The quote comes from page 129-130
The judge lived in an impressive house of the type I could easily covet. Worse, his house might even convince me to aspire to his rank.
It was a detached town villa just off the Vicus Longus, not too large and not too small; it had some fine rooms for impressing public visitors, but was arranged for decent privacy. Marponius never went down to Petro's meagre guardhouse; he had felons brought here for interviews. He had a social conscience. He wanted lags like me to discover the urge to reform through seeing what could come from more legitimate types of crime. Compared to speculation and usury, mere theft and murder began to look unprofitable and quite hard work. Even being an informer seemed a dead-end job.
I presented my person at a ponderous marble portico. The elaborate studs and shiny bronze door furniture were overdone to my mind, but as an auctioneer's son I had seen that much of the world has unsubtle taste. Under the frippery, it was a solid hardwood door. The judge simply belonged to the group that likes to ruin good material.
Marponius and I would never agree on decor. I was a spare-time poet with a refined nature, whose occupation called for a sensitive, humane approach. He was a dull thug from the middle rank who had made himself rich, and therefore significant, by selling scientific encyclopaedias to New Men. By New Men I mean ex-slaves and foreign immigrants; people with overflowing coffers but no education who want to appear cultured. They could afford to buy literary works by weight - and more importantly, they could fit themselves up with ranks of literate slaves to read the works aloud. In the shifting social strata of Rome there was plenty of scope for applying gloss to upstarts. So if a treatise was Greek, incomprehensible and came in twenty scrolls, Marponius had his team of scribes copy it out. He used best-quality papyrus, black gall ink, and highly scented sandalwood for the end pieces. Then he supplied the slaves with refined voices too. That was where the money lay. It was a neat trick. I wish I had thought of it.