The ancient Roman city of Baiae, on the northwest shore of the Gulf of Naples, was once a popular coastal resort famous for its idyllic location and therapeutic mineral springs that drew the likes of Julius Caesar, Nero and Caligula. But what really enticed the wealthy and the powerful to this resort town were its beach parties, the wine and the women. In Baiae, “unmarried women are common property, old men behave like young boys, and lots of young boys act like young girls,” wrote the ancient Roman scholar Marcus Terentius Varro. Others described it as a “den of licentiousness and vice" and a "vortex of luxury". Baiae’s hedonism was as notorious as that of Las Vegas today.
But much of Baiae now lies underwater. The same subterranean volcanic activity that brought hot water to the surface and turned Baiae into the imperial capital of debauchery and vice also caused its downfall, quite literally. The entire land dropped like a plate by more than six meters —a process known as bradyseism, caused by the emptying of the underlying magma chamber. This happened during the 16th century, but by then, Baiae was already a mere shadow of its former magnificence.
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