A quote from the Meditations (I.11) of the emperor Marcus Aurelius (Penguin’s Staniforth translation):
To my mentor Fronto I owe the realization that… our patrician families tend for the most part to be lacking in the feelings of ordinary humanity.
The textbook writing that I’ve been doing over the last six months has really brought home to me the gap between the elites and non elites in the ancient world, and the ability for the elites to rationalize and justify not only their privileged position but also the lot of the masses. “Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?” indeed.
This was in a section of the Meditations where Aurelius talks about the corruptible influence of absolute power, and that when you have so much, and can buy and sell your way out of anything, often the first casualty is your compassion toward your fellow humans. Amongst the rich and elite families of his time, and of our time I would strenuously argue, that absence becomes internalized and fossilized.