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S.A. Bent, comp. Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men. 1887.


  • [Titus Flavius Vespasianus; born near Reate, A.D. 9; distinguished himself in Britain; pro-consul of Africa, 60; subjected the Jews, 66; emperor, 69–79.]
  • Gold smells not.

  • Of the money received from an unpopular tax; in reply to Titus, who blamed him for having laid it, he put a piece of gold, received from the first instalment, to his nose, and declared it did not smell of its source.—SUETONIUS: Life. When a young man much perfumed came to return thanks for being appointed to command a squadron of horse, Vespasian turned his head away in disgust; and saying, “I had rather you smelt of garlic,” revoked his commission.—Ibid.
  • Vespasian held out his hand to a deputation offering to erect a statue to him of the value of a million sesterces, saying, “Set up the statue without delay: the basis is ready.” He acquired a reputation for avarice, which the liberality of his later years did not efface; so that, at his funeral, “Favo, the principal mimic, personating him, and imitating, as actors do, both his manner of speaking and his gestures, asked aloud of the procurators how much his funeral and procession would cost; and, being answered ten million sesterces, he cried out, that if they would give him but a hundred thousand ($5,000) they might throw his body into the Tiber if they would.”—Ibid.
  • It is related, that, when asking an Egyptian philosopher to make him emperor, Vespasian said, “O Jupiter! may I govern wise men, and may wise men govern me!”
  • When urged to move some columns into the Capitol, at a small expense, by a mechanical contrivance, he liberally paid the inventor, but declined the offer, saying, “I must be suffered to feed my people.”—Ibid.
  • He refused to prosecute those who opposed his government; saying, “I will not kill a dog that barks at me.”
  • He remarked of a comet that appeared not long before his death, “This hairy star can have nothing to do with me. It menaces rather the king of the Parthians, as he has much hair, and I am bald.”—Ibid.
  • Methinks I am becoming a god.

  • He was “one of the great men who died jesting;” for, alluding sarcastically to the apotheosis of the emperors, he said when near his end, “Methinks I am becoming a god” (Væ, puto deus fio).—Ibid.