#32: Arch of Titus

Ok as you leave the Basilica of Maxentius you see the side of the Church that you had to go around the front of and I told you that Nero's Via Sacra T'ed 90° right to the Arch of Titus and you are on the left side of the T now. The rear section of the Church (San Francesca Romana) is incorporated into a larger building which was the church's cloister that now houses the Roman Forum Museum. This combined structure occupies about 25% of the front left (NW) corner ^ of the long rectangular platform of Emperor Hadrian's (about 135 AD) 'Temple of Venus and Roma' [^```].

This is where Nero built (about 64+ AD) his very Large Vestibule for his HUGE Domus Aurea (Golden House complex) with a porticoed walkway from his Palatine Hill [P]alace to this [V]estibule where it continued straight-on (north) along the top of the Velia ====[V]====[P] to the other side of the modern Via dei Fori Imperiali where it 90° right (east) past the later Colosseum. This is about 1 mile and the complex still continued on basically to form a huge rectangular with the Colosseum area as a *huge* artificial lake+ like and Atrium for his Golden House. [`+`p`] I am going to skip this site for now for two reasons, (1) it isn't considered part of the Roman Forum and (2) I'd like to stay with the continuing Via Sacra route. Although Nero did make the Via Sacra straight and then T at the Vestibule's steps. But you are only going to be a stone's throw away from it so backtracking is not a big deal and I will put the Temple of Venus and Roma at the end.

Ok now again walk around the front of the Church [t] to the other side and Stop. You x are now where Nero's Via Sacra has 90° turned and heads south just to the right of the |```| Arch ==[t]x__|```|__ And somewhere below ground level the Via Sacra dirt path joined up (Arch area) with another dirt path that lead up to the top of the (P)alatine Hill where Rome's first inhabitants lived. ==[t]x__|```|___(P) I guess its a safe bet to imagine there were at least two other paths that converged here on this Velia Ridge, one going east (Colosseum side), one going north along the top of the Ridge to the Esquiline Hill and the other the Via Sacra going down about 45° to the Roman Forum marsh area. +---(P).

Now we are back on Nero's post-64 porticoed and roofed Via Sacra section which ran from his Vestibule to the Arch area where the porticoed/roofed Via then continued up the Palatine Hill right to his Palace on the top. At the Arch area the street named Via Sacra changes to another ancient named Via (?) street but we don't know what it was called. In modern Times it was named the Clivus Palatinus, Clivus was what ancient Romans called streets that went up a hill (ascending street to the Palatine).

Ok now, see the long row of about a half-dozen steps that run from the Church to the Arch, walk over to them and notice just past them is a small one-story vestibule-like building tucked into a corner of the much larger/taller cloister building, that is the entrance to the Roman Forum Museum. Now walk along the steps over to the Arch and look for etched game boards on them (mostly at the beginning and end of the steps). And when you get to the end of the steps face the Roman Forum and just in front of you, you will see the original pre-64 AD Via Sacra, remember the one that branched-off earlier next to the 'Sacellum of Bacchus' |/.

[ARCH OF TITUS (Arcus Titi)]

This a single passage 'Triumphal Arch' dedicated to Emperor Titus after his death in 81 AD, pictured here. His father was Emperor Vespasian (69-79) upon his father's death Titus became Emperor for only two years before he died of some unknown cause (disease or natural) and then his brother Domitian became Emperor and built this Arch to his brother. In 67 AD Titus' Father, Vespasian, is a General sent to Judea to quell the 'First Jewish-Roman War' (66-70). A short time later Titus arrives to be his Father's second in Command.

In 69 AD his father is called back to Rome to become Emperor after a brief Civil War with three other Generals all becoming very short-Lived Emperors in 1.5 years after Nero became 'Public Enemy #1' and committed suicide. With Titus now in Command he besieges Jerusalem (70) which leads to its conquest where he razed the Jewish Temple, looted the Temple and City, then burned it all to the ground and killed and enslaved the inhabitants. This Arch commemorates Titus' final victory at Jerusalem and its reliefs show the Triumph (military parade) through Rome that Titus had with his now Emperor Father in 71 AD.

I want to relate two separate sad stories about Titus, his Lost Love and his Death and let you decide IF they are related?

During the 'First Jewish-Roman War' many of the Jewish people oppose this Rebellion and only want Peace especially the Upper and Ruling Class. So they flee to the Roman's areas for protection. One of these people is the Jewish 'Roman Client Queen' Berenice with her Client-King brother Agrippa II. Both are unmarried so she is Queen by co-ruling with her brother. Titus arrives in 67 AD and where he meets Berenice and they begin a Passionate Love Affair. In 69 Vespasian leaves Judea to become Rome's new Emperor. In 70 AD Titus wins the War and in 71 returns to Rome alone.

It's believed that political pressure was put on his Emperor Father not to allow the Berenice to accompany Titus back to Rome (Heir to the Throne and Jewish Foreign Queen are not a good match politically and publicly). Plus it's right after the Jewish Rebellion with harsh feelings about it among the Roman People. But four years later (75) Berenice comes to Rome where She and Titus resume their Passionate Love Affair. They live in the Royal Palace and she is treated and acts just like a Roman Empress. Suetonius wrote: "...and his notorious passion for queen Berenice, to whom it was even said that he promised marriage."

But public opinion is growing against her and she is even publicly ridiculed in the theater. Add in anti-Semitism, xenophopia and fears by the Roman People she could become a 'Cleopatra' who with Marc Antony plunged Rome into Civil War. So with the mounting negative Public opinions and the Political pressure it's very likely Emperor Vespasian ordered his Son to send her back home to Judea.

In 79 AD Emperor Vespasian dies and Titus becomes Emperor. Berenice quickly returns to Rome on her own with her brother. Titus is now Emperor and he will be expected to marry an aristocratic ROMAN woman who hopefully will bear him a son and future Heir to the Throne. This is Titus' *Duty* to the Roman Empire and its People! Suetonius wrote: "Berenice he sent from Rome at once, against her will and against his own."

Titus is Emperor for just over two years and then he dies with these last words: "There was no act of my life of which has cause to repent, save one only." Suetonius wrote: "Then at the very first stopping place (outside of Rome) he was seized with a fever, and as he was being carried on from there in a litter, it is said that he pushed back the curtains, looked up to heaven, and lamented bitterly that his life was being taken from him contrary to his deserts; for he said that there was no act of his life of which he had cause to repent, save one only. What this was he did not himself disclose at the time, nor could anyone easily divine."

The Arch seems to have survived intact into Medieval Times but powerful families are making ancient monuments into fortresses with a big chunk of land around it surrounded by high walls and they're battling with each other.

The Colosseum becomes the Frangipane Family's castle with the Arch of Constantine and the Arch of Titus used as Gates into their walled-in compound.

In the twelfth and thirteenth Century heavy fighting badly damages the outside of this Arch-Gate that faces the Forum.

Later building are built around it using the Arch as part of these structures (the Arch's attic is hollow and used as a room in one of these buildings).

In 1821 Pope Pius VII orders the Arch to be restored by Giuseppe Valadier. The surrounding buildings are removed and the Arch is somewhat dismantled and reassembled using original marble along with newly made travertine sections and pieces which are whiter. The badly missing Forum (west) side is almost totally built with new travertine sections. Basically the only remaining original sections are just the section around the passageway, and the bottom halves of the fluted columns on each side of the passageway, and the base for the right column. It's very easy to spot the original versus new sections in the Arch by color and lack of detail in the replacements (like the new upper column halves aren't fluted). And the Arch's both sides are almost completely built with the newer travertine sections. And the new inscription on the Forum side commemorates the 1821 restoration. "(This) monument, remarkable in terms of both religion and art, had weakened from age: Pius the Seventh, Supreme Pontiff, by new works on the model of the ancient exemplar ordered it reinforced and preserved. In the year of his sacred rulership the 24th". Fortunately the central passageway with the reliefs is all original.

Remember the Room I mentioned in the Arch's Attic? Well this is what the 1880's archaeologists discovered there :-) . "A few months ago the hiding-place of a daring pickpocket was discovered right in the attic-room of the arch of Titus, together with many ancient marble heads and fragments,..." (That he had looted from the excavations in the night).

In the Middle Ages the arch is called the "Arch of the seven Lamps' because of the Jewish Temple's looted Menorah Relief in the central passageway. And the Jewish tradition since the Arch was first built is never to pass through it "To avoid paying homage to HE that destroyed Jerusalem (Temple)". But when the Jewish 'State of Israel' was founded in 1948 Rome's Jewish community rushed to the Arch to 'pass through it' in celebration.


On the Arch's Forum side notice that the Forum excavators dug past the Arch's 80's AD street level because you can see the concrete foundation the Arch was built upon. With this side almost totally newly rebuilt it's better to view the Arch from the Colosseum side (east) which is a lot more original.


Here the inscriptions reads: "Senatus Populusque Romanus divo Tito divo Vespasiani f(ilio) Vespasiano Augusto" (The senate and people of Rome to the divine Titus, son of the divine Vespasian, Vespasianus Augustus). Because it says "divo" (divine) we know that person was dead and then made into a god by the Senate.

The really humorous thing about this inscription is that Emperor Domitian had to kiss a lot of Senator's butts to get his late father and brother Defied and it seems make some major concessions in the inscription. A person like an Emperor living, dead, defied or not would ALWAYS get the 'Top Billing' and at the very end S.P.Q.R. ('Senatus Populusque Romanus' meaning 'From the Senate and the People of Rome'). But Here! SENATUS gets the top line all to its self plus in larger and bolder Letters. Also a mention of the reigning Emperor would have likely been squeezed in but not in this case. Good thing though because after Domitian is assassinated (96) the Senate orders his statues destroyed and all his inscriptions erased.

Below the inscription and just above the passageway structure is the narrow Frieze ====== It shows civilian and military men walking in a procession with animals being taken to sacrifice. On the frieze's far left is shows men carrying a reclining man who is representing the 'River God of the Jordon'. Below the frieze is the arched passageway's protruding Keystone (center-top) with a figure of Roma (or Virtus). On each side of the keystone is a tilted triangular section (spandrel) with winged Victories (look like winged female angels).

In the vaulted passageway's roof are two famous Reliefs on each side showing the 71 AD Triumph (military parade) of Titus and his father celebrating their military victory over Judea. The most famous is on the Left side (south) showing the looted War spoils from the 'Temple of Jerusalem': the 'Golden Table', 'Silver Trumpets', and the most famous 'The Gold Seven-Branched Menorah'. On the Right side (north), Titus standing in a four-horse Chariot (quadriga) being led by the Goddess Roma and the Goddess Victory crowning Titus with a laurel wreath while passing through a Triumphal Arch. The men you see carrying something that looks like this >[````]< on a pole, those are Signs telling the People along the parade route what cities the following was captured from or what it was (like today either banners are carried in front of a marching band or on the side of floats). On each side of the passageway's fluted columns is a window-like niche, I assume these were for either marble or bronze inscriptions?

The MENORAH taken from the 'Temple of Jerusalem' is solid gold mounted on a gold stepped base. Later it and the other Temple Vessels are displayed in Vespasian's 'Temple of Peace'. In 455 its taken in the Vandals invasion of Rome and brought to Carthage, in 533 a Byzantine General recaptures it and brings it to Constantinople and parades in his Triumph. And then it is lost forever. Josephus wrote: "There followed those pageants [of captives] a great number of ships; and for the other spoils, they were carried in great plenty. But for those that were taken in the Temple of Jerusalem, they made the greatest figure of them all; that is, the golden table, of the weight of many talents; the candlestick (Menorah) also, that was made of gold, ... and the last of all the spoils was carried the Law of the Jews." ("...Law of the Jews": The 'Torah' which Josephus claims Titus kept in his Royal Palace along with the "Purple Veils of the Holy Place" as his 'War Trophies')

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

Next: #33: Horrea Vespasiani and House of Marcus Aemilius Scaurus (?)
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