In the summer of AD 79, A Roman fleet rested in the docks of an Italian town called Misentum, on the western horn of the Bay of Naples, about 150 miles south of Rome. In one of its lavish seaside villas, Pliny, the fat, rich commander of the naval detachment who had also achieved some fame as a philosopher, laid on a blanket in the yard, writing his latest work. A sizable staff attended to his wishes, answering every command he instituted.
On May 6, 1527, Pope Clement VII ran for his life. Spirited through a secret passage in the wall of St. Peter’s Basilica, he fled for 800 meters down the Passetto di Borgo, a narrow, arched corridor that runs within the Vatican City’s exterior wall. Behind him, an invading army committed the harshest atrocities upon the Eternal City in its existence.