Famous Men of Rome - John Haaren



During the two years that followed the death of Nero, there were three emperors, Galba, Otho, and Vitellius. They were generals of Roman armies, and were made emperors by their soldiers. But they reigned only a few months each, and they did nothing of importance.

Vitellius was a glutton. He took pleasure only in eating and drinking. He would often visit the houses of rich Romans without invitation and take breakfast with one, dinner with another, and supper with another. After breakfast he thought only about dinner; and when dinner was over he began to think of what he would have for supper.

The next emperor was Titus Flavius Vespasian, commonly called Vespasian. He also was an army general. When he was made emperor by his soldiers he was in Palestine. He had been sent there by Nero with an army to punish the Jews who had rebelled against Rome. As soon as he was declared emperor he returned to Italy and left his son Titus Flavius, called in history simply Titus, to carry on the war against the Jews.

Arch of Titus


Titus captured Jerusalem after a siege of six months, and his soldiers took possession of all the valuable things they could find. Then they burned the city to the ground. The famous temple was also destroyed, and thus was fulfilled the prophecy of Christ that not one stone of the building should be left upon another. When Titus returned to Rome he had a grand Triumph, and a beautiful arch was built in his honor. This arch is still in existence.


Vespasian died in 79 A.D., and then Titus became emperor. One of the remarkable things Titus did during his reign was to finish the Colosseum, which had been begun by his father.

The Colosseum was the largest theatre in the world. It had seats for over 80,000 people. It was first called the Flavian Amphitheatre, from the family name of the emperors who built it. Inside it had seats all round the ring, or arena, and as the word amphi  means around, they called the great building an amphitheatre. In later times it got the name of Colosseum. The Greeks used the word colossus  as a name for any very large statue, and because the Flavian Amphitheatre was so large it was called the Colosseum. In our own language we use the word colossal  to describe anything of immense size.

In the Colosseum they had many kinds of amusements. When it was first opened the shows and games lasted for a hundred days, and 5,000 wild beasts were killed in the arena by gladiators. The arena was a vast space fenced round about with a strong wall, and around it were circular tiers or rows of seats, one behind the other, like steps of stairs. Sometimes the arena was turned into a lake by letting water flow into it from pipes. Then they put ships upon it and had sham fights in imitation of a battle at sea. This sort of show was called naumachia, which means a fight with ships. It was first introduced into Rome by Julius Cæsar, who had a lake dug for the purpose in the Campus Martius.

The Colosseum is still in existence, but it is partly in ruins. From the picture, which shows it as it now is, we can form an idea of how grand a building it once was.

Besides finishing the Colosseum, the Emperor Titus also built splendid baths. They were called the Baths of Titus. The Romans were very fond of baths. Wealthy citizens used to bathe several times every day, and often they spent the greater part of the day at the baths, where there were finely furnished rooms.

A Roman bath


It was in the reign of Titus that the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, in the south of Italy, were destroyed by an eruption of Mount Vesuvius. A famous Roman author, Pliny the Younger, saw the eruption from a distance and wrote a description of it. He tells that a fiery cloud of cinders, stones, and ashes burst from the top of the mountain and rained down upon the country all round, destroying towns and villages and people. The ruins of Herculaneum were accidentally discovered by workmen in 1709, and the ruins of Pompeii were discovered some years later.

Titus was a very good emperor. He always did everything he could for the welfare and happiness of the people, and he was so much liked by everybody that he was called the "Delight of Mankind." It is said that one night he thought he had done nothing during that day for the good of any person, and that he cried out, "I have lost a day."