The Fate of Rome

The Fate of Rome

Climate, Disease, and the End of An Empire

Book - 2017
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A sweeping new history of how climate change and disease helped bring down the Roman Empire Here is the monumental retelling of one of the most consequential chapters of human history: the fall of the Roman Empire. The Fate of Rome is the first book to examine the catastrophic role that climate change and infectious diseases played in the collapse of Rome's power--a story of nature's triumph over human ambition. Interweaving a grand historical narrative with cutting-edge climate science and genetic discoveries, Kyle Harper traces how the fate of Rome was decided not just by emperors, soldiers, and barbarians but also by volcanic eruptions, solar cycles, climate instability, and devastating viruses and bacteria. He takes readers from Rome's pinnacle in the second century, when the empire seemed an invincible superpower, to its unraveling by the seventh century, when Rome was politically fragmented and materially depleted. Harper describes how the Romans were resilient in the face of enormous environmental stress, until the besieged empire could no longer withstand the combined challenges of a "little ice age" and recurrent outbreaks of bubonic plague. A poignant reflection on humanity's intimate relationship with the environment, The Fate of Rome provides a sweeping account of how one of history's greatest civilizations encountered, endured, yet ultimately succumbed to the cumulative burden of nature's violence. The example of Rome is a timely reminder that climate change and germ evolution have shaped the world we inhabit--in ways that are surprising and profound
Publisher: Princeton : Princeton University Press, 2017
ISBN: 9780691166834
Characteristics: 417 pages : illustrations, maps ; 25 cm


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Jul 08, 2018

Brilliant book by a talented historian. Kyle Harper has amassed the most current knowledge in: archeology, biogeography, genomics, agriculture, earth/sun science, plagues--from DNA samples and from extant contemporary writings, on and on -- I know I am forgetting a lot of subjects. Oh, economics. demographics and medicine. His writing is so good, so very good. 115 pages of appendices, notes and bibliography. I adore university press books and am always so grateful to Sno-Isle for buying us some.
Excellent review in LA Review of Books from Dec 17, 1017. I read the review after reading the book.

May 16, 2018

This a superb book for students of Roman history. It unraveled the seemingly epic levels of stupidity that ensued in the mid to late Roman Empire and shows that many of the actions taken were taken under the duress of a changing climate and pandemics that lead to a dramatic demographic decline. Think of the plague that beset Europe that killed off up to 50 percent of the population but also combined with climate change induced famines. What you learn from this book is that many (not all!) of the actions were signs not of decline but of resilience. Kyle Harper does a great job of weaving together writings from the period with the sciences of climatology and epidemiology. Bringing in the sciences is especially important since we don’t have good first person accounts like Pliny the Younger’s account of Vesuvius. The scope of the book encompasses the period of just before the antonine plague to the justinian plague and it’s aftermath and the rise of Islam. I am going to purchase this book to add it to my permanent home library.


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