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Quotes of Vespasian

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)


Vespasian (Titus Flavius ​​Vespasianus) lived from 9 to 79 CE. Emperor in the years 69 – 79 CE. Vespasian was known for his intelligence, pleasant manner and leadership skills.

  • “I thank you, my son, for permitting me to hold office and that you have not yet dethroned me”
    • description: in a letter to his son Domitian, who freely represented his rule in Rome in his absence.
    • source: Cassius Dio, Roman History, 65.2.3
  • “It serves me right for being such a fool as to want a triumph in my old age, as if it were due to my ancestors or had ever been among my own ambitions”
    • latin: [Adeoque nihil ornamentorum extrinsecus cupide appetivit, ut triumphi die fatigatus tarditate et taedio pompae non reticuerit, merito se plecti, qui triumphum, quasi aut debitum maioribus suis aut speratum umquam sibi, tam inepte senex concupisset]
    • description: words said at the age of 61, after the triumphal parde in 71 CE, in which he had to spend the entire day standing in the chariot. Above in latin full context.
    • source: Suetonius, Vespasian, 12
  • “Woe’s me. Methinks I’m turning into a god”
    • latin: [Vae, puto deus fio]
    • description: words spoken to friends when he sensed imminent death.
    • source: Suetonius, Vespasian, 23:4
  • “The base is ready”
    • latin: [Et paratam basim dicens]
    • description: when delegates came to him with the information that a huge but expensive statue of Vespasian was to be built at the cost of the state. At this information, the emperor put an empty hand so that they could put money in it, and said these words.
    • source: Suetonius, Vespasian, 23
  • “Money does not stink”
    • latin: [Pecunia non olet]
    • description: interestingly, the popular words: Pecunia non olet, meaning “money does not stink” – words that Vespasian was to say as a reaction to criticism of his son cannot be confirmed. 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. Istead of that we find such description of situation: “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””.
    • source: Suetonius, Vespasian 23
  • “An emperor ought to die standing”
    • latin: [Imperatorem ait stantem mori oportere]
    • description: on his deathbed, when he had severe diarrhea and was completely exhausted.
    • source: Suetonius, Vespasian 24
  • “I at least am a man”
    • latin: [Ego tamen vir sum]
    • description: this was how Vespasian reacted when he heard of the words of Licinius Mucian, who bragged that he handed over power in the empire to Vespasian. In this way, Vespasian was to show his composure and forbearance.
    • source: Suetonius, Vespasian 13

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