Saturday, January 28, 2023

First Paragraph

Some three or four decades before the birth of Christ, Rome's first heated swimming pool was built on the Esquiline Hill. The location, just outside the city's ancient walls, was a prime one. In time, it would become a showcase for some of the wealthiest people in the world: an immense expanse of luxury villas and parks. But there was a reason why the land beyond the Esquiline Gate had been left undeveloped for so long. For many centuries, from the very earliest days of Rome, it had been a place of the dead. When labourers first began work on the swimming pool, a corpse-stench still hung in the air. A ditch, once part of the city's venerable defensive system, was littered with the carcasses of those too poor to be laid to rest in tombs. Here was where dead slaves, 'once they had been slung out from their narrow cells', were dumped. Vultures, flocking in such numbers that they were known as 'the birds of the Esquiline', picked the bodies clean. Nowhere else in Rome was the process of gentrification quite so dramatic. The marble fittings, the tinkling fountains, the perfumed flower-beds: all were raised on the backs of the dead.

- From Dominion: How the Christian Revolution Remade the World by Tom Holland

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