CHANGING A GIGGLE TO A GASP


Miriam and Judah arrive at the home of a visiting sage. A house slave answers their knock. Miriam gives us this account: “Looking so much like Agrippina the Younger that I had to suppress a gasp, she led us across the sleek onyx floor of a marbled atrium lightly redolent of lilies.”

At least that’s the way THE DEADLIEST FEVER (in press, Black Opal Books) reads now. I originally wrote, “I [Miriam] had to suppress a giggle,” but that was before my friend Professor Lewis M. Greenberg, art historian at Florida Atlantic University, read my draft. “What? You don’t know who Agrippina the Younger was? No one would giggle upon seeing her!”

The wife of one emperor and the mother of another, Julia Agrippina, aka Agrippina the Younger, was driven by ambition her entire adult life. A year after she wed Claudius, she manipulated him into adopting her son, Nero, as his heir. He agreed, but that proved to be a fatal move. Early historians argue that Agrippina poisoned Claudius. Among several others.

Nero plotted to kill his mother by arranging for her to board a boat designed to sink, but that ploy failed. Still determined to commit matricide, Nero later ordered that his mother be assassinated in her home. All in all, a scandalous woman met a scandalous end.

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