IN CENTRAL ROME, ITALY, STANDS A TRIUMPHAL ARCH THAT ATTRACTS VISITORS FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD. THE ARCH HONORS ONE OF ROME’S FAVORITE EMPERORS—TITUS.
The Arch of Titus has two large reliefs depicting a well-known historical event. Less well-known, though, is the fascinating link between the arch and the Bible—the Arch of Titus bears silent witness to the remarkable accuracy of Bible prophecy.
A CITY CONDEMNED
Early in the first century C.E., the Roman Empire stretched from Britain and Gaul (now France) to Egypt, and the region enjoyed unprecedented stability and prosperity. But one remote area was a source of constant frustration for Rome—the restless province of Judea.
The Encyclopedia of Ancient Rome states: “Few territories under Rome’s control were marked by such intense dislike, on both sides, as Judaea. The Jews resented foreign masters who cared nothing for their traditions, and the Romans found Jewish stubbornness cause for severe intolerance.” Many Jews hoped that a political messiah would expel the hated Romans and restore a golden era to Israel. But in 33 C.E., Jesus Christ declared that Jerusalem faced a coming catastrophe.
Jesus said: “The days will come upon you when your enemies will build around you a fortification of pointed stakes and will encircle you and besiege you from every side. They will dash you and your children within you to the ground, and they will not leave a stone upon a stone in you.”—Luke 19:43, 44.
Jesus’ words evidently puzzled his disciples. Two days later, on viewing Jerusalem’s temple, one of them exclaimed: “Teacher, see! what wonderful stones and buildings!” Indeed, some temple stones were reportedly over 35 feet (11 m) long, 15 feet (5 m) wide, and 10 feet (3 m) high! Yet, Jesus replied: “As for these things that you now see, the days will come when not a stone will be left upon a stone and not be thrown down.”—Mark 13:1; Luke 21:6.
Jesus further told them: “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by encamped armies, then know that the desolating of her has drawn near. Then let those in Judea begin fleeing to the mountains, let those in the midst of her leave, and let those in the countryside not enter into her.” (Luke 21:20, 21) Did Jesus’ words come true?
DEATH OF A CITY
Thirty-three years passed, and Judea still chafed under the Roman yoke. But in 66 C.E. when the Roman procurator of Judea, Gessius Florus, seized funds from the sacred temple treasury, the enraged Jews had had enough. Soon, Jewish fighters swarmed into Jerusalem, slaughtered the local Roman garrison, and declared their independence from Rome.
About three months later, over 30,000 Roman troops, led by Cestius Gallus, advanced on Jerusalem to crush the rebellion. The Romans quickly penetrated the city and undermined the outer wall of the temple area. Then, for no apparent reason, they retreated. The Jewish rebels rejoiced and promptly gave chase. With the warring parties away, the Christians, heeding Jesus’ warning, fled from Jerusalem to the mountains beyond the Jordan River.—Matthew 24:15, 16.
The following year, Rome renewed its campaign against Judea, headed by General Vespasian and his son Titus. However, soon after Emperor Nero died in 68 C.E., Vespasian returned to Rome to assume the throne, leaving the Judean campaign to his son Titus with an army of some 60,000.
In June 70 C.E., Titus ordered his soldiers to strip the Judean countryside of trees, which were used in building a 4.5-mile-long (7 km) wall of pointed stakes around Jerusalem. By September, the Romans had plundered and burned the city and its temple and had torn them apart stone by stone, just as Jesus had earlier foretold. (Luke 19:43, 44) According to a conservative estimate, “between a quarter and a half million people perished in Jerusalem and the rest of the country.”
AN IMPERIAL TRIUMPH
In 71 C.E., Titus returned to Italy to a rapturous reception from the citizens of Rome. The whole city turned out to celebrate one of the greatest triumphal processions ever staged in the capital.
The crowds marveled as untold wealth paraded through Rome’s streets. They feasted their eyes on captured ships, massive floats depicting battle scenes from the war, and items plundered from Jerusalem’s temple.
Titus succeeded his father Vespasian as emperor in 79 C.E. But just two years later, Titus died unexpectedly. Domitian, his brother, took the throne and promptly erected a triumphal arch in Titus’ honor.
THE ARCH TODAY
Today the Arch of Titus is much admired by the hundreds of thousands of people each year who visit the Roman Forum. Some view the arch as a majestic work of art, others as a tribute to imperial Roman power, and yet others as an epitaph to fallen Jerusalem and its temple.
Careful readers of the Bible, however, view the Arch of Titus as having even greater significance. It is a silent witness that confirms the reliability and accuracy of Bible prophecies and establishes that they are inspired by God.—2 Peter 1:19-21.