Spring 2016

The Environmental Fall of the Roman Empire

Kyle Harper
Revisiting that classic problem of ancient history—the fall of Rome—Kyle Harper uses new scientific data and approaches to argue that a cascade of environmental disasters, more than any single event, pushed Rome’s resilient economy and agricultural system to the breaking point. The effects of climate change, including food crises in Egypt resulting from the Nile’s failure to flood, and the devastating Antonine Plague and Plague of Cyprian were, in a sense, “the revenge of [Rome’s] giant imperial ecology.”
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