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Miriam needs more than a bath

In preparation for her first Shabbat in Caesarea and a visit to Judah’s brother’s home, Miriam goes with Phoebe to a balnea, a small, privately owned bathhouse near their inn, The Three Graces. She tells you all about it in The Deadliest Hate:

As with many balneae these days, women are allowed to use them from daybreak to noon; men, from early afternoon to sundown. Phoebe marched in like an overseer. In the tepidarium, she fingered the edge of the strigilis before she let the slave use it to scrape away the dirt, oil, and dead skin from my body.

The woman on the right in the painting is using a strigil, a small metal curved tool to scrape away dirt and sweat before effective soaps were available. First perfumed oil was applied to the skin. Then a strigil was used to scrape off the oil along with the dirt and sweat. Today we call them exfoliators.

For more on Roman baths, see my blog of July 21, 2015. But the bath isn’t going to help Miriam when she tries to break into the brother’s study. Guess who’s guarding the door. (Hint: It’s a what not a who.) Find out in Chapter 10 of The Deadliest Hate.

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