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No one can tell who made the spheres of twelve faces or why or what the Romans called them: maybe Corpus Sacrum. Maybe something else. We refer to them as pentagondodecahedra. But that is a modern word, and an uncouth one, too. A hundred are known. Many have been found in France, in Belgium, they seem highly concentrated in southern England and at the middle course of the river Rhine. There are as many suggestions for their use as there are dodecahedra. None is conclusive. Alas, the classical authors have not mentioned or described them. Or have they?
There is a haunting quote by a man from the second century, Marcus Valerius Martialis. He referred to mysterious items he called the Pilae Mattiacae – the Mattiacian Spheres. No one has excavated a Pila Mattiaca or found its image, and it was never mentioned again. The only clue we have is its name. The Mattiaci were the people who lived in the Roman age at the middle Rhine, right where so many spheres of twelve faces have been found.
So what if – just if – the Pilae Mattiacae and the dodecahedra were one and the same thing? And once they may have attracted the attention of a stargazer who understood how to use them. And he made them his tools of power.
That he seems to have stolen the last surviving sibling of the Antikythera Mechanism only adds to the troubles looming.
Music: Antti Martikainen: The Last Chronicle, under Creative Commons.
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