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PROLOGUS, 29 AD
The streets of Rome seemed alive, twisting and writhing like some tortured serpent; its massive human coils swelled and clotted the narrow roads channeling into the forum like tributaries rushing toward the sea. The white draped figures of aristocrats mingled with the simpler garb of the plebeians… the covered litters of the wealthy vied for passage alongside vagrants and beggars. Some had to squint and put up their hands to shade their eyes against the dazzling whiteness of the buildings beneath the hot July sun, but their progress was little impeded. Market pavilions spilled over with more than the usual number of hawkers and their wares. A slave ship had recently made port, attracting the curious as well as those who had intentions of making a purchase. It was a busy day in the busiest city of the world. Rome’s progression from mud to marble had taken only a few centuries. Her little group of colonies spread along the Tiber River had sprouted into city-states; her rule had changed from chieftains to kings, to the semblance of a republic, to the present-day empire. She had more than survived; she had prospered. Secure in her military superiority, she became caught up in what she perceived to be her destiny—mistress of the world—and proceeded to fulfill it. She was as majestic as she was malodorous, as splendid as she was squalid, as full of color and pageantry as she was white marble and dull rituals. Half of her population was composed of slaves, some of them men and women brought as captives from remote provinces. Others had been unwise in money matters and were forced to sell themselves until they could buy back their freedom.... [continues]
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