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Fraternal twins like Miriam and Binyamin

Usually a woman releases one egg in her monthly cycle, but if she releases two and they are both fertilized, fraternal twinning occurs. Fraternal twins, no more genetically alike than any two siblings, can be of mixed genders. And so it was with Miriam and Binyamin.

Scientists have found that two genes increase a woman’s chance of having fraternal twins. One affects her hormone levels and the other affects how her ovaries respond to those levels. And since the cause of fraternal twinning is genetic, the rate varies across populations, the highest rates being in Central Africa and the lowest in Asia and Latin America.

Perhaps because they’re the same age and raised together, studies also show that fraternal twins feel closer to one another than other siblings. In THE DEADLIEST LIE, Miriam explains how she and Binyamin would play together as kids:

In the early morning when we were kids, Binyamin and I would rush a mule cart and climb over its tailgate to hitch a ride toward the Great Harbor. Binyamin would go first vaulting into the cart with a somersault, but I’d occasionally lose my perch and tumble onto my buttocks in the middle of the fiery pavement, sometimes on a pillow of spilled grain but just as often on a pile of fresh horse dung. Binyamin would toss handfuls of fodder at me from the scuttle the driver keeps for his mule and further embarrass me with his guffaws until the tide of clip-clopping traffic and the parade of peddlers hauling their handcarts eclipsed him.

But Miriam did not approve of Binyamin’s becoming a gladiator:

Yes, my handsome brother, always the exceptional athlete, the aggressive competitor, the risk-taker, and the admirer of all that is Roman gave up his liberty and birthright for this chance to die with slaves, criminals, and prisoners of war for the amusement of a Roman mob.

Binyamin became the Roman; Miriam, the Jew. In THE DEADLIEST SPORT, their mutual love erodes in synchrony with the embattled relationship between the Romans and the Jews in the Holy Land. To find out how that happened to them, just click here.

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