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Empress Messalina Was Known For Her Elaborate Hairstyles

In “The Recollection”, one of nine stories in The Deadliest Deceptions, a man, after being stabbed, awakens on a pile of rubble in a rutted alley and struggles to recall who he is. So, he goes to the agora to search for someone who might recognize him:

He pauses at a wig shop and elbows through the crush of Chinese silks and jewel-threaded hairstyles to catch his image in one of the polished bronze mirrors positioned beside the wigs, each an imitation of Empress Messalina’s layered curls. He is pleasantly surprised to see he has a still-young face, almost handsome, with a strong square jawline and deeply sculpted cheeks. Only a nose a little too crooked keeps him from looking rugged. He flashes a wide smile into the mirror to see that despite his overlapping, slightly protruding teeth and the creases bracketing the corners of his mouth, his full lips give him a sensitive look.

Wealthy men as well as women wore wigs in first century CE Roman Alexandria. Men’s wigs were fashioned to look natural, but women’s hair was elaborately dressed to imitate the styles of Empress Messalina, the third wife of Emperor Claudius. Of course, some women could imitate Messalina by having their own curls sewn onto a frame. If you follow the red lines in the attached pictures, you can see the frame under the model’s curls. Of course, her “tall” style is an illusion.

On the other hand, The Deadliest Deceptions is the real thing, nine hair-raising stories set in first century CE Roman Alexandria, featuring Miriam bat Isaac, sleuth extraordinaire. To watch the book trailer, just click here.


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