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February 11, 2020

“Look,” Bion says in THE DEADLIEST THIEF, “I can’t be sure when Phoebe will be back so let me choose the undertaker. I’ll select a burial place, hire the mourners to lead the funeral procession, and perform the rituals.”


What could Bion have had in mind? Roman funeral processions were marked by the movement of bodies, both living and dead, and the loud noise they generated. And like other aspects of Roman life, the weal...

February 4, 2020

The word pharos is of Greek origin and means lighthouse. So, I wondered whether the word for lighthouse came from the name of the island, or the name of the island came from the word for lighthouse. To my surprise, the island was named first. Moreover, from Greek to Latin and then to the other Romance languages, the word came to mean lighthouse in French (phare), Italian and Spanish (faro), Catalan and Romanian (far), and Port...

January 28, 2020

Miriam tells us in THE DEADLIEST LIE that her servant Phoebe was a Greek foundling her mother rescued. Finding the infant wrapped in a soiled blanket in the Bruchium Quarter when she was hardly more than a day old, her mother brought the baby home and hired a wet nurse for her first three years.

In the newest and fifth book in the Miriam bat Isaac Mystery Series, THE DEADLIEST THIEF, we learn that unbeknownst to Phoebe...

January 21, 2020

In THE DEADLIEST HATE, during her voyage to Caesarea, Miriam sits with her feet elevated on a long chaise in one of the Orion’s deckhouse lounges to re-read The Clouds and amuse herself with Aristophanes’s caricature of Socrates. Her mission in Caesarea is vital, to locate the source of an alchemical text that surfaced there, but the stress of the trip temporarily slips away as she loses herself in the story.



January 14, 2020

In THE DEADLIEST THIEF, Miriam describes a scene when she and Judah were in their dining room:


Our couch, flanked by ebony lamp stands, was positioned to face the marble fountain in the courtyard. The low ivory table before us was draped in a bleached linen cloth laden with trays of stuffed olives, boiled eggs, and candied almonds; a platter of the cook’s specialty, thin slices of grilled lamb in a fragrant mint sauce;...

January 7, 2020

By Miriam’s time, the first century of the Common Era, Roman glass was being manufactured into everyday containers and plain tableware. But glass was also being made into windows, jewelry, and magnifying glasses as well as some of the finest pieces of art. 


In THE DEADLIEST THIEF, Miriam encounters in the agora her friend, the potbellied dwarf ben Ruben, and invites him to join her in her favorite café:


December 31, 2019

Near the beginning of THE DEADLIEST THIEF, Phoebe is kidnapped. Miriam suspects she was abducted from a wig shop when her lead bearer reports seeing her go inside to pick up a new wig, but no one wearing a wig came out. Not Phoebe. Not anybody. “If Phoebe had made it out of that shop,” Miriam said, “she’d surely have worn her new wig.”


Wearing a wig was common among the wealthy and fashionable of the Roman Empire. In fa...

December 24, 2019

In THE DEADLIEST THIEF, my newest mystery, Miriam reminds us that her mother died of childbed fever after giving birth to her and her twin brother.


The first descriptions of childbed fever, also known as puerperal fever, date back to at least the 5th century BCE in the writings of Hippocrates. But it wasn’t until the 19th century CE that physician Ignaz Semmelweis saw the connection between the illness and unwashe...

December 17, 2019

I stood there as if I’d been punched in the chest. The knocking was so frantic that I bolted out of my study, tore across the atrium to the entrance of our townhouse, and opened the door.

It was my Phoebe, a fresh mouse blooming on her left cheek, a flame of red encircling her mouth, and an eggplant bruise planted on the right side of her neck. Clutching the door jamb to recover her balance, gasping for air, she stagger...

December 10, 2019

In THE DEADLIEST THIEF, June Trop brings to life a fascinating figure in 1st Century CE Alexandria, Miriam bat Isaac. Despite its ancient setting, the action, conflicts, and characters come across realistically, even vividly. You will feel very much there as you witness a crime of murder, jealousy, and greed.  

There is a scene in THE DEADLIEST THIEF in which the villain is led to a cache of jewelry, and I want to te...

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