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The Art Of Tattooing


The way society perceives tattoos has varied immensely throughout history. Today tattooing is so popular in North America that about one in every seven people has at least one tattoo. And why not? Tattooing is now regarded as an art form.

In the 20th century, tattooing was associated with sailors, prisoners, and other “rugged” individuals. Today, however, people choose to be tattooed for artistic, cosmetic, or sentimental reasons, or to symbolize their belonging to or identifying with a particular group, such as a gang.

But two thousand years ago, the Romans regarded the tattoo as a mark of punishment or shame. Slaves and criminals were tattooed to limit their ability to escape. In late Roman times, the soldiers, mainly mercenaries, were tattooed so if they deserted, they could be easily recognized.

Gladiators, such as Miriam’s brother, were tattooed as property of the state. In The Deadliest Lie, Binyamin explains that, despite his being a volunteer, he too will be tattooed:

“Yes, we too have to swear allegiance to the gods of the underworld; be tattooed on our face, legs, and hands as property of the school; and submit to the rules of the barracks, but as valuable property, we will be fed well and treated by physicians trained right here in Alexandria. And the duration of our service is limited by contract.”

So, while appreciating this 21st century art form, I hope you will still appreciate other arts, like the art of a good story. The Historical Novel Society praises The Deadliest Lie as an example of “finely crafted and fascinating historical fiction!” To find out more, click here.


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