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  • Ari Lieberman

Titus

Updated: Mar 7, 2021


Reign 79-81

Under his father Vespasian's tutelage, Titus was raised in the Roman military. After army duty in Britain and Germany, Titus commanded a legion serving his father in Judaea (67).


Following the emperor Nero’s death in June 68, Titus was energetic in promoting his father’s candidacy for the imperial crown. Licinius Mucianus, legate of

Syria, whom he reconciled with Vespasian, considered that one of Vespasian’s greatest assets was to have so promising a son and heir.


Immediately on being proclaimed emperor in 69, Vespasian gave Titus charge of the Jewish war, and a large-scale campaign in 70 culminated in the capture and destruction of Jerusalem in September.


After leaving for Rome to assume his position, Vespasian did not hesitate to entrust the conduct of the war on Jerusalem to his inexperienced son, Titus. This is because the Judaeans posed no real threat and, the rebellion was still considered to be a minor

incident in the background of political intrigues in Rome.


Titus, of the same surname as his father, was the delight and darling of the human race;

such surpassing ability had he, by nature, art, or good fortune, to win the affections of all

men, and that, too, which is no easy task, while he was emperor; for as a private citizen,

and even during his father's rule, he did not escape hatred, much less public criticism.

Even in boyhood his bodily and mental gifts were conspicuous and they became more and

more so as he advanced in years. He had a handsome person, in which there was no less

dignity than grace, and was uncommonly strong, although he was not tall of stature and

had a rather protruding belly. His memory was extraordinary and he had an aptitude for

almost all the arts, both of war and of peace.  Skilful in arms and horsemanship, he made

speeches and wrote verses in Latin and Greek with ease and readiness, and even off-

hand. He was besides not unacquainted with music, but sang and played the harp

agreeably and skillfully. I have heard from many sources that he used also to write

shorthand with great speed and would   amuse himself by playful contests with his

secretaries; also that he could imitate any handwriting that he had ever seen and often

declared that he might have been the prince of forgers.


Soon realizing his hope and left behind to complete the conquest of Judaea, in the final

attack on Jerusalem he slew twelve of the defenders with as many arrows; and he took

the city on his daughter's birthday, so delighting the soldiers and winning their devotion

that they hailed him as Imperator and detained him from time to time, when he would

leave the province, urging him with prayers and even with threats either to stay or to take

them all with him


Besides cruelty, he was also suspected of riotous living, since he protracted his revels

until the middle of the night with the most prodigal of his friends; likewise of unchastity

because of his troops of catamites and eunuchs, and his notorious passion for queen

Berenice, to whom it was even said that he promised marriage.


He was suspected of greed as well; for it was well known that in cases which came before his father he put a price on his influence and accepted bribes. In short, people not only thought, but openly declared, that he would be a second Nero. But this reputation turned out to his advantage and gave place to the highest praise, when no fault was discovered in him, but on the contrary the highest virtues.


The divergent views of Titus found among (some) Roman historians compared to those

recorded in Jewish history highlight the vast irreconcilable differences between Rome

and Israel.


The Titus of the” highest virtues” as extolled by certain Roman historians is as day is to

night when contrasted to the methodically cruel, barbaric and blasphemous Titus known

and documented in Jewish history.


The so called minor incident of the Jewish rebellion in Judea described by some Roman

historians was a serious event for the empire which expended great resources and

manpower to squash the Jewish nation.


The Talmud in Gittin 56B describes in astonishing details the role of Titus in the

destruction of the second Temple leaving the reader with a picture of a blood thirsty

commander abandoning all and any of the “highest virtues”.


Vespasian sent Titus who said, Where is their God, the rock in whom they trusted? This

was the wicked Titus who blasphemed and insulted Heaven.

What did he do? He took a harlot by the hand and entered the Holy of Holies and spread

out a scroll of the Law and committed a sin on it. He then took a sword and slashed the

curtain. Miraculously blood spurted out, and he thought that he had slain himself,13 as it

says, Thine adversaries have roared in the midst of thine assembly, they have set up their

ensigns for signs.

…A voice went forth from heaven saying; Sinner, son of sinner, descendant of Esau the

sinner, I have a tiny creature in my world called a gnat.


Go up on the dry land and make war with it. When he landed the gnat came and entered

his nose, and it knocked against his brain for seven years. One day as he was passing a

blacksmith's it heard the noise of the hammer and stopped. He said; I see there is a

remedy. So every day they brought a blacksmith who hammered before him. If he was a

non-Jew they gave him four zuz, if he was a Jew they said, It is enough that you see the

suffering of your enemy.

This went on for thirty days, but then the creature got used to it. It has been taught: R.

Phineas b. ‘Aruba said; I was in company with the notables of Rome, and when he died

they split open his skull and found there something like a sparrow two selas in weight.


A Tanna taught; Like a young dove two pounds in weight. Abaye said; We have it on record

that its beak was of brass and its claws of iron.

When he died he said: Burn me and scatter my ashes over the seven seas so that the God

of the Jews should not find me and bring me to trial.


Titus in Jewish history comes to symbolize the essence of the evil fourth kingdom, Rome.

According to the “religion of Titus” the fight against the Jewish people was nothing more

and nothing else than an eternal battle against the God of Israel.


The Maharal explains that Titus was the one who destroyed and burnt our holy Temple

and there was no other person in the history like him in the fight against God Himself.

Titus’ goal was to defeat the inherent goodness of God in the world. His profane acts

perpetrated in the Holy of Holies were not random ones but rather an attempt to raise the

power of impurity and have it rule the world. He realized that through his contemptible

earthly blasphemy down below he could somehow impact the force of impurity in the

upper worlds.


His deep understanding of the historical meaning of the Rome versus Israel narrative is

captured in the incident regarding the famous proselyte Onkelos, his very own nephew.

Onkelos son of Kolonikos was the son of Titus's sister. He had a mind to convert himself

to Judaism.


He went and raised Titus from the dead by magical arts, and asked him;

Who is most in repute in the [other] world? He replied: Israel. What then, he said, about

joining them? He said: Their observances are burdensome and you will not be able to

carry them out. Go and attack them in that world and you will be at the top as it is

written, Her adversaries are become the head etc.; whoever harasses Israel becomes

head.

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