Justinian's Flea: Plague, Empire, and the Birth of Europe

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Penguin, 2007 - History - 367 pages
A richly told story of the collision between nature’s smallest organism and history’s mightiest empire

The Emperor Justinian reunified Rome’s fractured empire by defeating the Goths and Vandals who had separated Italy, Spain, and North Africa from imperial rule. In his capital at Constantinople he built the world’s most beautiful building, married its most powerful empress, and wrote its most enduring legal code, seemingly restoring Rome’s fortunes for the next five hundred years. Then, in the summer of 542, he encountered a flea. The ensuing outbreak of bubonic plague killed five thousand people a day in Constantinople and nearly killed Justinian himself.

In Justinian’s Flea, William Rosen tells the story of history’s first pandemic—a plague seven centuries before the Black Death that killed tens of millions, devastated the empires of Persia and Rome, left a path of victims from Ireland to Iraq, and opened the way for the armies of Islam. Weaving together evolutionary microbiology, economics, military strategy, ecology, and ancient and modern medicine, Rosen offers a sweeping narrative of one of the great hinge moments in history, one that will appeal to readers of John Kelly’s The Great Mortality, John Barry’s The Great Influenza, and Jared Diamond’s Collapse.
 

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - alexlubertozzi - LibraryThing

Good history, some fascinating material on the world of late antiquity, including the construction of the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople (Istanbul). But I'm not sure I'm convinced of the author's ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - chiatt - LibraryThing

The first half of Justinian's Flea has little to do with the plague, but instead is filled with a detailed description of the expansion of the Roman Empire under Justinian. Unfortunately, I found the ... Read full review

Contents

The Three ThousandBody Problem I
1
Pelusium 540
9
Four Princes of the World 286470
15
We Do Not Love Anything Uncivilized 337518
37
Our Most Pious Consort 518530
64
GLORY
79
Have Outdone Thee 530537
91
s Live Honorably Harm Nobody
119
The Victories Granted Us by Heaven 533540
134
Daughter of Chance and Number
167
From So Simple a Beginning
185
The Fury of the Wrath of God 540542
198
A Man of Unruly Mind 523545
227
Acknowledgments
327
Bibliographical Note
347
Copyright

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About the author (2007)

William Rosen was an editor and publisher for more than twenty-five years.

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