The ancient Romans had a deity for everything, even for the system of channels whereby the daily refuse of a million inhabitants was flushed out of the city. Maybe the goddess Cloaca was worshiped by the rich more than by the poor, since the rich derived most of the benefits from her, and the poor shouldered most of the noisome burden. That's because the sewers emptied out at the Esquiline Gate. I'm not sure whether the Romans arranged it so that the end of the sewer line would be located in the poor quarter; more likely, that became the poor quarter because people don't want to live near a sewer, and will spend money to avoid it.
Not to be indelicate about it, I think that Port Esquiline can serve as an allegory not for the separation of the rich from the poor, but for their disconcerting sameness. Lord Acton said -- I've tried to find the exact words, and would be grateful to anyone who can direct me to the proper text -- that the vices that addle the rich devastate the poor. The rich can afford their vices, for a time anyway; the poor have no such margin for comfort. They are, in fact, endangered by the vices of the rich, in more ways than one. That's because the rich set the example for the poor. Their vices attain celebrity; a Casanova or a Don Juan sets the petty rakes of a nation to school. Now the rich can buy their way out of entanglements. They can raise a bastard child, or bribe an offended lady at court. Their powdered periwigs and snuffboxes and civet can cast the sweet air of civilization over their ruffian ways; their very debaucheries can sparkle. When the poor emulate them in vice, as they emulate them in most things, the result is disaster: not a man at the club, mooching a claret from his friends, but a man in the ditch, or behind bars.
So in Dickens we have the miserable corpse-robbing thieves at Joe's rag and bone shop, and they are but Scrooge himself, and his money-hungry class, shorn of top hat and watchfob and man-of-business etiquette. So in imperial Rome the senatorial class had succumbed to a fatal indolence, ceding to the emperor all authority and responsibility; and the proles in the city flocked to the circuses to quell their boredom in bloodshed. When my grandparents were children, they looked to the pillars of American society not for strong moral example, but for the diminished thing that moral example had become: "We may be poor," said one, "but we can at least be clean."
Doesn't that rule still hold true? There's a fashionable cruelty defended in the coffee shop -- I mean the New York Times, or NPR, or a faculty lounge. Let the offspring die. Grandma wouldn't have wanted to last like this. We have to take into account the welfare of everybody. It's a clump of cells. It's a vegetable. It's an it. Isn't that the same cruelty staring at us from the violent lyrics of the street? If you see a young man from one of our own Esquiline districts, with pants sagging two feet beneath his torso and face studded with pins and trinkets, looking for all the world as if only his lack of ambition prevents him from slipping a knife into someone's back, you should consider him an excellent student. He has learned the slack self-gratification that the rich and the middle class have taught. We should not say, "There but for the grace of God go I." We should say, "There are my vices, walking." Many of the well-to-do are too sophisticated now for religious belief, except as a "lifestyle choice," an accessory, like quaint old wreaths on the doors. Depend upon it, the poor will come to teach us what that vice means also.
The most bountiful alms that the rich can give the poor, apart from the personal donation of their time and means, are lives of virtue to emulate. It is their duty. But when they use their means to buy off the effects of vice, or, worse, to celebrate it, that is an offense against those whom Jesus called "little ones," and no amount of almsgiving can lighten the millstone.