This page cannot be viewed in frames

Go to page

If you have found a spelling error, please, notify us by selecting that text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

Emperor Vespasian’s urinary tax

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Vespasian
Vespasian

In ancient times, urine was a valuable commodity and many people collected it and then delivered it for a fee to manufactories that used it to bleach the material and remove stains. Due to this practice and the desire to provide additional funds to the state treasury, in 74 CE, Emperor Vespasian introduced urine tax (urinae vectigal).

His son Titus criticized the new law. Then Vespasian:

[…] held a piece of money from the first payment to his son’s nose, asking whether its odour was offensive to him. When Titus said “No,” he replied, “Yet it comes from urine.”

Suetonius, Vespasian, 23

After Vespasian’s death, Titus withdrew the tax.

Interestingly, there are popular words: Pecunia non olet, meaning “money does not stink” – words that Vespasian was to say as a reaction to criticism of his son. We do not find any confirmation for those words in ancient sources and they have certainly become simply a phrase intended to emphasize that money can be earned on any business.

Sources
  • Suetonius, Vespasian 23

IMPERIUM ROMANUM needs your support!

Your financial help is needed, in order to maintain and develop the website. Even the smallest amounts will allow me to pay for further corrections, improvements on the site and pay the server. I believe that I can count on a wide support that will allow me to devote myself more to my work and passion, to maximize the improvement of the website and to present history of ancient Romans in an interesting form.

Support IMPERIUM ROMANUM!

News from world of ancient Rome

If you want to be up to date with news and discoveries from the world of ancient Rome, subscribe to the newsletter.

Subscribe to newsletter!

Roman bookstore

I encourage you to buy interesting books about the history of ancient Rome and antiquity.

Check out bookstore

Spelling error report

The following text will be sent to our editors: