The Fate of Rome: Climate, Disease, and the End of an Empire

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Princeton University Press, Oct 2, 2017 - History - 440 pages

How devastating viruses, pandemics, and other natural catastrophes swept through the far-flung Roman Empire and helped to bring down one of the mightiest civilizations of the ancient world

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 and 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.


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User Review  - Shrike58 - LibraryThing

Back in the day I was part of a circle of friends who enjoyed table-top gaming and one of our "go to" games was "Republic of Rome" where, essentially, you sought to be come the first emperor; unless ... Read full review

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User Review  - Stbalbach - LibraryThing

The Fate of Rome (2017) is an innovative history of the fall of the Roman Empire (defined here as from the 3rd into the 7th centuries). Harper emphasizes a perspective often neglected, namely the role ... Read full review


Natures Triumph
Chapter 1 Environment and Empire
Chapter 2 The Happiest Age
Chapter 3 Apollos Revenge
Chapter 4 The Old Age of the World
Chapter 5 Fortunes Rapid Wheel
Chapter 6 The Wine Press of Wrath
Chapter 7 Judgment Day
Humanitys Triumph?

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About the author (2017)

Kyle Harper is professor of classics and letters and senior vice president and provost at the University of Oklahoma. He is the author of Slavery in the Late Roman World, AD 275–425 and From Shame to Sin: The Christian Transformation of Sexual Morality in Late Antiquity. He lives in Norman, Oklahoma.

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