An original article published by Italian Notebook
Not a lot is known about the Emperor Vespasian’s life and brief rule, other than that he built the enormous Flavian Amphitheatre, better known as the Roman Colosseum.
His famous aphorism “Pecunia non olet” (money doesn’t smell) refers to the response to his son’s complaint about the unpleasant nature of the Urine Tax that he had imposed on the product of the city’s public urinals (the first ever, by the way, introduced in 74 A.D).
Up until that time, Romans had simply urinated into pots that were emptied into cesspools. With the introduction of public urinals, the liquid waste could be collected and sold as a source of ammonia, which was used in tanning and by launderers to clean the patricians’ white woolen togas.
Today the latin phrase is used to mean that the value of money is not tainted by its origins; and even though public urinals have become a rarity, they are still known in Italy as ‘vespasiani’.