Tuesday, November 17, 2009

They Named What after me?

The big nosed fellow above clocking in as our 92nd hero, is one Titus Flavius Vespasianus, born this day 9 A.D. in Falacrina, Italy. Born into a family of equestrians, that rose to senatorial rank under the Claudo-Julian emperors, our boy Vespasian was mostly noted for being an extremely good military commander. His military reputation was based upon his participation in the Roman invasion of Britain in 43 A.D., and his ability to bring to heel Judea after a rebellion in 66 A.D.. The year 69 was to be the defining year of Vespasian's career, commonly called the year of the Four Emperors it started after joy boy Nero's suicide in 68. Galba was chosen by the Roman Senate to replace him. Galba lasted until the middle of January when Otho decided "hey I want to be Emperor," and marched on Rome. Galba was duly assassinated, and Otho became Emperor. He lasted till April when some clown named Vitellius decided to go into the Emperor business. Vitellius lasted until December when our hero Vespasian decided that he wanted a piece of the Emperor pie. After such disastrous civil strife Vespasian brought order, order and the tax man the old Latin phrase Pecunia non olet (money does not smell) is supposed to have been coined about this time in reference to Vespasian instituting a tax on the collection of urine. In fact urinals are still named after him in France (vespasiennes), Italy (vespasiani), and Romania (vespasiene). Now that is heroic, going down in history as the guy who's name is attached to the pisser. The Roman Colosseum was began under his reign (it was not finished at the time of his death), and it seems our boy had a good propaganda machine working for him as well. Not a lot is known about the middle years of his reign, but at least he brought peace, which is probably his greatest feat. When he was on his deathbed and expiring rapidly, he demanded that he be helped to stand as he believed "An emperor should die on his feet", (rather ironic for a guy with urinals named after him). He died of an intestinal inflammation which led to excessive diarrhea. His purported great wit can be glimpsed from his last words; Væ, puto deus fio, "Damn. I am already becoming a god!" He is also a major character in Lindsay Davis' Falco series of books set in Rome during his reign, and they are very good books. So, for bringing peace, and the piss tax to Rome in a trying and troubled time, Titus Flavius Vespasianus (November 17th, 9- June 23rd, 79, at the age of 69), you are my hero of the day.

No comments: