Titus Flavius Vespasianus (born AD 39) was the eldest son of Vespasian and Domitilla the elder and older brother to Domitian and Domitilla the younger. After a childhood spent in imperial circles in Rome, notably as a close friend to Claudius’ son Britannicus, Titus followed a military career, serving in Germany and Britain in the AD 50s-60s as military tribune and then under his father in the Jewish War in the late-60s AD. His second marriage to Marcia Furnilla ended abruptly with divorce following the Pisonian conspiracy to overthrow Nero in AD 65 and although he never re-married was openly in a relationship with Berenice, a client-queen of the Judaean royal family, in the mid-AD 70s (e.g. Cassius Dio LXVI.15). Titus distinguished himself in the military campaigns in Judaea with the Legio XV and was likely instrumental in gaining support from the eastern provinces for Vespasian’s rise to power during the Year of the Four Emperors in AD 69.
Once Vespasian was installed as emperor in July AD 69, Titus as logical heir became Caesar along with his brother Domitian, taking various titles as Consul and power of the tribune throughout his father’s reign (See below). In a decisive action in AD 70, Titus with four Roman legions in the east laid siege to Jerusalem, sacking the city and destroying the Second Temple with huge loss of life to the population of the city and many more taken captive. This earned him a triumph on his return to Rome and the triumphal arch still standing in the Roman Forum completed under his brother Domitian memorialises his victory in bringing about the end of the First Jewish-Roman War. As Vespasian’s praetorian prefect Titus ensured that Vespasian’s position (and that of the Flavian dynasty) was secure in Rome, often quite ruthlessly.
After Vespasian’s death in June AD 79, Titus assumed power and developed a reputation as a benevolent and generally good ruler! He ruled for just two years, but they were years full of events that would test the new emperor. The eruption of Vesuvius shortly after Titus became emperor saw him invest in a huge disaster relief effort for the affected populations in the Bay of Naples, visiting the area in AD 79 and again in AD 80. During his second visit, a second disaster occurred this time in Rome itself, with fire engulfing the area of the Capitoline to the Parthenon. This in turn was followed by an outbreak of plague in Rome, again Titus pouring resources in to aid the city and her populous.
Despite a very brief reign, Titus was able to make contributions to the fabric and life of Rome too. The most visible is perhaps the completion of the Flavian Amphitheatre, the Colosseum, in AD 80 – begun by Vespasian in AD 70, elaborate and vast inaugural games lasted for 100 days. He also commenced construction of a temple to Vespasian, who the senate had deified in AD 80, and on the Baths of Titus close to the colosseum. Following a brief fever in the summer of AD 81 en route to the Sabine territories, Titus died suddenly, apparently in the same house as his father Vespasian, and is reported to have uttered the words “I have made but one mistake”. His cause of death is unclear, as are his enigmatic last words, with some suggesting it may have been his brother, Domitian, who conspired to poison him. Whatever the case, Domitian assumed power in AD 81 and Titus was deified shortly afterwards just over two years after becoming emperor.
The coinage of Titus
Titus’s coin issues can be broadly divided in to two main groups – the first struck as Caesar under his father Vespasian between AD 71-79; and the second as Augustus in his own right between AD 79-81. Gold, silver, and bronze coinage was struck in both periods for Titus and although the former is rare there are three PAS examples (see below; excluding two IARCW records). Rome was by far the most prolific mint during Vespasian’s reign and practically all of the precious metal coinages of Titus from this period are products of her workshops. However, all of the identifiable bronze coinage for Titus as Caesar on the PAS appears to be from the mint of Lugdunum (Lyon). For coins of Titus as augustus we are essentially only dealing with coins of the Rome mint.
As with much of the Flavian coinage, Titus’ issues are often identified based on the various titles he held from his first consulship under Vespasian in AD 70 through to his 8th in AD 80, most notably his Tribunician and Imperator (IMP) titles up to his death in AD 81. Many of Titus’ coins recorded through the PAS reference these titles in their legends and provide crucial evidence for the dating of individual examples – often complicated by the preservation particularly of the bronze coinages of this period. Following RIC II (2nd ed.) the key dates for the two periods of Titus’ coinage can be summarised as follows:
Separating out coins struck under Vespasian and then in his own right after AD 79 is not always straightforward when the types are poorly preserved or detail of the legends cannot be identified. However, upon becoming emperor, Titus adopted the titles Augustus, Pontifex Maximus, and Pater Patriae and so we do see a shift in the structure of the legends to include IMP and AVG in particular (see RIC II, 2nd ed.: p. 181; 197) – under Vespasian he was simply T CAESAR VESPASIAN rather than IMP T CAESAR VESPASIAN AVG (both with various forms or abbreviations) as augustus.
At the end of his reign in AD 80-81, and following the deification of Vespasian, there are two important groups of coins that are readily identifiable amongst the PAS material. The first is a large series of gold and silver struck for the deified Vespasian, characteristically bearing the obverse legend DIVVS AVGVSTVS VESPASIANVS. This is followed by several groups of bronze coinage with restored types of his predecessors, largely the Julio-Claudian dynasty. These are quite rare as PAS finds, although there are several examples now recorded. Both of these groups will be looked at separately below.
The PAS records 217 coins of Titus (both as Caesar and augustus), excluding over another hundred Welsh examples included in the IARCW dataset. Identifying all of the known examples is problematic in a number of ways. Coins of Titus as Caesar often appear recorded as Vespasian as a result of the structure of RIC and the dropdowns in the PAS database. Similarly, the DIVVS VESPASINAVS coins although issued under Titus are often recorded as being of Vespasian. An even larger problem is apparent with the bronze coinage.
Much of the Flavian bronze is poorly preserved as a result both of the coins staying in circulation in antiquity for an extended period of time and their post depositional corrosion. This means that while there are a large number of sestertii, dupondii, and asses on the PAS that are ‘Flavian’ in date, it is often impossible to separate out Vespasian and Titus in particular. I imagine there are likely to be further examples of Titus amongst the silver of Vespasian and potentially within the Flavian bronze issues too.
Examples of Titus as augustus are much more prolific as individual finds than those struck under Vespasian, with the silver coinage of Titus as augustus forming almost two-thirds (61%) of the total.
Titus as Caesar under Vespasian, c.AD 70-79
Coins of Titus struck under Vespasian are less common as PAS finds than those struck during his own reign as augustus. For denarii there are about a third the number (42 coins), but the situation is a little different for gold and bronze issues. RIC II (2nd ed., p. 196) notes that gold for Titus is comparatively more common for him as caesar under Vespasian and Bland and Loriot’s (2010) study of Roman gold coinage in Britain highlights a similar feature, with just three examples of single coin finds for Titus as augustus (two of which are plated copies) but 17 struck under Vespasian. The PAS records three aurei for Titus as Caesar (excluding two IARCW examples) but to date none as augustus.
For the bronze coinage it is notable that there are twice the number of coins for Titus Caesar – 26 examples. Furthermore, all of the PAS examples that have currently been securely identified to type in RIC belong to the same issue of coins from the mint of Lugdunum (Lyon) in AD 77-78 (see below). There appear so far to be no earlier issues of Titus or for that matter any coins from the mint of Rome. Two factors to note might affect this preliminary conclusion. Firstly, bronze coins of Titus are often poorly preserved as site finds, which means that it is often difficult to ascribe them with certainty to individual types or mints. Secondly, and related, there are large numbers of bronze coins recorded on the PAS that are clearly Flavian in date but which are either of Vespasian or Titus but cannot be more closely identified. This means that there could well be other coins on the database either from the mint of Rome or from other issues of Lugdunum that have and cannot be identified. It is remarkable, though, how discrete this group is.
AD 72-73 (TR POT)
The earliest types for Titus recorded on the PAS date to AD 72-73. Three examples of the same type with NEP RED reverse are recorded, one of which is a plated copy.
AD 73 (TR POT CENS)
Three denarii, one of which is a plated copy.
AD 74 (COS III)
Three PAS coins, one is plated.
AD 75 (COS IIII)
Just two PAS examples, both of the same type (one is plated)
AD 76 (COS V)
The earliest aureus on the PAS for Titus belongs to this year, with an additional four denarii
AD 77-78 (COS VI)
By far the largest group of coins for Titus Caesar recorded through the PAS relates to the large issues from the two mints of Rome and Lugdunum for Titus’ COS VI in AD 77-78. Two of the aurei alongside 18 denarii from the mint of Rome belong in this group, as do all of the identifiable bronze from the mint of Lugdunum. These 46 coins make up 65% of the coins recorded struck under Vespasian for Titus and so if you are recording site finds in a British context it is worth checking this group first as it is highly likely your coin could belong to this issue. Issues from this period can be separated out into those that carry dated legends (COS VI) and those with undated legends but of types that are identifiable to this issue. Dated issues – 1 aureus, 9 denarii of just 3 types, all of the bronze.
AD 79 (COS VII)
The latest coins of Titus as caesar are less common as PAS finds, with just six denarii, four of which are of the same Venus type. These issues should not be confused with the first of his reign as augustus, which are also COS VII, the difference being the change in obverse legend.
Titus as Augustus, c.AD 79-81
Far more prolific on the PAS database are coins of Titus as Augustus in his own right, struck from the middle of AD 79 through to his death in AD 81. The majority of these are denarii – 133 coins – so far with no examples of aurei and just 13 bronze coins that can be securely placed in this period, all of which date to c.AD 80-81.
Table 1 below compares the relative numbers of Titus’ silver coinage as Augustus recorded through the PAS when compared with the same statistics used in RIC II (2nd ed., p.195). In RIC, the relative numbers of coins in hoards and in examples that had appeared through the numismatic trade on VCoins at the time of publication were compared. If we add the PAS material to this as a third data source we can see that the general trends remain largely consistent. The PAS demonstrates slightly higher numbers for Titus’ COS VII and corresponding lower numbers for the DIVVS VESPASIANVS issues. It is possible that both of these figures might be affected by either misattribution of coins to Titus Caesar for COS VII and also to Vespasian rather than Titus for the deified issues. That said, the numbers are not hugely different and the general conclusion in RIC (p. 195) that there was increased output for Titus from AD 80, representing almost 90% of the total numbers, is maintained within the PAS dataset – approximately 85% of the denarii from Titus’ reign date to AD 80- 81.
AD 79 (COS VII, TR P VIII)
AD 79, COS VII and VII P P
A limited number of types were issued for the remainder of AD 79 (after 1 July) in silver, all repeating in each of three main issues:
Issue 1: TR P VIIII IMP XIIII COS VII
Issue 2: TR P VIIII IMP XIIII COS VII P P
Issue 3: TR P VIIII IMP XV COS VII P P
Separating the coins out into their respective issue depends on being able to identify the respective numbers in the reverse field. This is usually possible, even with worn coins – look out in particular for the P P (or lack thereof) at the end of the legend, and the XV rather than XIIII. There are six main types in this period for the denarii, their relative frequency for each group within the PAS dataset summarised in Table 2.
AD 79 (COS VII, TR P VIIII)
A total of seven denarii
AD 79 (COS VII P P)
A total of 10 denarii.
AD 79 (COS VII P P, IMP XV)
A total of 4 denarii.
AD 80 (TR P IX IMP XV COS VIII P P)
The bulk of Titus coinage as Augustus comes from the TR P IX issues, which cover the first half of AD 80, with seemingly no precious metal coinages in Titus’ name later in his reign (TR P X). Production of the AD 80 coins may have continued into AD 81, and likely the Divus Vespasian and Julia Titi coins were also struck in the later years of Titus’ reign (See below; see RIC II, 2nd ed., p. 185). It is worth noting the presence of left facing busts for Titus in this period – there are a handful of PAS examples.
DIVVS VESPASIANVS, AD 80-81
Following Vespasian’s deification, an issue of coins with distinctive DIVVS AVGVSTVS VESPASIANVS (and sometimes DIVVS VESPASIANVS AVGVSTVS) obverse legend was struck by Titus, probably belonging to the years AD 80-81. These are usually readily identifiable based on the obverse type as well as distinctive reverse types that are prominent within the PAS material. Although bronze coinage was struck for this issue, there appear to be no examples identified to date on the PAS and so we are dealing solely with denarii. There are 26 examples on the database (including three contemporary plated copies with reverse types of Vespasian’s lifetime issues), all from three main types of this issue, by far the most common being a reverse type depicting two Capricorns holding a shield inscribed SC, a globe below. It is possible that other examples from this issue may be recorded amongst the many denarii of Vespasian’s lifetime recorded through the PAS – there are c.1,200 examples to date, many of which still require editing.
Julia Flavia Titi, c.AD 80-81
The only child of Titus by his second wife Marcia Furnilla, Julia Flavia Titi (c.AD 64-91), appears on an issue of coinage struck by her father in c.AD 80-81. Following the Pisonian conspiracy, Julia was raised by Titus and eventually married her cousin Titus Flavius Sabinus. She was later seduced by her uncle, Domitian, according to contemporary sources becoming his lover and perhaps “giving birth to abortions that displayed the likeness of her uncle” (Juvenal, Satire II.32; see also Dio LXVII.3), which may also have been the cause of her death. Julia was deified and her ashes buried with those of Domitian (Suetonius, Life of Domitian 17.3).
Restoration issues of Titus, AD 80-81
An interesting series of bronze coins struck in AD 80-81 restore coin types of the pre-Flavian emperors and were struck in Rome and at a ‘Thracian’ mint in the east, although the separation between the two is complex particularly on very worn or corroded examples. Titus’ restoration coinage contains a range of types for the various emperors and empresses that preceded him and in RIC II (2nd ed., pp. 224-233) is divided based on the groups identified by H. Komnick. These are rare as British finds and there are just four securely identified PAS examples (although see also KENT-0FD06A as an example of similar very worn bronze coins that may well also belong to this group). They can be separated from their original types, even though the obverse dies in particular are extremely close, by the presence of reverse legends for Titus.
References and further reading:
The revised edition of RIC II should be your standard reference for Titus’ coinage