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May 26, 2020

Hygeia (we get the word hygiene from her name) was the daughter of Asclepius, who was the son of Apollo, who was the son of Zeus. As the Greek goddess of healing both the mental and physical illnesses of people and animals, she advised rest, a wholesome diet, and cleanliness to prevent disease in the first place.

       

So, why is she posed with a snake? The Greeks regarded snakes as sacred. Even their venom was...

May 19, 2020

In The Deadliest Lie, Judah tells Miriam about an asclepion where his mentor’s wife was treated for mania. (see my blog of February 23, 2016). An asclepion is a spa-like temple dedicated to Asclepius, the Greek god of health and medicine. The patient participates in exercises, diet, mineral baths, massage, and various other rituals before lying down on a sacred skin (called a kline from which we derive the word clini...

May 12, 2020

The popular Greek legend about Thessalonike is that she turned into a mermaid who lived in the Aegean for hundreds of years. According to the legend, Alexander, in his quest for the Fountain of Immortality, retrieved a flask of immortal water, which he used to bathe his sister’s hair. When he died, she was so overcome with grief that she tried to kill herself by jumping into the sea. But instead of drowning, she became a merma...

May 5, 2020

“It’s a deep bowl, like the one I use to serve figs, like a basin but with a lid.”

     

That’s the way Miriam described a lecane to Phoebe. It’s one of the dozens of kinds of two-handled Greek vessels called “vases”. This kind was used as a basin for washing one’s feet, vomiting into, or storing miscellaneous household goods like cups and clothes. A smaller version of the same shape was filled with gifts from the fath...

April 28, 2020

In THE DEADLIEST THIEF, Miriam invites her sometimes-deputy, the itinerant potbellied dwarf, Nathaniel ben Rubin, to join her for his favorite snack, apricot tarts:

      

A mousy-haired knock-kneed waiter cut a clean line around the empty tables. Shouldering a tray of finger foods and beverages, he sailed right over. The glassware chinked as my guest grabbed a goblet of pomegranate wine sweetened with honey and p...

April 21, 2020

In Miriam’s time, the first century CE, Tarsus was one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world, dating back to the Neolithic Period. And, like any great port, it had a mixed population of pirates, seafarers, and roughnecks. One of them was Pytheus, who participated in the jewel heist in Ephesus. We meet him in THE DEADLIEST THIEF where his own wife describes him:

   

Pytheus was by nature suspicious and secr...

April 14, 2020

We see evidence of Miriam’s knowledge of medicine throughout the Miriam bat Isaac Mystery Series. In her first book, THE DEADLIEST LIE, Miriam brings us inside Aspasia’s apothecary:

   

A waist-high, wooden bench spanned the warped floorboards at the center of her shop. I could see from the pyramid of crushed cannabis leaves on its marble top and an open scroll of De Medicina that she’d been compounding suppositories to rel...

April 7, 2020

In one scene from THE DEADLIEST THIEF, Miriam and Judah are having dinner. Among other delicacies, they share a salad of dandelion greens. I’ll let her describe the meal to you:

   

We were in the 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,...

March 31, 2020

Although there were banks in Miriam’s Alexandria to lend money, manage land and buildings, collect outstanding debts, and handle the various currencies for big businesses, the exchange of coins in the local marketplace was the occupation of the argentarii, the men who sat at tables throughout the agora. Experts in spotting phony gold and silver coins, they served the shoppers by evaluating foreign coins and other valuables for...

March 24, 2020

The study of forensics dates back to Roman times. In fact, the term “forensics” is derived from the Latin word "forum" because the Romans presented their legal charges in the public square. While the Romans did not have a specific term for or understanding of forensic science, Quintilian, a Roman jurist, used bloodstain pattern analysis to win a murder case. The case I’m thinking of, “Paries Palmatus” or “The Wall of Hand...

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Come visit Miriam in first century CE Alexandria.