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Ancient Syrian Glass


Glassblowing is the practice of shaping a mass of glass that has been softened by heat. Air is then blown into the mass through a tube. The craft was invented by Syrian craftsmen in the first century BCE, about 150 years before Miriam’s time. Vessels for luxury as well as everyday use were produced commercially and exported to all parts of the Roman Empire.


In The Deadliest Fever, Syrian glass was served in even the simplest fast-food restaurants:


We were sitting at a table behind a bowed cabinet stacked with nested cookware in the empty dining room at the back of Cato’s, a fast-food restaurant near the West Gate of the agora. The proprietor, presumably Cato, a swollen man, all gut and jowls with purple threads fanning across his cheeks and wriggling up his hatchet-shaped nose, had already brought us a crater of water mixed with an indifferent wine from the Delta and ladled it into our goblets. We were waiting for only a platter of cucumbers, forest mushrooms, and fish livers with onions. I could smell them cooking and hear them sizzling over the charcoal-burning furnace.


Cato’s daughter, judging by that same fleshy body and hatchet-shaped nose, lay the table for us with tin dishware and mismatched tableware. A few minutes later, she brought over a Syrian glass plate of our vegetables garnished with olives and the fish livers still spitting oil in their bronze platter.


In the Deadliest Fever, Miriam identifies a jewel thief from the bite of a rabid bat. But don’t worry. This story can accompany you to the simplest restaurant and still be in good taste. To find out more, just click here.

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