Plagues that may have brought down the Roman Empire

The Plagues That Might Have Brought Down the Roman Empire

Bioarcheologists are getting better at measuring the toll of ancient pathogens.

"While we may never be able to pinpoint one reason for the death of the Roman Empire, historians are inching ever closer to understanding what life was like for its residents as their world crumbled. Two especially innovative papers published in the latest issue of the Journal of Roman Archaeology ask what role epidemic disease played in the twilight of the Roman Empire. The first, by University of Oklahoma historian Kyle Harper, addresses the so-called Plague of Cyprian in the middle of the turbulent 3rd century C.E. The other, written by Harper’s former professor Michael McCormick, a professor of medieval history at Harvard University, takes on the 6th-century C.E. Plague of Justinian."

David Trammel's picture

I came down with strep throat over the weekend, and luckily have decent health insurance and a boss who saw the wisdom of not having a highly infectious individual in the shop. I'm home until Thursday drinking lots of coffee and taking an antibiotic twice a day.

(Yes, I'm not keen on the over use of antibiotics but in this case its appropriate.)

It got me thinking of what healthcare will be like in a declining world. Professional care and modern drugs will be expensive, if you can get them. Herbal medicines will be available but we need to relearn them fast. For many I suspect the first serious illness might end up being their last.

lathechuck's picture

One of the uncommon complications is toxic shock syndrome (in addition to meningitis and so on). TSS will kill you quickly, but painfully. I'll certainly sign up for the antibiotics, as long as they're available. Some people try to save money (or bypass the Medical-Industrial Complex) by buying their antibiotics at the pet supply store. A story I heard on the radio described a doctor who had to treat a patient who self-prescribed aquarium tetracycline at 10x the appropriate dosage.