De Medicina


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 relieve the pain of hemorrhoids. With the sunlight streaming through the open shutters, I could read on neatly printed labels the contents of each amphora, ceramic jar, and alabastron on the tower of shelves near her bench. She stocked the usual: castor oil, figs, and white hellebore for constipation; opium for pain, diarrhea, and insomnia; aloe for rashes; crocodile dung and sour milk to blend for a contraceptive; and various animal fats to combine for treating baldness. Those were just some of the remedies I recognized.

Likewise, in THE DEADLIEST SPORT, Miriam recommends garlic to improve Amram’s circulation, and in THE DEADLIEST THIEF, she suspects Hamilcar died of an overdose of black hellebore rather than a heart attack. Her medical knowledge came from studying De Medicina, the oldest medical document written after the Hippocratic writings, the earliest surviving major medical treatise written in Latin, and the earliest Western history of medicine. It is the only extant work of Roman encyclopedist and presumed physician Aulus Cornelius Celsus, who lived during her time. Although the text was lost sometime during the Middle Ages, it was rediscovered during 1426-27.

Still, I have to warn you not to try any of Celsus’s remedies. Many are extremely toxic. On the other hand, I can recommend the books in the Miriam bat Isaac Mystery Series. The walls around you will disappear, and you will forget that you are reading. Just click here to choose your story. Each story stands alone.

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