The iniquities of Verres, as a public officer who had the power of blessing or of cursing a whole people, were very terrible; but they do not shock so much as the story here told of private life. That any man should have lived as did Oppianicus, or any woman as did Sassia, seems to prove a state of things worse than anything described by Juvenal a hundred and fifty years later.
The broad space was almost deserted and in three minutes he was before the gates of the barracks, which were situated on the right-hand side of the street, just beyond the College of the Penitentiaries and opposite the church of San Spirito in Sassia. Meanwhile Donna Faustina Montevarchi was alone in the streets.
The famous tigress of the story of Cluentius, Sassia, as she appears in Cicero's defence of him, was beyond doubt a criminal of the worst kind, however much we may discount the orator's rhetoric; and her case proves that the evil did not exist only at Rome, but was to be found even in a provincial town of no great importance. Divorce was so common as to be almost inevitable.
The little piazza before San Spirito in Sassia was half filled with masses of stone and brickwork and crumbling mortar. A young girl lay motionless upon her face at the corner of the hospital, her white hands stretched out towards the man who lay dead but a few feet before her, crushed under a great irregular mound of stones and rubbish.
At that period in the middle of the ninth century there was nothing but the church and shrine no palace and no hospital. One other humble building of some sort, "called Burgus Saxonum, Vicus Saxonum, Schola Saxonum, and simply Saxia or Sassia," it is interesting to know, existed close to the sacred centre of the place, a lodging built for himself by Ina, King of Wessex, in 727.
Adultery and incest had become familiar excitements. Boys of ten years old had learnt the art of poisoning their fathers, and the story of Aurelia Orestilla and Catiline had been rehearsed a few years before by Sassia and Oppianicus at Larino.