade the gates. Later the mob-army attack at different points at the same time.

One of the points were these stairs. It's the most direct access to the Hill and was the most violent of those attacks. And they finally broke through. The Temple of Jupiter is burned down and Sabinus is taken prisoner. He is later stabbed, hacked and beheaded, and his body is displayed on the 'Gemonian Stairs' (to your right and mentioned earlier). Domitian hid in the Temple caretaker's shack and later with the help of a Freedman dresses as a priest and escapes by leaving with a group of priests. Now when the 'Temple of Vespasian and Titus' is built that staircase is blocked-off by the Temple's construction. I just wonder if there is a connection (symbolic or practical) between that Battle, that staircase and this Temple's location which blocked that staircase off forever?

TITUS was a good commander of his Legions, very intelligent and talented. He was also a lawyer and good administrator under his father's reign. But also a bit of a 'party animal' with a fondness for catamites and eunuchs. The Senate and Roman people were afraid that he would become a second Nero if he ever became Emperor. But when he became Emperor he turned out just fine for his short term (2 years, 2 months). He dealt with the Vesuvius eruption (79) and the major 80 AD Fire of Rome quite well. Besides his still standing Arch he is most remembered today for the burning of the 'Temple of Jerusalem' and his very brutal conquest of Judea.

While on campaign in Judea he met a Jewish Princess named Berenice who was the daughter of King Herod Agrippa I. And they began a love affair. She moved to Rome in 75 AD where they live openly in the Palace on the Palatine Hill. Titus had been divorced for years and she is for all intent and purposes his wife or at least viewed that way by the Romans. Later with Titus' accession to the Throne this isn't a good thing. Remember Titus has a bad reputation at this time (second Nero!) and the mood in Rome is anti-Semetic and xenophobia. Plus she would have been thought of as a second Cleopatra (and you see where that got Marc Antony). Titus has no choice, the Senate and the People would never stand for this union, so he must send her away. Suetonius wrote that their parting was very painful for both of them. They never saw each other again.

Shortly later in his life as Titus lay dying he looked up into the Heavens and said, "...there is no act of my life of which I have cause to repent, save one only". He never revealed his secret repentance. Titus gave up Love to rule an Empire and now among millions of subjects he is dying alone. And has but one regret?

For more information and photos, please see Temple of Vespasian and Titus in A Tourist in Rome.

Next: #12.4: Portico of the Dei Consentes
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