“Pecunia non olet”

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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.

Roman historians, Suetonius and Casssius Dio, mention words of Vespasianpecunia non olet (money does not stink) which are known till today. 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. Then Vespasian was to answer: “pecunia non olet”.

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.”

According to other sources, this sentence was to be used not in connection with the toilet tax, but due to the tax imposed on tanners collecting urine for industrial purposes, among others cleansing the skin.

Sources

  • Suetonius, Vespasian 23

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