SMELL THE ROSES IN ALEXANDRIA
The rose has had a long and colorful history as a symbol of love, war, beauty, or politics and as the basis for making confetti, perfume, and medicine. In fact, Pliny the Elder, a Roman author, naturalist, and natural philosopher contemporaneous with Miriam, catalogued dozens of rose remedies in his Natural History, Book VIII. (For more on Pliny the Elder’s aphorisms, views on beauty, and cures, see my blogs of March 7, 14, and 28, 2017.)
Fossils of the rose go back 35 million years and evidence of its cultivation, about 5,000 years, probably beginning in China. With its extensive development in the Middle East during the Roman period, Miriam’s references to the rose abound in THE DEADLIEST LIE:
Miriam’s father planted roses in their courtyard and located it on the northwestern side of their house so the breath of the Etesian winds, the salubrious winds of summer, would sweep the scent into their home.
In Amram’s house, Miriam notices the bouquets of freshly-cut roses pluming over their free-standing urns. Later, as she rushes past a bank of open windows, she inhales the rich floral scent of the blossoms that seem to have fused into a single red blanket. (For more on the cultivation of roses in Alexandria, see my blog of October 18, 2016.)
When Miriam and her brother enter the gardens of the Caesareum, the temple Cleopatra built to honor Julius Caesar, she marvels at its sculpted fountains and topiary, the flower beds backed by jasmine hedges decked in white blooms, and its courtyards redolent of roses. And when she and her Aunt Hannah saunter through the Bruchium, Alexandria’s palace quarter, she mentions the gardens of the stately townhouses carpeted with rose petals.
The Historical Novel Society claims you will “gain a full sense that you have actually been transported back to Ancient Alexandria” in THE DEADLIEST LIE. Click here to find out more.