John the Baptist 27 AD "The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand." (Matthew 3:2) 27 AD "Who warned you to flee from the wrath about to come?" (Matthew 3:7) 27 AD "The axe is already laid at the root of the trees." (Matthew 3:10) 27 AD "His winnowing fork is in His hand." (Matthew 3:12) 27 AD "The kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Matthew 4:17) 27 AD "The kingdom of God is at hand." (Mark 1:15) 27 AD “Who warned you to flee from the wrath about to come?” (Luke 3:7) 27 AD “The axe is already laid at the root of the trees. " (Luke 3:9) 27 AD "His winnowing fork is in His hand…." (Luke 3:17) Jesus the Christ 28 AD "The kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Matthew 10:7) 28 AD "You shall not finish going through the cities of Israel, until the Son of Man comes." (Matthew 10:23) 28 AD "....the age about to come." (Matthew 12:32) 28 AD “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” (Luke 10:9) 28 AD “The kingdom of God has come near.” (Luke 10:11) 30 AD "The Son of Man is about to come in the glory of His Father with His angels; and will then recompense every man according to his deeds." (Matthew 16:27) 30 AD "There are some of those who are standing here who shall not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom." (Matthew 16:28; cf. Mark 9:1; Luke 9:27) 30 AD "'When the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vine-growers?' '....He will bring those wretches to a wretched end, and will rent out the vineyard to other vine-growers, who will pay him the proceeds at the proper seasons.' '....Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you, and be given to a nation producing the fruit of it.' ....When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard His parables, they understood that He was speaking about them." (Matthew 21:40-41,43,45) 30 AD "This generation will not pass away until all these things take place." (Matthew 24:34) 30 AD "From now on, you [Caiaphas, the chief priests, the scribes, the elders, the whole Sanhedrin] shall be seeing the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven." (Matthew 26:64; Mark 14:62; Luke 22:69) 30 AD "What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the vine-growers, and will give the vineyard to others. ....They [the chief priests, scribes and elders] understood that He spoke the parable against them." (Mark 12:9,12) 30 AD "This generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” (Mark 13:30) 30 AD “What, therefore, will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and destroy these vine-growers and will give the vineyard to others." …The scribes and the chief priests …understood that He spoke this parable against them.” (Luke 20:15-16,19) 30 AD “These are days of vengeance, in order that all things which are written may be fulfilled.” (Luke 21:22) 30 AD "This generation will not pass away until all things take place.” (Luke 21:32) 30 AD "Daughters of Jerusalem, stop weeping for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, 'Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.' Then they will begin to say to the mountains, 'Fall on us,' and to the hills, 'Cover us.'” (Luke 23:28-30; Compare Revelation 6:14-17) 30 AD "I will come to you. …In that Day you shall know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.' …'Lord, what then has happened that You are about to disclose Yourself to us, and not to the world?'" (John 14:18,20,22) 30 AD "If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you?" (John 21:22) The Disciples 30 AD "We were hoping that He was the One who is about to redeem Israel.” (Luke 24:21) Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles 52 AD “…we who are alive, and remain until the coming of the Lord… …We who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds… …You, brethren, are not in darkness, that the Day should overtake you like a thief.” (1 Thessalonians 4:15,17; 5:4) 52 AD “May your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23) 52 AD “It is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire.” (2 Thessaloniams 1:6-7) 56 AD “The time has been shortened.” (1 Corinthians 7:29) 56 AD “The form of this world is passing away.” (1 Corinthians 7:31) 56 AD “Now these things …were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.” (1 Corinthians 10:11) 56 AD “We shall not all fall sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52) 56 AD "Maranatha!" [The Lord comes!] (1 Corinthians 16:22) 56 AD “Godliness …holds promise for the present life and that which is about to come.” (1 Timothy 4:8) 56 AD “I charge you …that you keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Timothy 6:14) 56 AD “…storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for that which is about to come, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed.” (1 Timothy 6:19) 57 AD “He has fixed a day in which He is about to judge the world in righteousness…” (Acts 17:31) 58 AD “Not for [Abraham's] sake only was it written, that [faith] was reckoned to him [as righteousness], but for our sake also, to whom it is about to be reckoned.” (Romans 4:23-24) 58 AD “If you are living according to the flesh, you are about to die.” (Romans 8:13) 58 AD “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is about to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18) 58 AD "It is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. The night is almost gone, and the day is at hand." (Romans 13:11-12) 58 AD “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” (Romans 16:20) 60 AD “There is about to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.” (Acts 24:15) 60 AD “As he was discussing righteousness, self-control and the judgment about to come…" (Acts 24:25) 61 AD "...not only in this age, but also in the one about to come.” (Ephesians 1:21) 61 AD “In the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self… …Avoid these men. For of these are those who enter into households and captivate weak women… …These also oppose the truth… …But they will not make further progress; for their folly will be obvious to all…” (2 Timothy 3:1-2,5-6,8-9) 61 AD “I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is about to judge the living and the dead…” (2 Timothy 4:1) 62 AD “The Lord is near.” (Philippians 4:5) 62 AD "The gospel …was proclaimed in all creation under heaven." (Colossians 1:23; Compare Matthew 24:14; Romans 10:18; 16:26; Colossians 1:5-6; 2 Timothy 4:17; Revelation 14:6-7; cf. I Clement 5,7) 62 AD “…things which are a shadow of what is about to come.” (Colossians 2:16-17) 63 AD “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son.” (Hebrews 1:1-2) 63 AD “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who are about to inherit salvation?” (Hebrews 1:14) 63 AD “He did not subject to angels the world about to come.” (Hebrews 2:5) 63 AD “…and have tasted …the powers of the age about to come.” (Hebrews 6:5) 63 AD "For ground that drinks the rain which often falls upon it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God; but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near a curse, and it's end is for burning.” (Hebrews 6:7-8) 63 AD “When He said, 'A new covenant,' He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.” (Hebrews 8:13) 63 AD “The Holy Spirit is signifying this, that the way of the [heavenly] Holy Places has not yet been revealed, while the outer tabernacle is still standing, which is a symbol for the present time. Accordingly both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make the worshiper perfect in conscience, since they relate only to food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until a time of reformation.” (Hebrews 9:8-10; Compare Galatians 4:19; Ephesians 2:21-22; 3:17; 4:13) 63 AD “But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things about to come…” (Hebrews 9:11) 63 AD “Now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin.” (Hebrews 9:26) 63 AD “For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things about to come…” (Hebrews 10:1) 63 AD “…as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:25) 63 AD “…the fury of a fire which is about to consume the adversaries.” (Hebrews 10:27) 63 AD “For yet in a very little while, He who is coming will come, and will not delay.” (Hebrews 10:37) 63 AD “For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the one that is about to come.” (Hebrews 13:14) Peter the Apostle to the Circumcision 30 AD “This is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel: 'And it shall be in the last days…'” (Acts 2:16-17) 62 AD “…salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Peter 1:5) 62 AD “He …has appeared in these last times for the sake of you.” (1 Peter 1:20) 62 AD “In the last days mockers will come. …For this they willingly are ignorant of…” (1 Peter 3:3,5) 62 AD “They shall give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.” (1 Peter 4:5) 62 AD “The end of all things is at hand; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer.” (1 Peter 4:7) 62 AD "For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God.” (1 Peter 4:17) 62 AD “…as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is about to be revealed.” (1 Peter 5:1) 62 AD “We have the prophetic word …which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the Day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts.” (2 Peter 1:19) 62 AD “Their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.” (2 Peter 2:3) 62 AD “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God.” (2 Peter 3:10-12) James 62 AD "Speak and so act, as those who are about to be judged by the law of liberty." (James 2:12) 62 AD “Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you. …It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure!” (James 5:1,3) 62 AD “Be patient, therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord.” (James. 5:7) 62 AD “You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” (James. 5:8) Jude the brother of James 62 AD “For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation. …About these also Enoch …prophesied, saying, 'Behold, the Lord came with many thousands of His holy ones, to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly…'” (Jude 1:4,14-15) 62 AD “But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, that they were saying to you, 'In the last time there shall be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts.' These are the ones who cause divisions…” (Jude 1:17-19) John the Apostle whom Jesus loved 62 AD “The darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining.” (1 John 2:8) 62 AD “The world is passing away, and its desires.” (1 John 2:17) 62 AD “It is the last hour.” (1 John 2:18) 62 AD “Even now many antichrists have arisen; from this we know that it is the last hour.” (1 John 2:18; Compare Matthew 24:23-34) 62 AD “This is that of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.” (1 John 4:3; Compare 2 Thessaloniams 2:7) 63 AD “…to show to His bond-servants, the things which must shortly take place.” (Revelation 1:1) 63 AD “The time is near.” (Revelation 1:3) 63 AD “Nevertheless what you have, hold fast until I come.” (Revelation 2:25) 63 AD “I also will keep you from the hour of testing which is about to come upon the whole world.” (Revelation 3:10) 63 AD “I am coming quickly.” (Revelation 3:11) 63 AD “And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is about to rule all the nations with a rod of iron.” (Revelation 12:5) 63 AD "And in her [the Great City Babylon] was found the blood of prophets and of saints and of all who have been slain on the earth." (Revelation 18:24; Compare Matthew 23:35-36; Luke 11:50-51) 63 AD “…to show to His bond-servants the things which must shortly take place.” (Revelation 22:6) 63 AD "Behold, I am coming quickly. " (Revelation 22:7) 63 AD "Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near." (Revelation 22:10; Compare Daniel 8:26) 63 AD "Behold, I am coming quickly.” (Revelation 22:12) 63 AD "Yes, I am coming quickly." (Revelation 22:20)

69-79AD Vespasian: Roman Emperor of Toilets, and Humour


by Bija Knowles on Thu, 07/09/2009 - 11:15

A Little-known Fact

A little-known fact about the emperor Titus Flavius Vespasianus is that he shares his name with a common word for public latrines in Italian. Not only were the antique communal latrines, such as those at Ostia Antica – see photo – referred to as 'vespasiani', but modern-day urinals in Italy, including the portable plastic versions often seen outside stadiums, also go by that name.

This is quite an unflattering namesake for an emperor who was, on the whole, perceived as being mild, generous and fair. It makes Vespasian possibly the only historical figure to have lent his name to the humble WC (it is a popular fallacy that nineteenth century British plumber Thomas Crapper invented the toilet – the WC had been in use long before his days). In Vespasian's case, there is actually a logical connection – the Flavian emperor was the first to impose taxes on the urine that was gathered from public latrines. This strange custom was practised by textile manufacturers, who used the urine (for its ammoniac content) to process fibres.

Vespasian: 2,000 Years Old

However, this was certainly not the focus of the current exhibition at the Capitoline Museums in Rome – Divus Vespasianus: Campidoglio and Egypt in the Flavian Era. Commemorating 2,000 years since the birth of Vespasian, it explores the cults and temples of the Capitoline hill during the short-lived Flavian dynasty, which began with Vespasian in 69 AD and was continued with his sons Titus (who reigned from 79-81 AD) and Domitian (81-96 AD).

As part of the exhibition, the museum has restored the lex de imperio Vespasiani (or lex Regia) – a unique bronze plaque that lists the imperial powers of Vespasian. Written between December 69 AD and January 70AD, the plaque (which begins mid-sentence, suggesting it is the second of a pair) puts into writing the emperor's powers of all aspects of Roman life: political, religious and bureaucratic. It is thought to constitute a legal document and was possibly an attempt to restore some gravitas and authority to the emperor's reputation after the disastrous rule of Nero.

The Rise to Power

According to literature accompanying the exhibition, the Flavians had a strong affiliation to the Capitoline Hill as it played an instrumental role in the family's bid for power. The year 69 AD was a year of political turbulence in Rome – with no fewer than four emperors in quick succession. Nero committed suicide in June the previous year and was succeeded by Galba and then Otho. Both were ousted after a few months in the job. Vitellius succeeded Otho, but the Roman army stationed in Judaea and around the Danube supported one of their commanders, Vespasian, as ruler: mutiny was imminent.

Several legions made their way to Rome with the intention of overthrowing Vitellius, but meanwhile in Rome, Vespasian's brother, Flavius Sabinus, had also attacked Vitellius's forces. However, Sabinus and his men were forced to retreat and took refuge by barricading themselves on the Capitoline Hill. Unfortunately, Vitellius set the hill on fire and some of the temples on the hill were destroyed, while Sabinus was captured and executed. Vitellius's victory was short-lived because his armies were soon defeated by Vespasian's supporters and Vitellius was executed in the forum. This marked the beginning of the Flavian dynasty – a dynasty of military commanders, seen as more representative of the people than the aristocratic Julio-Claudians which ended so badly with Nero.

Vespasian and the Egyptian Cults

The Capitoline Hill was the site of the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus, which was badly burned during Vitellius's attack on Sabinus. Vespasian ordered it to be rebuilt exactly as it was only with a higher ceiling and this demonstrated the emperor's close association with the sacred pagan temple and its supreme god. However, alongside Rome's pantheon of pagan gods, foreign religious cults and icons were also gaining popularity and acceptance. Vespasian had been in Egypt throughout the revolts against Vitellius in Rome and at the moment when he was eventually officially declared emperor. While there, he is said to have had a religious experience at a temple dedicated to the Hellenistic-Egyptian god Serapis. It is perhaps for that reason that Egyptian cults grew in popularity in Rome during the Flavian dynasty.

So sharing the sacred hill-top with Rome's temple to Jupiter was a temple dedicated to the cult of Isis. Despite Suetonius in his 'Life of Domitian' describing the Egyptian religion as a 'fickle superstition', the cult of Isis was increasing in popularity. The temple played an important role during Vitellius's siege of the Capitoline: Vespasian's son Domitian, nephew of Sabinus, is thought to have escaped and survived the attack in 69 AD by hiding at the temple of Isis and then disguising himself as a priest of Isis. Several Egyptian objects were found on the Capitoline in the area where the temple would have been include several statues of Egyptian gods in basalt.

In fact the cult of Isis wasn't limited to the Capitoline – there were sites at several other locations throughout Rome where statues and monuments have been found. These include a relief of Isis Pelagia (protector of sailors), found near the Portus Tiberinus and a bas relief depicting Serapis on a throne with Isis or Demeter, found at the via dell Conciliazione – both of which can be seen at the Musei Capitolini's exhibition.

Vespasian's Rule

Vespasian was the first emperor to raise tax on urine used in the textiles manufacturing process - urinals are still known as vespasiani in Italy today. Photo by B Knowles.
When Vespasian became emperor, he turned his attentions almost immediately to the Jewish insurrection in Jerusalem. He succeeded in sacking the city completely, killing more than a million Jews and taking treasures from the sacred temples of the city. Money raised from selling many Jews into slavery during this military campaign was then brought back to Rome and used to build the Colosseum between 71 and 80AD. The Arch of Titus is another monument that still stands in the Roman Forum today, which pays tribute to the military conquests of the Flavians. Bas reliefs decorating the façade of the arch show Roman soldiers carrying away the most treasured of Jewish religious objects, such as the menorah and trumpets from the Holy Temple in a scene of imperial plundering that seems less triumphal and more barbaric to modern eyes.

Vespasian was thought of as being a down-to-earth, surly man – his nickname 'mulio', or donkey-driver, suggested his unsophisticated demeanour, although it also nods to his family's equestrian business. He was thought of as being a mild and patient man who showed clemency to his adversaries (although his military campaign in Judaea was renowned for being ruthless). He was described in very favourable terms by historians and writers of that period, although there are suggestions that he paid many of these people well and provided them with pensions in return for their support. In 79 AD he contracted an intestinal disease – on his deathbed his last words are thought to have been 'Damn it! I think I am turning into a god!' The god Vespasian's sense of humour was intact until the end.

Photos by Musei Capitolini (Pelagian Isis); Ken Delaney (Arch of Titus ) and B Knowles (Ostia Antica).

About The AuthorBija KnowlesBija Knowles
Bija Knowles is a freelance journalist based outside Rome, Italy. She graduated in Italian and English Literature from the University of Birmingham, UK, and her main areas of interest are art, travel and history in Italy.

Last three pieces by this author: Letters from the Legions: a Personal View of World History, Vampires of Volterra: The Etruscan Roots of The Twilight Saga , Moving Capitals: Iran's Plans to Ditch Tehran Echoed in Ancient World

An exhibition celebrating the 2,000th birthday of Vespasian brings together artworks from the cult of Isis, with which he was associated. Photo by Musei Capitolini.

Vespasian's triumph in Judaea is depicted on the Arch of Titus in the Roman Forum, showing Roman soldiers looting Jerusalem's Holy Temple. Photo by Ken Delaney.