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Ludo fatigatumque somno
Texere, mirum quod foret omnibus, Quicumque celsae nidum Acherontiae Saltúsque Bantinos et arvum Pingue tenent humilis Forenti,
Ut tuto ab atris corpore viperis
If any town of the ancient world might be called the metropolis of pleasure and gay life, it was Bajae, the most celebrated watering-place of Italy, which Comus, in communion with Hygieia, seemed to have selected for their favourite abode.1 The coast of happy Campania, on which Bajae was situated, was invested by nature with all the charms of a southern climate, to which the taste and splendour of the Roman nobility had added the magnificent ornaments of their villas and countryseats. These superb palaces rose along the shore, with their high towers commanding a view beyond the bay of Bajae into the open sea, whilst other villas, built in a more simple style by the men of former times, looked down from the neighbouring heights like strong fortresses. On the opposite side, in the direction of Naples, the beautiful town of Puteoli was situated ; and, om the right, round the neck of land, lay Misenum, with its famous harbour, the station of the Roman fleet. In the immediate neighbourhood was Cumae, consecrated by ancient myths; and bordering on it, the dark lake of Avernus, which, combined with the loveliness of the surrounding country, seemed to represent in the upper world both the terrors of Tartarus and the delights of Elysium.
1 Hor. Ep. 1, 1, 83: “Nullus in orbe sinus Bajis praelucet amoenis."
But the polished mammers and gay life of the inhabitants contributed still more than the charms of nature to render Bajae the most pleasant abode in the ancient world. Besides invalids, who came to seek relief from the mineral waters and hot sulphuric vapours, there poured hither a much greater crowd of healthy people, who, caring only for pleasure, came to amuse themselves; and leaving behind them the cares and eeremonial of life, completely abandoned themselves to enjoyment, in whatever form it was afforded. All kinds of amusements accordingly were provided in abundanee.
In our own day, the country appears to have been very much altered by the destructive ageney of repeated eonvulsions of nature, so that the descriptions given by ancient writers mo longer correspond either with the situation of the lakes or with the general aspect of the country. Only a few scattered ruins lying along the shore point out the spot where once stood the most extensive bathing establishment of this luxurious city.