1st Edition

Famine and Pestilence in the Late Roman and Early Byzantine Empire A Systematic Survey of Subsistence Crises and Epidemics

By Dionysios Ch. Stathakopoulos Copyright 2004

    Famine and Pestilence in the Late Roman and Early Byzantine Empire presents the first analytical account in English of the history of subsistence crises and epidemic diseases in Late Antiquity. Based on a catalogue of all such events in the East Roman/Byzantine empire between 284 and 750, it gives an authoritative analysis of the causes, effects and internal mechanisms of these crises and incorporates modern medical and physiological data on epidemics and famines. Its interest is both in the history of medicine and the history of Late Antiquity, especially its social and demographic aspects. Stathakopoulos develops models of crises that apply not only to the society of the late Roman and early Byzantine world, but also to early modern and even contemporary societies in Africa or Asia. This study is therefore both a work of reference for information on particular events (e.g. the 6th-century Justinianic plague) and a comprehensive analysis of subsistence crises and epidemics as agents of historical causation. As such it makes an important contribution to the ongoing debate on Late Antiquity, bringing a fresh perspective to comment on the characteristic features that shaped this period and differentiate it from Antiquity and the Middle Ages.

    Contents: Preface; Introduction: Negotiating with the dead; Typology of Crises: The late Roman and early Byzantine empire; A quantitative overview; Subsistence crises: causes, location, duration and range: Nature-induced crises; Human-induced crises; Duration, location and range; Social response: Market activity; Response of authorities; Popular reaction; Epidemic diseases: Introduction; Smallpox; Infections of the gastro-intestinal tract; Other infectious diseases; Mass poisonings; The Justinianic plague: The chronology of the plague; The epidemiology of the plague; Was the Justinianic plague a pandemic of 'true plague'?; Social response; Results: Mortality; Shortage of human resources; Conclusion: 'History that stands still?'; Catalogue of Epidemics and Famines from 284 to 750 AD: Catalogue; Appendices; Bibliography; Index.


    Dionysios Ch. Stathakopoulos

    'Dionysios Stathakopoulos's new book [...] is a feast and a blessing... unique, thorough, and extremely welcome analytical compendium of famine and disease crises in the ancient world.' Speculum