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Vitellia, daughter of the overthrown Emperor Vitellius, raises claims to the throne. She tries to make Sextus, a friend of the emperor, compliant and uses him as a tool in her thirst for power. She promises him her favour, if he succeeds in killing the emperor. Sextus, torn between his friendship with the Emperor and his love for Vitellia, declares his readiness to join Lentulus’s conspiracy and risk the assassination. Annius, a young patrician, reports on the dismissal of Berenice. Vitellia gains new hope and orders Sextus to postpone the deed. Annius asks his friend Sextus for permission to marry his sister Servilia. Rome’s nobility gathers on the Capitol for Titus’s coronation. The new emperor determines that the present he is offered should be used to alleviate the misery of the victims of the latest eruption of Vesuvius. As a sign of his appreciation for Sextus’s friendship, he intends to make his sister Servilia the empress. Titus considers the purpose of his rule to promote virtue and friendship. Annius, who is prepared to submit to the will of the emperor, reveals to his bride Servilia that she has been chosen by Titus to be his wife. However, she refuses to accept, affirming her love for Annius and confessing to Titus her love for Annius. Titus generously renounces his intention to marry her and intends to contribute to the happiness of the two lovers. Vitellia, who in the meantime has found out about the plan to make Servilia empress, feels that her pride has been injured and again urges Sextus to commit the deed. He reluctantly allows himself to be persuaded to carry out the attack. Yet hardly has he set out to do so before Vitellia hears about Titus’s new plan to make her his wife. Lentulus’s revolt has begun. Vitellia tries in vain to stop him. Fate takes its course. The Capitol is in flames and the people desperately try to save themselves. Sextus returns, convinced that he has killed Titus. Everyone laments the death of the benevolent ruler.
Annius reports to Sextus, who is in despair, that in the turmoil the emperor had remained unharmed. Someone else had fallen victim to the murderer’s dagger. Sextus now confesses his guilt. Vitellia urges him flee quickly, whereas Annius advises him to trust in the emperor’s clemency. Publius orders Sextus to be arrested as the proven assassin. He now realizes that he has erroneously killed his fellow conspirator Lentulus with his dagger as he triumphantly adorned himself with the coronation cloak. Titus, having escaped death by a fortunate act of providence, presents himself to the people and tries to alleviate their suffering after the conflagration of the city. The Senate has condemned Sextus to death, but the emperor hesitates before signing the verdict. He intends to speak alone to the friend who has betrayed him. Sextus does not reveal the secret of his deed, and is prepared to die. Although his guilty friend’s silence remains a mystery to him, Titus resolves to repeal the death sentence. Vitellia, having been implored by Servilia, finally resolves to save Sextus by making a confession. Full of regret she throws herself at the emperor’s feet. Titus feels betrayed by them all. Nevertheless, he does not wish revenge to have the final word. He allows the assassins and conspirators to live in freedom. The people praise the happiness of this historic moment.