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Who Were The Soothsayers?



In “The Bodyguard”, the first novelette in The Deadliest Returns, Miriam is shocked to find that her twin brother has returned to Alexandria. Eight years earlier, he’d been

reported to have died as a gladiator in the Amphitheater of Pompeii. Miriam tells us about her hopes upon seeing him:

 

Once my shock faded, I hoped, if only for a split second, that he’d grown up, at least a little. But then I saw that same swagger of insolence, that same boyhood smirk to remember his pranks, how he’d rush the mule carts as they clattered over the pavement. Athlete that he was, he’d vault over their tailgates and toss handfuls of fodder from the driver’s scuttle into the street or worse yet, at the beggars, street philosophers, and soothsayers lining the boulevard.

 

Soothsayers were the prophets, and in Greek and Roman dramas as well as on the street, they foretold the future and interpreted events. Shakespeare used one to foretell the death of Julius Caesar. Despite the soothsayer's speaking only nine lines, his role within the play is of paramount importance. He warns Caesar to "beware the ides of March.”

Shakespeare named the soothsayer Artemidorus. Like other characters in the play, Artemidorus was based on a real person. The real Artemidorus was an Ephesian soothsayer or diviner. He wrote several texts on dream interpretation and divination. Although Julius Caesar is set in 44 BCE, the real Artemidorus lived in the second century CE, over three hundred years later.

 

The Deadliest Returns is Miriam bat Isaac’s latest set of adventures. To escape to her first century CE world of soothsayers, murderers, and kidnappers, click here.

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