Reconstruction drawing of the communal latrines at Housesteads Roman fort (Vercovicium) on Hadrian's Wall. This site is now in the care of English Heritage (2010).

Money Does Not Stink: The Urine Tax of Ancient Rome

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Modern day Vespaciens

As undignified as Titus may have believed his father’s tax to be, in the long run, Vespasian’s tolls actually benefited the Roman empire. Perhaps the best evidence of this is in his most famous monument. Some of the original Urine Tax went toward the construction of the Roman Coliseum, which was built during Vespasian's 10 year reign. 

Vespasienne in Montreal, Quebec, Canada (1930)

Vespasienne in Montreal, Quebec, Canada (1930) ( Wikimedia Commons )

The Coliseum notwithstanding, Vespasian's contribution to modern architecture has left an impact on history in other notable ways. Public pay toilets in some parts of the French-speaking world became known as Vespaciens.  Although the concept of pay toilets is largely novel to most Americans, certainly those of a younger age, the concept of a fee to pee is widespread throughout Europe's major cities, especially Paris. Vespasian's name is still attached to public urinals in France (vespasiennes), Italy (vespasiani), and Romania (vespasiene) even though they have become something of a rarity in modern times. Interestingly, there was even a Vespacien built in Montreal in 1930. As in the past, in many of ancient Rome’s public restrooms, people can make a living out of urine. While Vespasian’s tax was very unpopular, especially among the urine collectors, textiles makers, and tanners, the revenue collected from the tax helped stabilize the empire and provide a public service.

Featured image:  Reconstruction drawing of the communal latrines at Housesteads Roman fort (Vercovicium) on Hadrian's Wall. This site is now in the care of English Heritage (2010).

By Bryan Hill


Scribe, The. "Ancient History Blog." Ancient History Blog RSS. June 4, 2007.’t-pay-urine-tax…-1st-c-ad/

"Lock, Stock, and History, Emperor Vespasian and the Urine Tax, When..." Peashooter85.

Morcone, Campania. "Vespian's Legacy." ItalianNotebook.



Wonderful information for educators

In ancient Chinese Medicine the earliest recorded use of using urine and it’s contents is the second century BC. It’s usage had by this time been utilized for an unknown period of time before this recording.

They where isolating sex and pituitary hormones from human urine. These crystals called in English ‘autumn minerals’ where used to treat a number of medical/health issues
Human urine not only contains the minerals and elements mentioned in this article but also steroid hormones, androgens, estrogens, pituitary hormones known as gonadotrophins which stimulate the sex glands (gonads).

Between 1025 and 1833 there where at least 10 additional methods having been recorded detailing how to obtain these various sex and pituitary hormones.

Attention was paid to whom the urine was coming from. Males or females. These two urines would be mixed together based on certain formulas in various quantities. This was done for the purpse of either obtaining predomimantly androgen (male hormone ) or predomimantly estrogen (female hormone). Other methods produced gonadotrophins.

Traditionaly these where used to treat amongst other things a wide variety of ailments relating to the sex organs of the human body. Including using today’s terms, hypogonadism, impotence, hermaphroditism, spermatorrhea, dysmenorrhea, leucorrhea, sexual debility and stimulating hair growth with males.

In today’s modern medical system the modern field of endocrinology some fertility drugs are produced and given to women to facilitate the production of eggs. Substances which have been extracted from the urine of menopausal women.

Other health issues that are treated are ; menopause, diabetes, metabolic disorders, lack of/poor physical development/growth, osteoporosis, thyroid condition, cancers of the endocrine glands, over/under production of hormones, cholesterol disorders, hypertension, infertility.

“The derivation of sex hormones from human urine is today a standard practice, and modern medicine could not do without human urine as their source”.

Based on what?

Urine Therapy is one of the best health solution today and it's free.

Timeship's picture

Before you complain about high taxes, remember this huge problem of the old times and thank the government for the FREE restrooms throughout the Western world… because in some countries if you don’t pay you’re in huge trouble on the street ;-)


Bob Bello

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