Living in ancient Rome: give thanks for modern life

Juvenal described life in an ancient Roman tenement, and in the winding, crowded, brawling, filthy streets below:

“Think now about all those other perils

Of the night; how high is it to the roof up there

From which a tile falls and smashes your brains.

How many times broken, leaky jars

Fall from windows; how hard they strike and break

The pavement.  You could be thought lazy and careless

If you go to dinner without writing a will.

There are as many deaths waiting for you

As there are open windows above your head.

Therefore you should hope and fervently pray

That they only dump their sewage on you.

Someone below is already shouting for water

And shifting his stuff;  smoke is pouring out

Of the third floor attic, but you know

Nothing of it, for if the alarm begins on the ground floor,

The last to burn will be the man who has nothing

To shelter him from the rain but the tiles,

Where the gentle doves lay their eggs”.

For all our problems and fears we should be thankful for the good things about our current world: better health and sanitation, better housing, better diet, more mobility, more life options…. one could go on.  Epicurus, were he still alive, might exclaim, “ So it is possible to improve the lives of the human race!”. and he might also add, “ By and large.”

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