What Were Vespasian's Famous Last Words?

As He Prepared to Die, What did Emperor Vespasian Say?

Vespasian: Copyright the Trustees of the British Museum, produced by Natalia Bauer for the Portable Antiquities Scheme. Portable Antiquities

Perhaps deliberately following the tradition of his predecessor Claudius, Emperor Vespasian kept his wit about him as he lay dying, from diarrhea, as Julius Cicatrix explains in Imperial Exits. The gossipy Roman biographer Suetonius [see Roman Historians] reports Vespasian said, "Vae, puto deus fio" which can be translated "Woe is me. I think I'm turning into a god." This wasn't what Suetonius says is his final sentence. It is one the emperor uttered when "when his distemper first seized him", according to the biography. And it is what people think of when they refer to Vespasian's famous last words. Suetonius actually says he refers to his imperial dignity.  The reason for this curious joke is that emperors were often deified upon death.

Here is the relevant passage from the Public Domain English translation of Suetonius on this site:

Not even when he was under the immediate apprehension and peril of death, could he forbear jesting. For when, among other prodigies, the mausoleum of the Caesars suddenly flew open, and a blazing star appeared in the heavens; one of the prodigies, he said, concerned Julia Calvina, who was of the family of Augustus [771]; and the other, the king of the Parthians, who wore his hair long. And when his distemper first seized him, "I suppose," said he, "I shall soon be a god." [772]

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Gill, N.S. "What Were Vespasian's Famous Last Words?" ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, thoughtco.com/vespasians-famous-last-words-119621. Gill, N.S. (2020, August 26). What Were Vespasian's Famous Last Words? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/vespasians-famous-last-words-119621 Gill, N.S. "What Were Vespasian's Famous Last Words?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/vespasians-famous-last-words-119621 (accessed October 19, 2021).