HEY, WHAT TIME IS IT?
The Romans used various timekeeping devices. Sundials were imported from Sicily in 263 BCE, and they were set up in public places. The disadvantage of sundials was that they worked only in sunshine and had to be recalibrated depending on the latitude and season. And so, you’ll find in the Miriam bat Isaac stories that times of day are given as approximations rather than down to the hour or even the minute as we do today.
For example, in The Deadliest Sport, Miriam’s brother Binyamin remembers waking up in “probably early afternoon” to realize he has a problem:
Like I said, that’s how it all got started. But soon enough—must have been Wednesday, probably early afternoon because I was still sleeping—a chain of rants echoed through the house, slapping my eardrums. It was Gershon, a parasite if I ever saw one, bringing his upper-crust stink into the house. He was bawling something about the Fates and then that the will was missing. Of course, the will was missing, I said to myself, but a moment later, my eyes flew open, and I realized only Kastor and I should know that. And that’s when my brilliant plan began to fall apart, like a spider web one strand at a time, all because of that meddler. Well, I jumped into my clothes and scurried over to Kastor’s cella in the western end of the Bruchium quarter, the last place in this dung-smeared world I wanted to be.
Of course, Binyamin is up to no good. But when The Deadliest Sport turns from being about gladiatorial combat to murder, can we point our finger at him? Check out the book trailer here.