Monday, October 29, 2018 at 5:00pm
Social Sciences Building (SOS), 250
3502 Trousdale Parkway, Los Angeles, CA 90089
"New Approaches to Old Diseases: Consilience, Climate, and the Antonine and Justinianic Plagues"
Monday, October 29, 2018
University of Southern California
Social Sciences Buildings, SOS 250
5:00pm to 7:00pm
It’s simple, plague did it. Pandemic disease and climate change have been repositioned as the leading causes of the ‘fall’ of the Roman Empire. Drawing on recent and ongoing research, this paper questions current maximalist readings of some of the supposedly great ‘levellers’ of late antiquity: the Antonine (156/165-189/196) and Justinianic (541-750) plagues. It adopts a consilient approach and interweaves written and archaeological evidence with data from the natural sciences to explore the means by which these events have come to be interpreted as devastating environmental shocks. That the Antonine plague was a disease event unlike others experienced in antiquity and that the Justinianic plague halved the population of the Mediterranean are untenable claims. These events may have been demographic watersheds, but careful cross discipline analysis of the data presently available fails to support such thinking.
This event is sponsored by the USC-Huntington Early Modern Studies Institute.
Timothy Newfield is an environmental historian and historical epidemiologist at Georgetown University.