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Urine tax

Urine Tax (Latin: vectigal urinae) was a tax levied by the Roman emperor Nero in the 1st century upon the collection of urine. The lower classes of Roman society urinated into pots which were emptied into cesspools. The liquid was then collected from public latrines, where it served as the raw material for a number of chemical processes: it was used in tanning, and also by Roman launderers as a source of ammonia to clean and whiten woolen togas.

The tax was eventually discontinued, but it was re-enacted by Nero's successor Vespasian and applied to all public toilets. The Roman historians Suetonius and Dio Cassius report that when Vespasian's son Titus complained to him about the disgusting nature of the tax, his father held up a gold coin and told him, "Non olet! ("It doesn't stink!"). This phrase is still used today to show that money is all equally filthy (or clean), regardless of its source. Vespasian's name still attaches to public urinals in France (vespasiennes), Italy (vespasiani), and Romania (vespasiene).


  • Ivar Lissner, "Power and Folly: the story of the Caesars".
  • Dio Cassius, lxvi, 14.
  • Suetonius, "De Vita Caesarum--Divus Vespasianus"
  • Dominique Laporte, "History of Shit"
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Urine_tax". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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