Page 403. " hang them up in chains in Tower Hill "

Tower Hill is an elevated spot north-west of the Tower of London. Belonging to one of the oldest parts of London, archeological evidence shows that there was a settlement on the hill in the Bronze Age and much later a Roman village. Public executions of high-profile criminals were carried out on the hill. It is the site of the Tower Hill Memorial.

Google Map
Page 410. " a wealth of dragons, chimeras, manticores "
GNU Free Documentation LicenseDragon - Credit: Mac m 13

Dragons, chimeras and manticores are all mythological creatures. Dragons have serpentine or reptilian traits and feature in legends of worldwide cultures.

Chimera, Etruscan bronze
Public DomainChimera, Etruscan bronze - Credit: Lucarelli

The  chimera is a monstrous fire-breathing creature in Greek mythology. It was composed of the parts of multiple animals: upon the body of a lioness with a tail that terminated in a snake's head, the head of a goat arose on her back at the centre of her spine.

The manticore  is a legendary creature of Persian origin similar to the Egyptian sphinx. It has the body of a red lion, a human head with three rows of sharp teeth (like a shark), and a trumpet-like voice. Other aspects of the creature vary from story to story. It may be horned, winged, or both. The tail is that of either a dragon or a scorpion, and it may shoot poisonous spines to either paralyze or kill its victims. The creature's feet may also be of a dragon, but are mostly referred to as lions paws.

Manticore, engraving
Public DomainManticore, engraving - Credit: Jonstonus, Joannes

Page 410. " leopards, kestrels and other "

The leopard is the smallest of the four "big cats" in the genus Panthera, the other three being the tiger, lion and jaguar. Once distributed across southern Asia and Africa, the leopard's is now concentrated mainly  in sub-Saharan Africa. Due to the loss of range and declines in population, it is graded as a "Near Threatened" species. The leopard is similar in appearance to the jaguar, although it is of smaller and slighter build. The species' success in the wild owes in part to its opportunistic hunting behaviour, its adaptability to habitats, its ability to run at speeds approaching 58 kilometres per hour (36 mph), its unequalled ability to climb trees even when carrying a heavy carcass, and its notorious ability for stealth.

The name kestrel refers  to several different members of the falcon family. Kestrels are most easily distinguished by their typical hunting behaviour: they hover at a height of around 10–20 metres (33–66 ft) over open country and swoop down on prey, usually small mammals, lizards or large insects. Other falcons are more adapted to active hunting on the wing. In addition, kestrels are notable for usually having much brown in their plumage. Kestrels are bold and have adapted well to human encroachment, nesting in buildings and hunting by major roads.

Page 411. " the weavers of Basra "

Map of Iraq
Public DomainMap of Iraq - Credit: CIA World Factbook
 Basra is the capital of Basra Province, Iraq, and had an estimated population of 3,800,200 as of 2009. The city is located along the Shatt al-Arab waterway near the Persian Gulf. Basra is Iraq's main port, although it does not have a deep water access.  
Basra canal, 1950
Public DomainBasra canal, 1950 - Credit: Mark Ramsay Attisha
The city is the historic location of Sumer, the home of Sinbad the Sailor, and a proposed location of the Garden of Eden. It also played an important role in early Islamic history. A network of canals flowed through the city, giving it the nickname "The Venice of the Middle East" at least at high tide. For a long time, Basra was known for the superior quality of its dates.


Page 413. " an amorous Greek god "
Greek Gods - Poseidon - etching
Public DomainGreek Gods - Poseidon - etching - Credit: Wenzel Hollar

In ancient Greece, different cities worshipped different deities, however 14 major gods and goddesses were recognised by most Greek people: Zeus, Poseidon, Hades, Apollo, Artemis, Aphrodite, Ares, Dionysus, Hephaestus, Athena, Hermes, Demeter, Hestia, and Hera. Greek religion mixed with Etruscan cult and beliefs to form much of the later Ancient Roman religion.


Greek Gods - Jupiter - etching
Public DomainGreek Gods - Jupiter - etching - Credit: Wenzel Hollar

 Greek mythology consisted largely of stories of the gods and of how they affected humans on Earth.  The mythology largely survived and was added to for the later Roman mythology. Greek mythology became popular in Christian post-Renaissance Europe, where it was often used as a subject by artists like Botticelli, Michelangelo and Rubens.

Page 416. " like a Highland caber "


The caber toss is a traditional Scottish athletic event practised at the Scottish Highland Games. The athletes are required to toss a large wooden pole called a caber, similar to a telephone pole or power pole. The object is not the distance of the throw, but rather to have the caber fall directly away from the thrower after landing.

Page 420. " the alchemists of Golden Lane "


Alchemical Laboratory
Public DomainAlchemical Laboratory - Credit: Project Gutemberg

In the story, Golden Lane is a street close to Prague Castle, where alchemists used to live and work.  The term alchemy  derived from the Ancient Greek word khemia meaning "art of transmuting metals". Alchemy is both a philosophy and an ancient practice which focused on the attempt to change base metals into gold. The practice concentrates on researching the preparation of the "elixir of longevity", and achieving ultimate wisdom. The practical aspect of alchemy generated the basics of modern inorganic chemistry. Alchemy has been practiced in Mesopotamia (comprising much of today's Iraq), Egypt, Persia (today's Iran), India, China, Japan, Korea and in Classical Greece and Rome, in the Post-Islamic Persia, and then in Europe up to the 20th century, in a complex network of schools and philosophical systems spanning at least 2500 years.

The Alchemist on Book Drum


Page 420. " Do you have rowan flower? "

European Rowan
Public DomainEuropean Rowan - Credit: Giallopolenta
The European rowan (S. aucuparia) is a shrub or small tree which  has a long tradition in European mythology and folklore. It was thought to be a magical tree and protection against malevolent beings. The density of the rowan wood makes it very usable for walking sticks and magician's staves. This is why druid staffs, for example, have traditionally been made out of rowan wood. Rowan was carried on vessels to avoid storms, kept in houses to guard against lightning, and even planted on graves to keep the deceased from haunting. It was also used to protect one from witches.