The Fate of Rome: Climate, Disease, and the End of an Empire - Kyle Harper
Serious history buffs will appreciate the new perspective on the decline of the Roman Empire offered in The Fate of Rome: Climate, Disease, and the End of an Empire (Princeton, $35). While experts and armchair historians have spent years debating the human causes that contributed to the downfall of the great empire, Kyle Harper argues that it was brought to the brink of destruction by a larger, less manageable force: nature. He demonstrates that the Roman Empire was able to flourish due to an ideal climate, but when climate stability began to decay so did the fortunes of Rome. And while the Romans benefited from increased migration, travel, and trade, these factors also permitted the spread of a variety of deadly diseases. The author is clearly an expert in his field, and he makes a compelling case by drawing on modern developments in fields such as DNA sequencing, epidemiology, and climate science. As Harper lays out in his book, perhaps the Romans’ greatest mistake was holding on to the belief that they had “tamed the forces of wild nature.” These environmental factors, along with human error, helped to bring about the destruction of one of the greatest empire’s the world has ever seen.