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August 4, 2020

The eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 CE destroyed the Roman cities around the Bay of Naples but preserved their buildings and artefacts. Excavations that began in the eighteenth century reveal these cities to have been rich in erotic artifacts such as statues, frescoes, and household items with a sexual theme. Throughout the Empire, the ubiquity of these images and items indicates that Roman attitudes toward sexuality were mor...

July 27, 2020

The judges for the Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Award have selected my latest Miriam bat Isaac Mystery as a finalist in the mystery category. Now it’s up to you to pick the winner!

You do that by voting. If you click on the URL below, you will see a single ballot with all the finalists in all the categories (mystery, thriller, suspense, science fiction/horror, etc.) arranged on a single list in alphabetical order by the las...

July 21, 2020

Isis was a major goddess in ancient Egypt. (See my blog of September 22, 2015.) Miriam mentions the importance of the cult in THE DEADLIEST LIE and describes worshipers heading for her temple:

Just as my litter was rounding the corner, another procession appeared, this one a motley parade of the crippled and the sick, each carrying a gift while casting a deformed shadow across the pavement. As they hobbled northward on the medi...

July 14, 2020

Reed pens were the most common writing implement during Miriam’s time. For centuries, they’d been made by cutting and shaping the hollow stem of a single reed or an eight-inch length of bamboo. Scribes would then soak one end in water so it could be cut easily into a point. Then they would square off the tip of the  point and cut a slit to run up some length from it. Ink stored in the hollow would then distribute onto the writ...

July 7, 2020

The Romans perfected firing clay bricks during Miriam’s time, the first-century CE. Previously, the only kind of bricks were mudbricks dried by the sun.

    

Miriam describes a neighborhood of mudbrick tenements in THE DEADLIEST LIE:

   

Rows of shoddy, sun-scoured, mudbrick tenements jammed together with hardly a slice of sky between them. Pigeons roosted above their listing doorways, squirting excrement on their c...

June 30, 2020

In THE DEADLIEST LIE, Miriam tells her aunt why she studies alchemy:

   

I want to make it safe to study metals. If I can make an apparatus for experimenting with metals safely, it might prevent the sicknesses that are afflicting our alchemists. And not just the alchemists but the dyers in our textile factories. They too are showing the same deadly symptoms. I think they’re being poisoned by the metals in either the dyes or...

June 23, 2020

One of Jesus’s reported miracles was that of cleansing a leper. Like many diseases, leprosy was considered a form of divine punishment for worldly sins, and the outward signs of the disease were taken as proof that the victim was utterly embroiled in sin. 

    

According to tradition, the soldiers of Alexander the Great contracted the illness when they invaded India in the 4th century BCE and carried it into...

June 16, 2020

In THE DEADLIEST THIEF, Miriam shares with Judah the few clues she has to find the remaining scoundrel who broke into and ran off with the treasure in the Temple of Artemis:

We have a few bits and pieces that boil down to a big brute from Tarsus with tiny deep-set, obsidian eyes, a small head with a sloping forehead, and a massive upper body. And one more thing: He has an accent. I’m guessing it was Cilician since he was from T...

June 9, 2020

Prostitutes were a recognized and substantial contributor to Alexandrian life. In THE DEADLIEST LIE, Miriam mentions them frequently and nonchalantly. For example, she mentions them among the various people she encounters in the agora:

   

Haranging hawkers and hucksters, orators and priests, soothsayers and astrologers, tricksters and swindlers, magicians and conjurers, snake charmers and peddlers, wizards and sorcerers…[a...

June 2, 2020

After the last two blogs on Asclepius and his daughter Hygeia, can you imagine my surprise when I came across a reference to the common genus of plants known as milkweeds? Wait! Let me explain. They are in the genus Asclepias, yet they are poisonous to humans. In fact, I remember as a child playing with them as they grew wild around my house in New Jersey.

   

They are called milkweeds because they exude a form of latex, a...

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