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The Roman Conception Of Beauty


Ovid, a Roman poet one generation before Miriam’s, wrote about a woman’s beauty. It consisted, he said, of a pale complexion, rosy cheeks, and dark eyes, but the essential criterion was a pale skin. That meant that she was rich enough to have slaves and spend most of her time at home. And to stabilize her married life, Ovid cautioned a woman to take care of her beauty.

The Romans, unlike the Greeks or Egyptians, used make up sparingly, only to emphasize their natural beauty. Still, women often whitened their skin with chalk and darkened their eyebrows and lashes with a mixture of soot and ashes. Moreover, they bathed in donkey’s milk, treated wrinkles with swan fat and the flour from legumes, and removed freckles with incinerated snails. Like today, Roman women paid a lot of attention to their beauty. Only the standards have changed.

But in one of the stories in The Deadliest Deceptions, “Revenge”, a woman’s beauty came to be more a jinx than a blessing. Oh, Korinna was beautiful all right. Her father would brag about her like she was a goddess, but her fiancé’s father described her differently: “She was an empty-headed little thing, giddy and vain, you know the type, always fishing for compliments about how she looked, her hair, her dress, always complaining about the other girls trying to steal her boyfriends.”

By the time Miriam finds Korinna, some vestige of her beauty remained in her eyes, but hardship had scored her brow and outlined her eyes in red. Even more dreadful were her hands: chapped raw, the cuticles bleeding, and the nails dirty and ragged. Don’t let that happen to you. You don’t have to bathe in donkey’s milk, but hurry up and find out what happened to Korinna and then do the opposite. Just click here.


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