Impossible to absorb too much information when you’re writing about a time two millennia before your own.

I hasten to add that I haven’t read all these books cover to cover, otherwise I would never have time to write any of my own. Often the most useful items in them are their maps and indexes.

And there is no end to the research, either, especially when it feels as if there is a new biography of Cleopatra published every year.

What did Alexandria and Egypt actually look like? Well, Alexandria then is under water now, but you can read descriptions in Herodotus and Strabo and plenty of artists and cartographers and biographers have recreated street maps. For visuals of ancient Egypt I’m mostly stuck with watercolors by artists like David Roberts, who visited there in 1838.

Yeah, there’s some Ozymandias” going on there, all right, besides which not exactly contemporaneous to the period in which I am writing.

Anyone who has ever traveled around the Mediterranean, where Greece and Rome left their deepest footprints behind, has seen examples of the surviving statuary. At the time of their creation they were brightly painted in all the colors of the rainbow, or those colors they had discovered pigments for by then. I stumbled across this fascinating book

on the classical literature shelf at Powell’s in Portland, Oregon (known better to bibliophiles by its true name, Nirvana). I’d seen faint traces of paint on the Alexander Sarcophagus in the Archeological Museum in Istanbul.

The book re-imagines what those bas-relief carvings would have looked like at the time of their making. Get a load of this:

When I write about the lavish and often garish colors artists and craftsmen slapped on every statue and the exterior surface of every building, know that the reality would very probably have blinded you.

The second Eye of Isis novel, Disappearance of a Scribe, publishes on January 15, 2022. I’ll be launching it in person (fingers crossed) at the Poisoned Pen Bookstore that day at 2pm. I hope to see you there!

In the meantime, click here to pre-order your signed first edition hardcover.

What, you haven’t read the first one in the series yet? Tsk.

Chatter Eye of Isis Writing

Dana View All →

Author and founder of Storyknife.org.

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