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“Pecunia non olet”

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Vespasian
Vespasian

The emperor Vespasian was an extremely accurate and thrifty person. He translated his traits into public life. He reformed the finances of the state, primarily strengthened the treasure, which was heavily ruined by Caligula and Nero.

Vespasian introduced about 70 CE the tax on public toilets. He was criticated, among others by his own son, Titus for dealing with such frivolous aspects of the economy.

When Titus found fault with him for contriving a tax upon public conveniences, he 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.”

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

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