By Jérôme Carcopino; H.T. Rowell (ed.); E.O. Lorimer (trans.)
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Extra resources for Daily Life in Ancient Rome (Peregrine Books)
83 And at the same time, it was equipped with superfluities which we forgo and decorated with a lavishness we are not wont to spend on such a spot. All round the semicircle or rectangle which it formed, water flowed continuously in little channels, in front of which a score or so of seats were fixed. The seats were of marble, and the opening was framed by sculptured brackets in the form of dolphins, which served both as a support and as a line of demarcation. 85 Let us be honest with ourselves: we are amazed at this mixture of delicacy and coarseness, at the solemnity and grace of the decora tions and the familiarity of the actors.
We may recall the savage and gloomy tirade of Juvenal: 'Who at cool Praeneste, or at Volsinii amid its leafy hills, was ever afraid of his house tumbling down? . '42 The satirist has not exaggerated, and many specific cases provided for in the legal code, the Digest, take for granted precisely the precarious state of affairs which excited Juvenal's wrath. Suppose, for instance, that the owner of an insula has leased it for a sum of 30,000 sesterces to a principal tenant who by means of sub-letting draws from it a revenue of 40,000 sesterces, and that the owner presently, on the pretext that the building is about to collapse, decides to demolish it; the principal tenant is entided to bring an action for damages.
66 As the atrium had been dispensed with, and the cenacula were piled one above the other, it was impossible for the inhabitants of an insula to enjoy the luxury common to the peas antry, of gathering round the fire lighted by the womenfolk in the centre of their hovels, while sparks and smoke escaped by the gaping hole purposely left in the roof. It would be a grave mistake, moreover, to imagine that the insula ever enjoyed the benefit of central heating with which a misuse of language and an error of fact have credited it.