Forum: The Arch of Titus & the Jewish diaspora

The Arco di Tito, Forum: The Arch of Titus & the Jewish diaspora, Rome, Italy (Photo by Mikhail Malykh)
The Arco di Tito

Some of the reliefs under the Arco di Tito, Forum: The Arch of Titus & the Jewish diaspora, Rome, Italy. (Photo by Валерий Дед)
Detail from the Arch of Titus showing the sack of Jerusalem, Forum: The Arch of Titus & the Jewish diaspora, Rome, Italy. (Photo by Dnalor 01)

The Arch of Titus was erected to celebrate the brief—AD 79 to 81—but popular rule of Titus, son of Vespasian (remember them, the pair who built the Colosseum?).

Look closely at the time-bitten relief panels on this arch and you'll see a crowd carrying a menorah—a bit odd for a Roman sculpture, no?

The Great Revolt, a.k.a. the First Roman-Jewish War, started in AD 66. General Vespasian was set to quell it, and he tapped his son Titus, to serve as second in command.

When Vespasian left for Rome (via Egypt) to take over as Emperor in AD 69, Titus decided to end the drawn-out conflict and besieged Jerusalem in AD 70.

After nearly eight brutal months, the Romans finally breached the inner wall, sacked the city, and looted Jerusalem's Second Temple of its treasures. Hence, the menorah.

Though Titus left Judea after the fall of Jerusalem and destruction of the temple, the war glorified by this arch did not end until the grim sacrifice of the last Jewish rebels at Masada in AD 73.

The Great Revolt also kicked off a mass exodus of Jews from colonized Judea—the beginning of the Jewish diaspora throughout Europe.

Was Titus an anti-Semite?

For his actions, Titus is often cast as one of history's original anti-Semites, but that's a bit unfair. For him it was a simple case of Roman politics. He was sent to put down a revolt in a rebellious province. It really had nothing to do with the race or religion of the rebels in question.

If anything, it was Nero who was the anti-Semite, instigating the rebellion in the first place by favoring the immigrant Greek population of Judea over its native Jewish one. Vespasian and his son and successor Titus—both originally sent to quell the revolt—merely inherited the ensuing political firestorm.

In fact, Titus carried on a prolonged and rather scandalous affair with the Herodian Jewish princess Berenice, which he didn't break off until a decade later when he ascended to the Imperial throne in Rome.

It's also worth noting chroniclers at the time wrote that Titus actually ordered the temple itself be spared, and that its destruction was accidental (though other ancient historians disagree).

Not that his motivations made things any easier on the Jerusalemites. Titus handled the rebellion in typically brutal, all-or-nothing Roman fashion, sacking the city, slaughtering more than one million of its citizens, and enslaving nearly 97,000.

From here you can climb the Palatine Hill, or continue south to exit the Forum along a sloping road to the Colosseum.

Photo gallery
  • The Arco di Tito, Forum: The Arch of Titus & the Jewish diaspora, Italy (Photo by Mikhail Malykh)
  • Some of the reliefs under the Arco di Tito, Forum: The Arch of Titus & the Jewish diaspora, Italy (Photo by Валерий Дед)
  • Detail from the Arch of Titus showing the sack of Jerusalem, Forum: The Arch of Titus & the Jewish diaspora, Italy (Photo by Dnalor 01)
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How long does the Roman Forum take?

You could wander through the Roman Forum in an hour or two, but many people spend four or five hours and pack a picnic lunch to eat on the Palatine (technically illegal; see below).

The ticket office closes one hour before the site.

Book Forum tickets ahead of time

Lines at the Forum can last up to half an hour in summer. To save your precious vacation time, it's well-worth paying the €1.50 fee to book your entry ahead of time (tel. 06-3996-7700, www.coopculture.it or at Viator.com)—though if you're visiting in off-season, the wait is usually more like 10–15 minutes so booking might not be necessary.

Useful Italian phrases

Useful Italian for sightseeing

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
Where is?... Dov'é doh-VAY
...the museum il museo eel moo-ZAY-yo
...the church la chiesa lah key-YAY-zah
...the cathedral il duomo [or] la cattedrale eel DUO-mo [or] lah cah-the-DRAH-leh
     
When is it open? Quando é aperto? KWAN-doh ay ah-PAIR-toh
When does it close? Quando si chiude? KWAN-doh see key-YOU-day
Closed day giorno di riposo JOR-no dee ree-PO-zo
Weekdays (Mon-Sat) feriali fair-ee-YA-lee
Sunday & holidays festivi fe-STEE-vee
     
ticket biglietto beel-YET-toh
two adults due adulti DOO-way ah-DOOL-tee
one child un bambino oon bahm-BEE-no
one student uno studente OO-noh stu-DENT-ay
one senior un pensionato oon pen-see-yo-NAH-toh

Basic phrases in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) pro-nun-see-YAY-shun
thank you grazie GRAT-tzee-yay
please per favore pair fa-VOHR-ray
yes si see
no no no
Do you speak English? Parla Inglese? PAR-la een-GLAY-zay
I don't understand Non capisco non ka-PEESK-koh
I'm sorry Mi dispiace mee dees-pee-YAT-chay
How much is it? Quanto costa? KWAN-toh COST-ah
That's too much É troppo ay TROH-po
     
Good day Buon giorno bwohn JOUR-noh
Good evening Buona sera BWOH-nah SAIR-rah
Good night Buona notte BWOH-nah NOTE-tay
Goodbye Arrivederci ah-ree-vah-DAIR-chee
Excuse me (to get attention) Scusi SKOO-zee
Excuse me (to get past someone) Permesso pair-MEH-so
     
Where is? Dov'é doh-VAY
...the bathroom il bagno eel BHAN-yoh
...train station la ferroviaria lah fair-o-vee-YAR-ree-yah
to the right à destra ah DEH-strah
to the left à sinistra ah see-NEEST-trah
straight ahead avanti [or] diritto ah-VAHN-tee [or] dee-REE-toh
information informazione in-for-ma-tzee-OH-nay

Days, months, and other calendar items in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
When is it open? Quando é aperto? KWAN-doh ay ah-PAIR-toh
When does it close? Quando si chiude? KWAN-doh see key-YOU-day
At what time... a che ora a kay O-rah
     
Yesterday ieri ee-YAIR-ee
Today oggi OH-jee
Tomorrow domani doh-MAHN-nee
Day after tomorrow dopo domani DOH-poh doh-MAHN-nee
     
a day un giorno oon je-YOR-no
Monday Lunedí loo-nay-DEE
Tuesday Martedí mar-tay-DEE
Wednesday Mercoledí mair-coh-lay-DEE
Thursday Giovedí jo-vay-DEE
Friday Venerdí ven-nair-DEE
Saturday Sabato SAH-baa-toh
Sunday Domenica doh-MEN-nee-ka
     
Mon-Sat Feriali fair-ee-YAHL-ee
Sun & holidays Festivi feh-STEE-vee
Daily Giornaliere joor-nahl-ee-YAIR-eh
     
a month una mese oon-ah MAY-zay
January gennaio jen-NAI-yo
February febbraio feh-BRI-yo
March marzo MAR-tzoh
April aprile ah-PREEL-ay
May maggio MAH-jee-oh
June giugno JEW-nyoh
July luglio LOO-lyoh
August agosto ah-GO-sto
September settembre set-TEM-bray
October ottobre oh-TOE-bray
November novembre no-VEM-bray
December dicembre de-CHEM-bray

Numbers in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
1 uno OO-no
2 due DOO-way
3 tre tray
4 quattro KWAH-troh
5 cinque CHEEN-kway
6 sei say
7 sette SET-tay
8 otto OH-toh
9 nove NO-vay
10 dieci dee-YAY-chee
11 undici OON-dee-chee
12 dodici DOH-dee-chee
13 tredici TRAY-dee-chee
14 quattordici kwa-TOR-dee-chee
15 quindici KWEEN-dee-chee
16 sedici SAY-dee-chee
17 diciasette dee-chee-ya-SET-tay
18 diciotto dee-CHO-toh
19 diciannove dee-chee-ya-NO-vay
20 venti VENT-tee
21* vent'uno* vent-OO-no
22* venti due* VENT-tee DOO-way
23* venti tre* VENT-tee TRAY
30 trenta TRAYN-tah
40 quaranta kwa-RAHN-tah
50 cinquanta cheen-KWAN-tah
60 sessanta say-SAHN-tah
70 settanta seh-TAHN-tah
80 ottanta oh-TAHN-tah
90 novanta no-VAHN-tah
100 cento CHEN-toh
1,000 mille MEEL-lay
5,000 cinque milla CHEEN-kway MEEL-lah
10,000 dieci milla dee-YAY-chee MEEL-lah


* You can use this formula for all Italian ten-place numbers—so 31 is trent'uno, 32 is trenta due, 33 is trenta tre, etc. Note that—like uno (one), otto (eight) also starts with a vowel—all "-8" numbers are also abbreviated (vent'otto, trent'otto, etc.).