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

Front Cover
Penguin, 2007 - History - 367 pages
21 Reviews
Reviews aren't verified, but Google checks for and removes fake content when it's identified
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.

What people are saying - Write a review

User ratings

5 stars
4 stars
3 stars
2 stars
1 star

Reviews aren't verified, but Google checks for and removes fake content when it's identified

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


The Three ThousandBody Problem I
Pelusium 540
Four Princes of the World 286470
We Do Not Love Anything Uncivilized 337518
Our Most Pious Consort 518530
Solomon I Have Outdone Thee 530537
s Live Honorably Harm Nobody
The Victories Granted Us by Heaven 533540
Daughter of Chance and Number
From So Simple a Beginning
The Fury of the Wrath of God 540542
A Man of Unruly Mind 523545
Bibliographical Note

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2007)

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

Bibliographic information