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Pox Romana

The Plague That Shook the Roman World

Colin Elliott



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Princeton University Pres
01 May 2024
In the middle of the second century AD, Rome was at its prosperous and powerful apex. The emperor Marcus Aurelius reigned over a vast territory that stretched from Britain to Egypt. The Roman-made peace, or Pax Romana, seemed to be permanent. Then, apparently out of nowhere, a sudden sickness struck the legions and laid waste to cities, including Rome itself. This fast-spreading disease, now known as the Antonine plague, may have been history's first pandemic. Soon after its arrival, the Empire began its downward trajectory toward decline and fall. In Pox Romana, historian Colin Elliott offers a comprehensive, wide-ranging account of this pivotal moment in Roman history.

Did a single disease - its origins and diagnosis still a mystery - bring Rome to its knees? Carefully examining all the available evidence, Elliott shows that Rome's problems were more insidious. Years before the pandemic, the thin veneer of Roman peace and prosperity had begun to crack: the economy was sluggish, the military found itself bogged down in the Balkans and the Middle East, food insecurity led to riots and mass migration, and persecution of Christians intensified. The pandemic exposed the crumbling foundations of a doomed Empire. Arguing that the disease was both cause and effect of Rome's fall, Elliott describes the plague's 'preexisting conditions' (Rome's multiple economic, social, and environmental susceptibilities); recounts the history of the outbreak itself through the experiences of physician, victim, and political operator; and explores post-pandemic crises. The pandemic's most transformative power, Elliott suggests, may have been its lingering presence as a threat both real and perceived.
Imprint:   Princeton University Pres
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 235mm,  Width: 156mm, 
ISBN:   9780691219158
ISBN 10:   069121915X
Series:   Turning Points in Ancient History
Pages:   328
Publication Date:  
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Colin Elliott is associate professor of history at Indiana University and the author of Economic Theory and the Roman Monetary Economy.

Reviews for Pox Romana: The Plague That Shook the Roman World

"""Enlightening. . . . [Elliott] expertly draws on trace evidence such as census records, real estate contracts, and paleoclimate research to make his case. It’s an informative history that serves to encourage better pandemic preparedness today."" * Publishers Weekly * ""This look at the Antonine plague and its impact has both good history and good economics.""---Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution ""Pox Romana is an important work of ancient history. . . . It shows that by leveraging new archeological evidence, and variegated forms of quantitative evidence, scholars are making substantive advances in our understanding of the Roman world.""---Mark Koyama, How the World Became Rich ""Colin Elliott has written a book which is very relevant to the world we live in.""---Francis Ghilès, The Arab Weekly ""Colin Elliott offers a comprehensive, wide-ranging account of [a] pivotal moment in Roman history. . . .I recommend everyone to purchase this book.""---Mark Beumer, Kleio-Historia ""[A] remarkable book. . . .A vivid account of the harsh realities of life in an ancient mega city like Rome."" * The Tablet * ""A particular highlight of Colin Elliott’s book Pox Romana: The Plague That Shook The Roman World is his visceral account of ancient Rome itself. . . .Wryly humorous. . . .[Elliott] vividly describes a tottering though resilient empire.""---Talha Burki, The Lancet"

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