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Vespasian's New Administration

Contributed by David Verne

One of Vespasian's first priorities is to rehabilitate the Empire's finances, which have been destroyed after Nero's excesses and a year of civil war. He raises taxes across the provinces and institutes taxes in Italy, which had been exempt. He looked the other way when tax collectors became extorted money from the populace, and after they became rich off their ill gotten gains, he would suddenly notice their crimes, imprison them, and seize their money for the treasury. He did this so much, that people began referring to tax collectors as Vespasian's sponges, who soaked up money before being wrung out.

The urine in public toilets was collected in large vats before being sold for various industrial purposes, and Vespasian introduced a tax on the sale of the urine. Something didn't smell right about this, and Vespasian's son, Titus, went to him to complain on behalf on the people. Titus showed Vespasian a bag of coins that had come from this tax, and after smelling them Vespasian declared, "Money does not stink."

His popularity didn't suffer greatly from these taxes because he used the revenue well. Whenever a natural disaster struck, Vespasian was quick to send aid. He also began repairing infrastructure and buildings that had fallen into disrepair during Nero's reign. These small acts convinced the people that they finally had a decent emperor who cared about his Empire. The historian Tacitus says, "Vespasian was the only man to improve upon being named Emperor." [1]

My Take by David Verne
After the megalomania of the Judeo-Claudian emperors, Vespasian was a refreshing change of pace. He was a rustic and had no noble ancestors. He caused a minor scandal when it got out that he took his own boots of in the evening. Throughout the rest of his reign he will continue to promote peace and is successful in setting the Empire on a firm path.

See Also


  1. Duncan, Mike (November 08, 2009). 73- The Only Man who Improved.

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