A ROMAN MAGNIFYING GLOBE

The earliest written record of magnification dates to the first century CE, when Seneca the Younger wrote: “Letters, however small and indistinct, are seen enlarged and more clearly through a globe or glass filled with water.”

So, we know that magnifying devices were used during Miriam’s time. Judah used magnifying globes when making jewelry, and Bion, Phoebe’s husband, used them to assess the authenticity of a manuscript. In THE DEADLIEST HATE, Miriam brings Bion an alchemical manuscript to learn about its provenance:

I took out the panel and handed it to Bion. Shifting his weight, he pivoted out of his chair and scooted over to his workbench where he planted his feet firmly astride the stool and examined the panel with a glass globe.

I can’t say whether his inspection took a minute or an hour, only that I nibbled on my cuticles waiting for each brittle moment to pass. Sometimes he’d turn and lift the panel to catch a beam of light from the window, but most of the time he hunched over the workbench, his brow furrowed, his eyes riveted to the globe as he shifted it from one section of the panel to another, his body otherwise motionless. Finally, nodding with certainty, he looked up, pulled in a deep breath, and spoke in an authoritative voice.

A glass globe magnified the image about three times. This observation did not lead to the widespread use of glass for lenses, however, because the magnification was attributed to the water, not the glass. Aside from an authentic portrait of life in first-century Roman Alexandria, when you read THE DEADLIEST HATE, you will immerse yourself in a riveting story that won honorable mention for fiction at the 2016 New York Book Festival. To learn more, click here.

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