Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Twevle Caesars - page 290, Vespasian

With his knack of apt quotation from the Greek classics, [Vespasian] once described a very tall man whose genitals were grotesquely overdeveloped as:

'Striding along with a lance which casts a preposterous shadow.'


Most of his humour, however, centred on the disreputable ways he made money; he always tried to make them sound less offensive by passing them off as jokes. One of his favorite servants applied for a stewardship on behalf of a man whose brother he claimed to be. 'Wait,' Vespasian told him, and had the candidate brought in for a private interview. 'How much commission would you have paid my servant?' he asked. The man mentioned a sum. 'You may pay it directly to me,' said Vespasian, giving him the stewardship without delay. When the servant brought the matter up again, Vespasian's advice was: 'Go and find another brother. The one you mistook for your own turns out to be mine!'

So it seems Vespasian, an emperor of Rome who was considered generous and gracious in many ways, was not above swindling his own employees if it meant getting a bit of money. And he seemed quite proud of his ingenious ways to turn a profit. In fact, if you've ever heard about a certain ruler who put a tax on the urine that people generated in his city (and then shot down his son's resistance to the awkward source of the money by saying that coins themselves do not stink), then Vespasian is the person you are thinking of.

Roman toilets.

So when you think of Vespasian, think of cleverness, graciousness, and a hunger for money.

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