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A Roman Incense Burner

In The Deadliest Hate, Miriam searches for her brother in the hypogeum, the labyrinth of tunnels below the gladiatorial arena. First, she passes through the tunnels where the condemned gladiators are dying from their injuries, but at last, she locates her brother in the saniarium, the chamber where the professional gladiators are treated:


Pulled through the shadows by that inviolable bond to my own flesh and blood, I passed cell after cell of the condemned stinking in their filth, crying out to their gods. Their strangled sobs and wails of misery would ring along the walls until, as my heels clicked on, their laments were replaced by a fresh chorus of agony. And then, in another tunnel, some salutary signs reached out to me: the odors of opium and astringents; of mossy herbs wrapped in linen; and of salves blended from ibis fat, honey, and lint. Along with these, I heard the whistles and wheezes of men thick with sleep, their phlegmy snores fed by eddies of mandrake root smoldering in incense burners.


Incense burners or censers are vessels made for burning incense, perfume, or hallucinogens in solid form. They vary greatly in size, form, and construction materials, and have been in use since ancient times throughout the world. But if you insist on experiencing their salutary effects in Roman times, then either wait in line for a time machine or read The Deadliest Hate, a locked-room murder mystery that won honorable mention at the New York Book Festival. To watch the video, click here.



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