Thus, little by little, have <they> built the city

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Now among all the cities under the sun, Rome is agreed to be
the greatest and most noteworthy. For it has not been created
by the ability of one man, nor has it attained such greatness
and beauty by a power of short duration, but a multitude of
monarchs, many companies of the best men, a great lapse of
time, and an extraordinary abundance of wealth have availed
to bring together in that city all other things that are in the
world, and skilled workers besides. Thus, little by little, have
they built the city, such as you behold it, thereby leaving to
future generations memorials of the ability of them all, so that
insult to these monuments would properly be considered a
great crime against the men of all time.

This is from 'Rome: A History of Seven Sackings.

I'm wondering what does 'they' refer to. Is it skilled workers, or 'monarchs, best man, time,wealth...'?

Thanks for your help.
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